Madison Schools TV is Changing

Via a Marcia Standiford email (note that this change is driven by a massive telco giveaway signed into law by Wisconsin Governor Doyle recently):

Dear Parents and Friends of MMSD-TV:
Have you enjoyed seeing your child on MMSD-TV? Do you appreciate having access to live coverage of school board meetings?
Channels 10 and 19, the cable TV service of the Madison Metropolitan School District, are moving. As a result of a recent law deregulating cable television, Charter Cable has decided to move our channels to digital channels 992 and 993 effective August 12, 2008.
What will this mean for you?
To continue seeing Madison Board of Education meetings, high school sporting events, fine arts, school news, newscasts from around the world or any of the other learning services offered by MMSD-TV, you will need a digital TV or digital video recorder (DVR) with a QAM tuner. If you do not have a digital TV, you will need to obtain a set-top digital converter box from Charter. Charter has agreed to provide the box at no charge for the first six months of service to customers UPON SPECIFIC REQUEST, after which Charter will add a monthly fee to your bill for rental of the box.
Be advised, however, that the Charter box is NOT the same box being advertised by broadcasters as a way of receiving digital over-the-air signals after the national conversion to digital which will take place in February, 2009.

Confused and frustrated? – Understandably so. Therefore, we want to help you in making this transition.
Charter Cable is required by law to provide space on its basic tier for community access television from the Madison Schools as well as from the City of Madison and WYOU Community Television. Charter will continue to include MMSD-TV and the other Madison community access channels in their basic cable service at the existing subscription rate. However, the channels will be viewable only — as noted above –with a digital TV or by renting a digital converter.
The new location for MMSD-TV on channels 992 and 993 will be part of a “public affairs neighborhood”, a block of channels 980-999 that will include CSPAN II, CSPAN III, Wisconsin Eye (state government programming), along with other community channels from the Madison and Dane County areas.
What to do?

  • Call Charter customer service at (888) 438-2427 to request a digital converter box at no charge in order to receive your basic service which includes the digital “public affairs neighborhood” channels.
  • Need answers? Send your questions and/or concerns in an email to Tim Vowell, Charter Communications Vice President of Government Relations, at Please send a copy to me at
  • Let me know if your contact with Charter is successful. Email me at or call 663-1969.
  • Call the State of Wisconsin legislative hotline at 1-800-362-9472. Describe your concerns related to cable TV and the new law — Act 42.
    Most importantly,

  • Keep watching MMSD-TV on channels 10 & 19 until August 12, 2008. After that date, find us at 992 and 993.

Of course we will continue to expand our offerings on the web at But we want to make sure we reach as many families as possible. This is why MMSD’s access to cable TV remains a critical resource. Please help us preserve that resource.
Thank you for your interest. Keep in touch!
Marcia Standiford
Manager of Cable and Video Services
Madison Metropolitan School District
545 W. Dayton St.
Madison, WI 53703
(608) 663-1969

The local schools should operate a public fiber network within the city. The buildings represent a great ‘footprint”. It would be great for the schools, and perhaps with some astute legal and economic legwork, a huge win for the city. Another idea for the November referendum.

4 thoughts on “Madison Schools TV is Changing”

  1. I am disgusted that this is no longer available to regular subscribers without a digital TV> I depend on the foreign news service and the MSD news. WHose idea was this???

  2. I’m glad you asked this question. This change resulted from Wisconsin’s recently passed “Video Competition” bill. The first clue that this bill has nothing to do with “competition” is the name, of course. AT&T lobbied heavily to obtain the right to offer video services throughout the state (rather than dealing with each municipality, as cable systems were required to under previous law). Community service channels, such as the MMSD service, were part of the previous regime.
    Many links here:
    Supported by most Democrats and Republicans, Wisconsin Governor Jim Doyle signed the bill into law.
    This bill was a huge miss on the part of our elected officials. I still wonder what benefit citizens and taxpayers will receive from this legislation. At the very least, the politicians should have required that providers implement fiber optic service to the home, as Verizon is doing in many markets. We remain stuck with an aging infrastructure, long since paid for, that we continue to rent year after year after year.
    Democrat Party Chair Joe Wineke served as an AT&T lobbyist:
    Contact your state representative and senator along with Governor Jim Doyle:

  3. I want to thank Jim Zellmer for his role in getting board and committee meetings recorded and available on TV and on the Web.
    Jim’s generosity in sharing his skills and ideas made a big difference in making the videos available to anyone who wants them. In the days before the district routinely taped and posted meeting videos, Jim also did a lot of the earliest videotaping of meetings and posted the files on-line via SIS.
    Jim is right – this change was not the district’s idea, and MMSD staff have worked hard to keep the meetings accessible through cable. The videos will remain available through the MMSD web site, so that will remain an additional option.

  4. Many volunteers helped make these public service videos a reality, including Larry Winkler, Ed Blume, Jeff Henriques, Laurie Frost, Barb Schrank, Rafael Gomez, Chan Stroman, Lauren Cunningham, Nancy Donahue, Peter Gascoyne, Lucy Mathiak, Maya Cole, Lawrie Kobza, Ruth Robarts and Don Severson.
    Ideally, every Madison School District Board event should now be streamed live online and quickly made available as an mpeg4 video and mp3 audio archive. Live event streaming is trivial. You need:
    DV video camera
    Macbook laptop
    Verizon EVDO Cellular network internet card (or reliable WiFi)
    Mpeg4 Streaming Server (easily deployed or rented)
    Cheap, decent transcriptions:
    In the end, internet streaming and archiving will be much better. Most people can plug in a laptop (or tiny computer) to their tv and watch these, and many other programs.

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