Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/18/07

Rebuff cable legislation
by Bon Chernow
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (WI)

—> Like your local public access and government channels? Think educational channels are good for your schools? Well, kiss PEG goodbye. The bill requires 12 hours of non-repeated local programming (even local TV can’t do that) and forbids the funding to run educational and government channels.

Want to subsidize AT&T’s construction with your local taxes? The legislation forbids local governments to collect fees to check electrical installations or for repairs to streets that AT&T digs up or even to require safety measures from invasive equipment cabinets.

The legislation changes the formula on franchise fees so that items such as advertising are excluded. It is estimated this will reduce the fees that cable and video pay by 20% to 25%, resulting in fewer municipal services. If you think this translates to lower fees, think again. When Time Warner got Milwaukee to reduce PEG payments, it raised rates the same year. —>

Bills facing deadline day as General Assembly resumes
by Diane Wagner
Rome News-Tribune (GA)

Monday is the 28th day of the 40-day legislative session. Bills, other than local legislation, must pass either the House or the Senate by the 30th day or they will be held in committee until the 2008 session. Among the hundreds of bills awaiting action is House Bill 227, the Consumer Choice for Television Act. Aimed at fostering competition, the measure sponsored by state Rep. Barry Loudermilk, R-Cassville, would let cable providers get statewide franchises instead of negotiating separate agreements with each city and county government.

Loudermilk said he expects the House Rules Committee to schedule a vote before the crossover deadline. “There hasn’t been much opposition to it, although some nonprofit groups were concerned about the PEG (public, educational, government) channels,” he said. —>

Telco bill to end local cable franchising shows up in General Assembly
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Diary (OH)

When this was passed by Michigan’s Republican legislature and signed by Governor Granholm, a Democrat, in December, I wrote: “The Michigan law is very likely to provide the template for similar legislation in the Ohio General Assembly early next year.” And here it is, right on schedule. —>

Hollow promise to viewers
Daytona Beach News Journal Editorial (FL)
Cable provider plan unlikely to spread the wealth

Competition can provide consumers with greater choice and lower prices. It can also give lawmakers a cover for consumer-unfriendly legislation. Unfortunately, the state House of Representatives is looking for cover. Fueled by a major push from Florida’s biggest telephone companies, the House is fast-tracking legislation that could throw the state’s cable-television market into turmoil. —>

Statewide cable franchise update
by R. Neal
Knox Views (TN)

State Sen. Raymond Finney responded to our letter re. SB1933 and says he will vote against this bill that would allow statewide cable franchises. Regarding the other three bills to help expand broadband access, Sen. Finney says he has not studied them sufficiently to make a decision but that he will.

Cable reform not yet active
by Cristen Kis
Press & Guide Newspapers (MI)

—> While proponents say the act will increase competition and help drive down prices, local leaders are worried about what the act doesn’t guarantee and the effect it will have on residents, including: a decrease in the level of customer service, loss of service to existing customers, unprotected public right-of-ways and the loss of free cable subscriptions in schools and city buildings.

AT&T has said it will hire 2,000 workers and invest up to $620 million in Michigan over the next three years, but cities still stand to lose $47 to $57 million annually. While municipalities have traditionally received revenue from cable providers in the form of franchise fees, which are paid out in return for access to locally controlled rights of way — the area between a sidewalk and a curb and abandoned alleys — the new legislation would give any telecommunications provider that access for free.

Although the act officially went into effect Jan. 1, Comcast and WOW! have not yet terminated existing agreements and AT&T hasn’t submitted a contract application to city officials, said Bill Irving, an attorney in Dearborn’s legal department, chair of the Michigan Municipal League’s Technology and Rights of Way Committee, and board member of PROTEC, the Michigan Coalition to Protect Public Rights-of-Ways. “There was an all-fire hurry to get it passed … but it seems like they put the cart before the horse,” he said. —>

Milwaukee reaches temporary three-year deal with AT&T for U-Verse service
Fox Cities HD (WI)

The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reported Friday that a temporary three-year pseudo-franchise agreement has been reached, and will be going to Common Council for approval this week. The agreement calls for the city to get a 5% cut of the gross revenue, similar to what they command of Time Warner Cable. Particularly encouraging to other Wisconsin municipalities watching the Milwaukee situation closely is the commitment of 2% gross revenue to fund PEG (public, educational and government) access programming, which is actually higher than what Time Warner provides.

The agreement also provides assurances of availability to less-affluent areas of the city. The pending negotiations in Milwaukee are seen as a benchmark for community negotiations statewide, as well as a proposed statewide franchising bill. That bill may be rendered unnecessary pending outcome of the Milwaukee agreement, from which other municipalities could copy.

State Representative Phil Montgomery (R-Ashwaubenon) is railing against the 2% provision for PEG access channels, which typically transmit local governmental meetings, educational and community-oriented programming, believing it is an unnecessary tax to customers.

AT&T is building out infrastructure for U-Verse in Green Bay and the Fox Cities area, and is expected to begin service as early as this summer. Milwaukee’s agreement will likely serve as a template for local communities like the City of Menasha, who granted AT&T permission to place utility equipment for the service on the condition that they not be used to transmit video until such an agreement was reached.

Springfield finally has reel history
by Dave Bakke
Springfield Journal-Register (MO)

—> There are eight volumes of video so far – but the Lake Springfield/state fair DVD is the best. The others include every installment of former TV newsman Don Hickman’s Journal and several public access TV interviews with local people. Among them are Indy car driver Donnie Beechler, movie special effects man Dennis Komac, Dean Williams and Dean’s son, Dana. Dean is even pictured on the cover of three of those DVDs (hmmm).

“The other stuff pales in comparison (to Volume 1),” said Curtis Mann of the Sangamon Valley Collection. Mann said the collection will be available for checkout in a couple of weeks, so don’t look for them yet. When they are available, they will be on the second floor of the library with the other videos.

I believe the Lake Springfield video was found at City Water, Light and Power. The state fair video appears to be a state of Illinois production. (Suggestion: Future DVDs should list where the video came from, whether from a private donor or state agency or another source.)

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, community media, municipal programming, PEG access TV, public access television, redlining, video franchising

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