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Subscribers Berate Cable TV Firm Over FM Loss : Media: At Laguna meeting, Dimension official says it's impossible to offer the service while providing all the channels now required by the federal government.


LAGUNA BEACH — About 50 cable subscribers upset over losing their FM service got a chance to air their grievances to Dimension Cable officials Thursday night.

Although cable officials promised to expand the number of FM stations available on a service that requires a monthly fee, some customers didn't leave the city cable committee meeting happy.

Heidi Lemon said she used to get FM stations as far away as New York City.

"I listen to FM all the time. . . . It's a tremendous loss," she said.

City officials said they have received almost 100 complaints, which is "probably more than we've gotten from any other issue that I can remember," said Deputy City Manager Rob Clark.

Jim Otto, who owns a Laguna Beach record store, said dozens of people have talked to him about the loss of FM reception.

"Everyone seems to be very upset," he said. "Dimension's reaction seems to be, 'Go buy an antenna,' which won't help most people."

Radios throughout most of the city fell silent on Aug. 30, when Dimension replaced two cable channels that were carrying FM reception with local television channels, as required by a 1992 federal law. Altogether, six federally mandated stations have been added to Dimension's 55-channel lineup since June.

"There is no way we can offer both FM and the new signals that we have to offer," said Dimension General Manager Leo Brennan.

Dimension officials also said a majority of Laguna Beach could bring in 20 to 30 FM stations with the addition of a $16-per-household antenna.

Dimension Cable is owned by Times Mirror Co., which publishes The Times, and serves 140,000 customers in Orange County.

Clark said Laguna Beach's cable contract doesn't give the city any rights to interfere with Dimension's channel lineup. However, members of the City Council are meeting with cable officials and have called for a study to determine how much of the city is affected.

"I think it is purely a financial decision on their part," Otto said. "I think if people do a lot of yelling and write to the FCC, it's going to affect Dimension."

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