comcast2.jpgIn the corporate playground, Comcast is a mean son of a gun — and among the 90-pound weaklings the cable giant pushes around, include the City and County of San Francisco.

Cable companies doing business in San Francisco have to pay what’s called a PEG fee. In return for the right to choke the local ether with King of Queens reruns — under federal law, cable TV lines are public right of way — cable providers must contribute three percent of their revenue to pay for local public, educational or government (PEG) programming.

This money goes to pay for goings-on at the local public access station, which used to be AccessSF, now it’s the Bay Area Video Coalition (BAVC) and SF Commons.

Exactly how much Comcast pays under the three percent rule was not immediately available, but its competitor Astound — with far fewer customers — paid out $103,977 over an eighteen month period from 2007 to 2008, a documents show. Whatever Comcast pays will be less than the city wanted, however, after the Board of Supervisors agreed to settle Tuesday a claim with the cable giant.

Comcast threatened the city with legal action unless it could contribute no more than 1.15 percent of its revenue to the PEG fund, rather than the full 3 percent, as well as a $375,000 one-time payment. Concede to our demands or go to court, said Comcast to the city, and the city stepped to.

It might sound like a corporate giant throwing its weight around, but the deal as Comcast dictated it is still pretty sweet for the city, according to Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who’s been the city’s point man on issues public access.

“We were never going to get that [3 percent contribution]” said Mirkarimi, who noted that it’s not a big deal anyway: the PEG fee can only be used on capital improvements, like building a TV station, not day-to-day costs, like operating the TV station (the $375,000 one-time fee can cover day-to-day operations). “It’s programming and operations that we were worried about completely drying up,” he added.

Of course, not everyone is happy with the deal. AccessSF used to have a sweet studio on Market Street available for anyone to use; according to many, BAVC’s digs on Mariposa Street apparently aren’t quite as accessible.

But we’re more focused on Comcast’s hegemony, and offer this as a cautionary tale the next time you consider not paying your cable bill: Comcast fought City Hall, yo.

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