Correction to This Article
This Metro article misspelled the name of the president and chief executive of Maryland Public Television. He is Robert Shuman.

Station's Cable Debut Delayed in 2 Counties

By John Wagner
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, August 21, 2007

With great fanfare, Maryland Public Television yesterday launched the state's first public all-Spanish-language channel, featuring an array of educational and entertainment programming. But it could be a while before most Comcast subscribers in Montgomery and Prince George's counties are able to tune in.

As the digital station made its debut in the Baltimore region, officials from Comcast, the Washington area's dominant cable provider, hadn't committed to a starting date in the two Maryland jurisdictions with by far the largest Hispanic populations.

The debut in Prince George's and Montgomery, where more than two-thirds of the state's Latino population lives, could occur as late as 2009, MPT officials said.

That prompted a chorus of calls from Latino advocates and elected officials, including Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown (D), to apply public pressure on the cable provider.

"People ought to be calling Comcast and expressing their wishes and desires," said Brown, a Prince George's resident, who took part in the station's morning launch at MPT headquarters in Owings Mills. When Brown took the microphone, he relayed his desire to watch the station, called V-Me, with his family, saying it could help his two young children learn Spanish.

Jaye Linnen, a Comcast spokeswoman, said yesterday that the cable provider had "no imminent plans" to offer V-Me, part of a national network, in Montgomery and Prince George's. She declined to discuss the rationale for the decision.

"What I can tell you is that Comcast currently offers a wide variety of programming and network options specifically geared to supporting the viewing needs of our Hispanic customers," Linnen said.

She cited the company's CableLatino package, which includes channels such as CNN en Español, Toon Disney en Español, Gol TV, Cine Latino, Telemundo and Univision, as well as many on-demand offerings.

"Comcast is committed to delivering quality programming to our customers, and we are continually reviewing our channel lineup with an eye toward being able to provide additional diverse programming," Linnen said.

In 2006, Montgomery had 128,365 Hispanic residents, nearly 14 percent of its population, according to Census Bureau estimates. Prince George's had an estimated 98,579 Hispanic residents, nearly 12 percent of its population. The third-largest Hispanic population was in Baltimore County; the 21,004 Hispanic residents represented less than 3 percent of the total population.

MPT officials said V-Me will be available to Prince George's and Montgomery residents who have digital televisions and receive the signal through the air. Information about how many Comcast customers in those counties have digital televisions was not immediately available.

MPT said its signal is strong enough that it should reach the District and Northern Virginia.

CONTINUED     1        >

© 2007 The Washington Post Company