Hundreds of cable pirates come clean Amnesty program generates tips

March 15, 1993|By Amy L. Miller | Amy L. Miller,Staff Writer

Prestige Cablevision legalized several hundred customers during its recent amnesty program, company officials said last week.

The seven-week "education and confession" period, which allowed cable pirates to come clean about their illegal television service, ended March 7.

It also garnered at least 200 tips about other residents who are thought to be stealing cable service, said Lou Rosenberg, Prestige's sales and marketing manager.

"We legalized a lot of people and we learned about a lot of people [stealing service]," he said. "We're pleased with the results."

Violations ranged from breaking into roadside cable boxes to hook up service to using illegal converter boxes, Mr. Rosenberg said.

"We found or were apprised of all types of cable service theft," he said. "We had a lot of questions about those illegal converters. Most of the violations were of the 'I didn't know it was wrong' type."

Mr. Rosenberg said he doesn't know exactly how many people were granted amnesty because the company did not keep records.

"We really didn't keep track," Mr. Rosenberg said. "The [office staff] just did what they had to do to correct the problem. It was an amnesty period, and it wouldn't have been fair to have something lying around with names on it."

The company did keep a careful record of people who other residents accused of stealing cable service.

"We have a big notebook of those," Mr. Rosenberg said. "We're compiling that information and turning it over to the sheriff, and our own investigators will be looking into the nooks and crannies. "We've done quite a bit of investigation this week."

The cable company also announced last week that it plans to add the Learning Channel to its $22.95 basic package.

That channel, owned by the same company that operates the Discovery Channel, should premiere on Channel 59 during the first week of April.

Discovery bought and revamped the 13-year-old channel in May 1991.

"A lot of people have been asking for it," Mr. Rosenberg said. "People have been asking for a lot of other channels as well, but this one seemed to lead the pack."

General Manager Bill Bethune said the Learning Channel, which features educational programming for children and adults, should appeal to many of Prestige's customers.

"We're looking at adding only one channel at this time, and we thought this would cover a wider base of our customers rather than the sci-fi or cartoon channels," he said.

"We think this will help to educate our kids and our grown-ups and ourselves."

Weekday mornings on the Learning Channel are dedicated to commercial-free programming preparing preschoolers for the first grade, said Vicki Stearn, senior manager of communications for Discovery Communications Inc.

The six-hour block focuses on a new topic each day, such as shapes or the alphabet, Ms. Stearn said.

Each program is introduced by Bethesda-based children's songwriter Rory, who focuses on the daily topic with a group of preschool children.

Afternoon programs feature how-to projects for adults, and evening shows are family programs on such topics as history, archaeology and science.

L "The overall concept is lifelong learning," Ms. Stearn said.

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