Students returning to Santa Barbara after winter break may find that channel surfing has changed since local cable provider Cox Communications revamped its channel lineup on Dec. 30, 2005.

Cox added five new cable channels and switched the location of at least 12 others, Cox Spokesman David Edelman said. He said the changes were prompted by the creation of Channel 19 – a channel devoted to the City of Goleta that will broadcast Goleta City Council Meetings and other local government programming. Channel 19 is the only channel that will be added to the limited basic cable package, however four additional channels are being added to Cox’s high definition offerings and to the premium package.

The new channels include VH1 Soul on channel 237, MTV Jams on channel 235, a new high definition version of MTV on channel 728 and LOGO – geared towards viewers with alternative lifestyles, including homosexual, bisexual and transgender audiences – on channel 238. Edelman said the additional channels will not cost Cox customers any extra money.

Edelman said customer service representatives from Cox have been calling subscribers to inform them of the lineup changes. The changes to the channel lineup affect stations such as the USA Network, which moved to channel four, and QVC, which moved to channel two. He said he thinks viewers will not have a problem with the changes once their initial confusion wears off.

“Our customers acclimate quickly,” Edelman said. “At some level they understand the move. The first week is frustrating, you know, ‘Where do I find USA?’ But our customers are fine with it.”

Edelman said Cox only changes its channel lineup when it is absolutely necessary.

“We try not to [move channels] often,” Edelman said. “It’s based on the introduction of new technology, franchise requirements and other outside factors that affect the lineup.”

Cox’s long-term goal is to group channels together in various tiers based on their genres. Edelman said he thinks genre-based groupings could simplify the process of finding channels as the number of cable channel options continues to expand.

Constance Penley, director of UCSB’s Center for Film, Television and Media, said changing the location of certain channels could cause ratings to drop, especially for local and educational programming.

“Most viewers catch local programming because they are channel surfing and happen upon it,” Penley said. “If local channels get pushed any higher they won’t be in that channel surfing range anymore. Do we really need home shopping on channel two?”

Penley, who is also on the system advisory board of UCTV – a station that provides educational programming that draws on research done within the UC system – said she wishes local programming had benefited more from the changes in Cox’s lineup. She said she was disappointed that UCTV did not receive a channel in the move.

Santa Barbara Channels Production Director Ray Cicerol said the new Channel 19 will not affect the local public access programming on channels 17 and 21, which the nonprofit Santa Barbara Channels corporation produces.

“There was some talk of moving our channels from where we are now to somewhere else in the lineup, but that move never happened,” Cirerol said. “The move didn’t affect us at all.”