WEDNESDAY, OCTOBER 5: Viewers are being asked how much they are willing to pay for CableVision’s budget television package once the Bermuda Broadcasting Company’s channels are dropped from the bill.

The cable company is preparing to drop both ZBM and ZFB completely amid a row over pricing.

BBC boss Rick Richardson has warned the decision could mean popular shows like the Young and the Restless as well as coverage of next year’s Olympics will not be available to cable viewers.

Now the Telecommunications Commission must decide if Cablevision’s basic package of channels, which also include the weather channel and CITV, is worth the same without the BBC content.

A public meeting will be held next Tuesday at Cathedral Hall to seek viewers’ input.

Mr Richardson said the decision could end up costing CableVision millions: “This is vindication for what I have been saying all along — that our channels have value.  Cablevision charges its customers for our content and some of that should be passed on to us.”

He said the BBC had asked for $1.50-per-channel per month for every subscriber. The deal followed a 2008 legislative change that allowed the broadcaster to charge for its content.

The legal change also allowed CableVision the option of dropping the two channels, which it decided to do in August after a lengthy dispute.

Mr Richardson said the offer of $1.50-a-channel was still open and warned that CableVision stood to lose much more than that following the public inquiry.

“The public is not going to say ‘okay, take the channels away and charge me the same’.”

He said it would be hard for the company to justify charging $30-a-month for the package without ZBM or ZFB.

CableVision general manager Terry Roberson was unavailable for comment yesterday. He said in August that the company felt it was unfair to customers to make them pay for channels they could get free through the traditional ‘rabbit ears’ antennae.

The BBC argues that it forks out hefty fees for rights to major events like the Olympics, which CableVision benefits from.

“They want the benefit of that but they don’t want to pay for it,” said Mr Richardson.

He added that an announcement was pending on the BBC’s digital roll-out which he claims will make its channels available without cable.

A spokesperson for the Telecommunications Commission confirmed the inquiry would determine how much CableVision was allowed to charge for its basic package.

The inquiry will ask two main questions:

• When Bermuda CableVision ceases to carry Channels 7 & 9, what price should be charged for the package (currently $30 per month) without these channels?

• Should the price of Bermuda CableVision’s other packages increase, decrease or remain the same if Bermuda CableVision cease to carry channels 7 & 9?

The public meeting will be held on Tuesday at 5:30pm at Cathedral Hall. Verbal submissions will be allowed, from anyone who has submitted a written response to the Telecommunications Commission by 5pm on Friday. Written responses must be delivered to the Telecommunications Commission, c/o Department of Telecommunications, FB Perry Building, 2nd Floor, 40 Church Street, Hamilton HM 12 or emailed to or fax to 295-1462.