At a time when sex and violence rule television programming, many Alaska homes are losing one of America's family stations.
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GCI, the state's leading cable television provider, is dropping Hallmark Channel from its listings in most communities as of July 31.
Hallmark Channel executives said Wednesday they were shocked when they recently learned GCI was pulling the plug on one of the highest prime time-rated networks in the country, Chief Executive Officer Henry Schleiff said.
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"I can't think of a recent instance where a Hallmark Channel, frankly, has been dropped by a cable operator anywhere in the United States," he said.
GCI is not limiting the amount of family programming it provides, but in fact is doing the opposite, said Curtiss Clifton, senior manager of corporate services.
"In the last 12 months GCI has added more than 50 channels in Juneau alone," he said.
As of last week, Hallmark Channel was the seventh-highest rated network in prime time, reaching a national audience of 83 million, Schleiff said.
"I think it's a very sad day for Alaska," he said. "I think it's embarrassing, quite frankly, for Sen. (Ted) Stevens. He's been one of United States Congress' most vocal spokesman about having wholesome family programs out there and available."
Hallmark Channel sent a letter to the Alaska senator regarding the situation in hopes of possible mediation, Schleiff said.
Clifton said GCI had worked to keep Hallmark Channel airing in Alaska but to no avail. Presently GCI carries the network in Barrow, Juneau, Ketchikan, Petersburg and Wrangell.
"We've been negotiating with Hallmark (Channel) for many months," he said. "We just couldn't come to terms with them to keep Hallmark in the package in all those communities."
Clifton confirmed GCI will not be providing Hallmark Channel in those communities, with the exception of Ketchikan, as of July 31. It is against company policy to discuss contract negotiations, he said.
Hallmark Channel is also available on satellite TV in Juneau through the Dish Network.
A reason was not given to the Hallmark Channel as to why GCI was planning on dropping the network, Schleiff said.
"It's not a huge financial loss. What it is I think is a (loss of) opportunity," he said.
According to The Associated Press, the nonpartisan Kaiser Family Foundation released survey results Tuesday indicating that two-thirds of parents said they are very concerned about the sex and violence the nation's children are exposed to in the media. The report indicates there would be broad support for new federal limits on such material.
"As you look around the dial ... I think it's kind of self evident that there are not a lot of family-friendly programming that you can sit down and watch these days," Schleiff said. "I think we stand for quality and morally good programming, so I think it is kind of sad when you take that alternative off the table for the subscribers."
"Certainly we are adding a lot of value to our customers and providing them with a wide variety of programming options," GCI's Clifton said.
Eric Morrison can be reached at 523-2269 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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