Comedy net may return

In the wake of Tele-Communications Inc.’s agreement Wednesday to restore both MTV and VH1 to cable markets nationally where it had dropped them late last year, Comedy Central may well be the next service to be reinstated for the nearly 1.7 million TCI subscribers who have had the channel taken off, according to sources.

Indeed, the outcry over Comedy Central’s removal from TCI systems in scores of small markets around the country is said to be greater than that demanding MTV’s return and far more vocal than the reaction to VH1’s getting bounced.

But the situation is perhaps more complex because Comedy Central has two owners — Viacom and Time Warner — whereas MTV and VH1 are owned and operated solely by Viacom.

Many upset people

“A lot of people are upset because Viacom fought so hard to get MTV and VH1 back on TCI but hasn’t given nearly the same effort to having Comedy Central restored,” one industry source said. “I don’t know what Time Warner is doing.”

However, sources with ties to TCI maintained that the cable giant is aware of the furious response from Comedy Central fans, who have flooded TCI with letters and phone calls and peppered the Internet with sites uniting in protest against TCI.

Taking matters into own hands

Gerald Carroll, a journalism professor at the U. of Iowa in Iowa City, has gone so far as to start airing the network’s shows on TCI’s local public-access channel since Comedy Central was dropped on his system on Dec. 27.

Carroll arranged for the channel to show last Sunday’s “Absolutely Fabulous: The Last Shout” movie and plans, with Comedy Central’s cooperation, to have regular airings of “Dr. Katz, Professional Therapist” and “The Daily Show” via public access.

“We’re also practicing other forms of protest, including sending in a penny with our monthly bill because TCI can’t cancel your subscription if you pay anything on it,” Carroll said.

TCI had no comment on the Comedy Central situation.

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