Archive for April 2007

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/29/07

April 30, 2007

State bills may turn off public access TV
Stations could be forced to close or cut programs
by Annysa Johnson
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (WI)
04/28/07

For 25 years, the West Allis Community Media Center’s public access Channel 14 has been a window on the world of this Milwaukee County city. One can debate the merits of its programming, which these days runs the gamut from polka music and political forums to a manly men’s cooking show that’s gaining a cult following in the state. But Channel 14 has accomplished what federal officials envisioned – a kind of democratization of the airwaves – when they began requiring cable companies to set aside PEG channels, for public, educational and government programming, in the 1970s.

Now, at least 25 stations in Wisconsin could be forced to close or dramatically cut programming – West Allis’ sooner than most – as a result of legislation nearing passage in Madison. —>
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=597584
~

Cable bill stirs access concerns
Mentor among cities opposed to Ohio Senate bill that limits rights
for individual towns
by Jenny May
News-Herald (OH)
04/29/2007

Each week, Mentor resident Sara Shaner looks forward to watching Channel 12, her city’s local cable-access channel.  There, she finds information on upcoming events and area businesses, and even a little city history she might not have known.  “It’s a wonderful source of information,” Shaner said. “It’s so interesting. I love watching the Video Journal program, and I turn the channel on to watch the City Council meetings. I also want to see events going on and, say, if the trash pickup is pushed back a week for some reason. It’s very valuable.”

Soon, however, Shaner and other Ohioans may find themselves without the local channels they so enjoy. —> http://www.news-herald.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18276513&BRD=1698&PAG=461&dept_id=21849&rfi=6
~

The whole thing stinks
The News Herald (OH)
04/29/2007

Imagine for a moment that there’s an emergency at the Perry Nuclear Power Plant in North Perry. Officials need to get information out quickly. Aside from news media, safety forces likely would turn to local public access channels on cable television. The message would scrawl across the bottom of television screens, alerting people to a problem. This system also would work in a weather emergency or when other problems arise. These channels also help keep citizens informed about community events.

But a bill in the Ohio Senate is about to make that a little more difficult It stands to hurt municipalities while boosting profits for telecommunications companies. —>
http://www.news-herald.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18276523&BRD=1698&PAG=461&dept_id=21846&rfi=6
~

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/28/07

April 29, 2007

Titans battle for control of cable TV in Florida
by Josh Hafenbrack
Sun-Sentinel (FL)
04/28/07

>   Seeking to add Florida to a wave of states moving toward more competitive cable markets, the state Senate on Friday passed legislation (HB 529) to do away with the regulatory framework that has governed cable TV in Florida for decades.  Just before the 30-3 vote, Sen. Dave Aronberg, D-Greenacres, called it a “particularly brutal fight between the telecom people.”  “This is one of the best consumer bills we will pass this session,” he said .

With the Senate and House having approved variations of the same legislation, differences must be resolved before the session ends Friday. The bill then would go to Gov. Charlie Crist, who said he’d sign it if he concludes it’s a good deal for consumers.   —>
http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/florida/sfl-fcable28apr28,0,1276495.story?coll=sfla-news-florida
~

A Free Internet Splits Labor
by Matt Stoller
MyDD.com
04/28/07

With the announcement that the US has fallen to 14th in broadband penetration in the world, and that India is going to offer free broadband access to all residents by 2009, it’s time to get our house in order.  The reason we don’t have an effective path towards a universal open internet, and why net neutrality is not in Speaker Pelosi’s Innovation Agenda, is at least part because of the strategic choices of the Communications Workers of America.  The more I delve into their politics, the less sense it makes, because CWA has a campaign that sounds like it’s exactly what we want: SpeedMatters.org.

This is ostensibly a campaign pushing for universal broadband and an open internet.  What’s bizarre here is that CWA is pretty viciously opposed to net neutrality.  They argue that Google, Amazon, and all of us are getting a free ride on infrastructure paid for by Verizon, AT&T, and the like.  This is not true, and it’s causing political problems.  If India is planning to provide universal broadband for free, and America is fourteenth in the world in broadband access, we have a serious problem with our telecommunications infrastructure that has nothing to do with Amazon.com.  And on a local level, when the rubber hits the road, the union is inconsistent on the issue of access, great in some states and terrible in others.  Perhaps CWA’s schizophrenia on openness comes from longstanding bitterness between them and the consumer movement.  I’m not sure, but that’s what I was told.  I really hate these old fights that all of us had nothing to do with.

Anyway, this is coming up because last week, I blogged about CWA President Larry Cohen’s strategic weakness in fighting against net neutrality.  After a few prodding emails, he had Debbie Goldman of their Speed Matters campaign get back to me with an email I’ve published below.  She’s very polite and civil in the letter, and it’s hard to disagree with what she wrote.  The gist of it is that CWA believes strongly in an open internet and works against Verizon’s viciously anti-labor and anti-consumer behavior; Verizon’s Seidenberg is in fact the target for the AFL-CIO’s shareholder activism campaign.

And this is true in certain areas.  In New York State, Assemblyman Richard Brodsky is putting forward a very important bill, Assembly Bill 3980, that establishes net neutrality and goes far in establishing universal access.  The bill is supported by CWA, media reform groups, and is opposed by Time Warner, Cablevision, and Verizon.  Those are the right enemies to have, because those are the groups that want to redline, which means servicing only wealthy customers, and the groups that want to cut out PEG (educational) programming.  This is a great fight because it can bridge the divide between most of the progressive movement on one side and CWA on the other in terms of net neutrality.

Hopefully New York can be a bridge, where we work with CWA on universal build-out and they work with us on net neutrality.  Still, based on what I’ve seen and Goldman’s letter, my read on CWA is that there’s a bit of incoherence within the institution.  If you read Goldman’s letter, you’ll notice that she didn’t mention net neutrality even though that was the focus of the post.  And while CWA is always pointing to their Speed Matters campaign, which ostensibly seeks to have states publish statistics on broadband penetration and an open internet that doesn’t discriminate against content, it’s not clear that the organization is fully aligned with the campaign.  For instance, in Maryland, CWA representatives lied to legislators to defeat a bill that would have required publication of broadband penetration and had as a non-binding legislative finding net neutrality.  The net neutrality language had no legal authority behind it, but that didn’t stop CWA representatives from going after it anyway with the idea that it would put good paying jobs at risk.  This was not true.  And as Art Brodsky wrote, “CWA’s witnesses somehow didn’t get around to testifying that they endorsed the part of the bill calling for reporting of broadband deployment.”  —>
http://www.mydd.com/story/2007/4/28/13716/6994
~

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/27/07

April 27, 2007

Live & Local – Community Media at Risk
Public Acccess Television 18 (IA)
04/27/07

A panel discussion of the issues surrounding statewide cable franchising in Iowa, such as that proposed by the recently passed Senate File 554. Outlines the threats to community media and consumer protection.
http://patv.tv/?p=114
~

Charles Uphoff: Don’t fall for propaganda on cable franchise bill
by Charles Uphoff
Capitol Times (WI)
04/27/07

Is the Wisconsin Legislature being hijacked? Lobbyists for telecommunications giant AT&T have been pressuring Wisconsin legislators to pass sweeping changes in the laws regulating cable TV with a million-dollar media campaign and behind the scenes arm-twisting that would make Karl Rove blush.

Under the guise of promoting increased consumer choice, lower cable rates and high-paying union jobs, AT&T is trying to steamroller bills that would prohibit any meaningful regulation of video service rates; eliminate funding for public access, educational and government channels; and effectively guarantee statewide franchises for the telecom giant in perpetuity. —>
http://www.madison.com/tct/opinion/column/index.php?ntid=131154&ntpid=2
~

Opinions split on cable TV bill
Lower rates may also lead to less local control
by Eric Litke
Sheboygan Press (WI)
04/27/07

A state bill nearing approval that could lower cable TV rates may also take away nearly all local control of cable franchises, which has city officials worried. The bill could also threaten the future of public access channels such as TV8 WSCS in Sheboygan, they say.

The proposal in the state Legislature has been painted as a competition-enhancing measure in an extensive advertising campaign financed in part by AT&T, which has hired 15 lobbyists to work the state Capitol and is seeking to become a bigger player in the state video market by offering subscription TV service over its phone lines.

But city officials and some legislators worry about the bill’s effect on local municipalities — and ultimately, consumers. “Whether it’s going to be a good thing for the City of Sheboygan or not remains to be seen, but my first impression will be that it probably won’t,” said Sheboygan Mayor Juan Perez. “It just may end up ending the funding for local public access TV.” —>
http://www.sheboygan-press.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070427/SHE0101/704270580/1973
~

Community television officials ask Rhoades to fix or oppose cable bill
Randy Hanson
Hudson Star-Observer (WI)
04/27/07

> Kelly said the bill, in its current form, after three years would eliminate a monthly 75-cent PEG (public, education, government access) fee charged to customers that is used buy and maintain equipment for community access stations. Hudson’s cable provider, Comcast, would be freed from making a final $50,000 payment on an equipment grant that was part of its franchise agreement with Hudson and North Hudson, Kelly said.

Also, the company would no longer be obligated to provide free cable TV to Hudson’s public and private schools, as well as government buildings, the public library and the Hudson Sports and Civic Center. Free high-speed Internet service to Hudson City Hall, North Hudson Village Hall, the schools and the library also would be lost, Kelly said. In addition, Comcast would no longer be obligated to provide basic tier programming for $8.70 per month, plus tax, she said.

Kelly said the city and village would lose control of when and where repair work on cables is done. The local cable board would no longer be able to hold cable providers accountable for poor service. Instead, customers would have to take their complaints to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. —>
http://www.hudsonstarobserver.com/articles/index.cfm?id=23775&section=homepage&forumcomm_check_return&freebie_check&CFID=31781938&CFTOKEN=36971272&jsessionid=8830280abef6563ca66a
~

Tampa and Franchise Fees
by tommy
Sticks of Fire (FL)
04/27/07

Meanwhile, (and I don’t remember seeing this locally, but I could certainly be wrong) along with organizations and local governments nationwide, the City of Tampa has sued the FCC for siding with media outlets regarding cable franchise negotiations saying the FCC forces local governments to “speed the approval process for new competitors, cap fees paid by new entrants to local governments and ease requirements…” This after Trey Traviesa is found pushing a bill (surrounded by puppets) to do away with franchise fees altogether. A move that the St. Pete Times says “would erase virtually all consumer protections“ —>

Tommy — it’s great that you are writing about this. The consequences of this bill do include the possible loss of public access channels, poorer neighborhoods not given access, and higher prices for everyone. And these higher prices will not be for only cable services but also phone and data services. What frustrates me is that this discussion loses site of what brought us to this point. Two things happened in 1995 and 1996 that changed the paradigm under which telecoms operated. —>
http://sticksoffire.com/2007/04/27/tampa-and-franchise-fees/
~

Comcast miffed as Chamber takes cable stance
by Bill Harless
Nashville City Paper (TN)
04/27/07

The Nashville Area Chamber of Commerce board endorsed state legislation yesterday that would allow telecommunications giant AT&T — which recently merged with BellSouth — to obtain a statewide franchise to provide television service.

Comcast, a leading cable TV and Internet provider, expressed frustration after the late afternoon vote that the company was not informed about the vote prior to the meeting though Comcast is a Chamber member. AT&T and Comcast along with the rest of the state’s cable companies are in a pitched battle in the halls of the Tennessee General Assembly lobbying over the legislation, which the cable industry vehemently opposes. —>
http://www.nashvillecitypaper.com/index.cfm?section_id=9&screen=news&news_id=55883
~

Public Access Channels On The Table
by Sean Weide
Omaha City Weekly Media Watch (NE)
04/27/07

A second reading of a city ordinance that would reduce the number of public access channels on Cox Communications’ system is scheduled for Tuesday’s Omaha City Council Meeting. Item No. 61 on the agenda calls for a reduction in the number of cable television channels (from six to three) that are dedicated to public, educational, and governmental programming, as well as to provide for improvements and enhancements to the cable television system.

The changes drew a large crowd – many in opposition of the proposed ordinance – when the Cable Television Advisory Committee took up the matter in February. The committee did not take any action or make any recommendations. Cox Communications wants to eliminate three analog public access channels so it can expand the number of digital channels it offers. Opponents of the plan say moving the channels to the digital tier will limit the number of viewers because digital cable costs more. —>
http://cityweeklymediawatch.blogspot.com/2007/04/public-access-channels-on-table.html
~

Rep. Sanchez launching TV show
Cable-access program ‘Loretta Live’ to feature interviews with colleagues, Cabinet members and policy experts.
by Matthew Harris
The Orange County Register (CA)
04/27/07

Rep. Loretta Sanchez is used to being peppered with questions about the latest hot-button issue of the day. But on Tuesday, it was Sanchez who was probing the thoughts of fellow Rep. John Murtha about the controversial supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war. The interview was for her new monthly cable-access show, “Loretta Live.” It’s called “Live,” but actually it’s taped in a basement studio available to all members of Congress. Sanchez plans to interview her colleagues, Cabinet secretaries and policy experts about topics percolating on Capitol Hill. —>
http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1671864.php
~

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/26/07

April 26, 2007

Contact Gov. Culver to VETO SF 554!!!
by Maria Houser Conzemius
Press Citizen (IA)
04/26/07

There is a new guy in town–Qwest. SF554 (video franchise bill) has passed the Senate and House, even though our representatives put up a valiant fight. But there is still hope.  We just got word our representatives are talking to the Governor about a possible veto. They need your help. Send Chet a message: Veto SF554!   —>
http://mypc.press-citizen.com/blogs/reply.php?id_blogs=7&id_blogposts=1764
~

Illinois Legislators Speak Out on HB 1500
CAN-TV (IL)
04/26/07

Keep Us Connected went to Springfield on April 18, 2007. Here’s what some state legislators have to say about HB 1500 as it relates to public needs   —> [ video clips ]
http://www.cantv.org/lobbyday/index.htm
~

Cities rip Senate’s cable TV proposal
More competition not worth it, critics say
by Alan Johnson
Columbus Dispatch (OH)
04/25/07

>   AT&T, which plans to introduce its own cablelike television service in Ohio, is lobbying heavily for the bill. The company, formerly known as SBC and Ameritech Ohio, took out full-page ads in The Dispatch and other newspapers across the state and also began a series of radio commercials.

But officials from the Ohio Municipal League and the Ohio Township Association, as well as city officials from Cleveland to Dayton, are far from sold on the idea. Most strongly opposed it in testimony before the Senate Energy and Public Utilities Committee.  Steve Husemann, executive director of the Miami Valley Communications Council, said Jacobson’s bill would have a “crippling effect…on our municipalities.”

The council, formed in 1975, is a cooperative venture of eight suburban communities in the Dayton area. Husemann said the council stands to lose more than $300,000 annually in franchise fees. He also is concerned about public right-of-way issues and the potential loss of institutional video hookups linking schools, governments and libraries.   —>
http://www.dispatch.com/dispatch/content/local_news/stories/2007/04/25/CANITBE.ART_ART_04-25-07_D1_K66FVA5.html
~

Council voices opposition to cable measure
by William K. Alcorn
Vindicator (OH)
04/26/07

City council opposes a proposed state law that would eliminate local control of cable television providers and cost the city in excess of $100,000 a year.  Auditor Tina Morell said that Struthers will realize about $108,000 in 2007 from a cable franchise fee and that it increases slightly each year.  The proposed law, Senate Bill 117, amounts to “plundering and looting” the cable franchising process, added 2nd Ward Councilman Mark Sandine.

In a related matter, council authorized spending up to $1,500 with Local Voice Ohio, a coalition of local communities, to fight the law.
http://www.vindy.com/content/local_regional/298069172754595.php
~

Tredyffrin getting static from Verizon over TV stations
by Daniel Kristie
Main Line Life (PA)
04/26/2007

Tredyffrin residents who subscribe to Verizon’s fiber optic cable television service do not yet receive the township’s public access stations.  It could take until Sept. 30 before the stations are available, Verizon representatives say.

In October 2006, Tredyffrin granted Verizon a franchise to extend cable service into the township. Comcast was the only other company providing non-satellite cable service at the time. The franchise went into effect in November.  According to Section 6 of the Franchise Agreement, prior to the date Verizon began offering cable service, it was required to begin negotiating with Comcast to share the signals for Tredyffrin’s two PEG (public, education and government access) stations. At that time, Comcast had the only connection to those signals.

Tredyffrin was supposed to require Comcast, “on reasonable terms and conditions,” to share the signal. If the two cable providers could not reach an agreement in 30 days, Tredyffrin was supposed to mediate the dispute. If the two could not reach an agreement in 60 days, the township was supposed to “designate the point of interconnection.”

If for some reason an interconnection was not feasible, Verizon was not required to pursue it. But the township had (and has) the option to require Verizon to create its own separate video link to the PEG stations.   —>
http://www.zwire.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18264745&BRD=1597&PAG=461&dept_id=188818&rfi=6
~

Rep. Sanchez launching TV show
Cable-access program ‘Loretta Live’ to feature interviews with colleagues, Cabinet members and policy experts.
by Matthew Harris
Orange County Register (CA)
04/26/07

WASHINGTON, D.C.– Rep. Loretta Sanchez is used to being peppered with questions about the latest hot-button issue of the day.  But on Tuesday, it was Sanchez who was probing the thoughts of fellow Rep. John Murtha about the controversial supplemental spending bill for the Iraq war.

The interview was for her new monthly cable-access show, “Loretta Live.” It’s called “Live,” but actually it’s taped in a basement studio available to all members of Congress. Sanchez plans to interview her colleagues, Cabinet secretaries and policy experts about topics percolating on Capitol Hill.   —>
http://www.ocregister.com/ocregister/homepage/abox/article_1671864.php
~

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/25/07

April 26, 2007

Cable bill loses a critical clause
by Rebecca Catalanello
St. Petersburg Times (FL)
04/25/07

In the telephone industry’s multimillion-dollar battle for access to Florida’s TV market, cable companies and consumer groups suffered a serious blow Tuesday.  With a unanimous vote and little discussion, the Senate Committee on General Government Appropriations undid what it took cable companies and consumer groups four weeks to achieve.   —>
http://www.sptimes.com/2007/04/25/State/Cable_bill_loses_a_cr.shtml
~

Cable Bill Clears Senate Panel
Plan would make it easier for telephone companies to offer television service.
by Lloyd Dunkelberger
The Ledger (FL)
04/25/07

A bill that would make it easier for phone companies to offer cable television services cleared its last Senate committee Tuesday, setting up a final floor fight later this week that will decide the fate of the proposal…  In an amendment, the Senate panel eliminated a provision that cable companies be required to reasonably “build out” their services so that they also reach rural areas or low-income communities.

Eliminating that provision immediately drew criticism from local governments and some consumer advocates.  “This is worse than what came out of the House,” said John W. Smith, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities.

Brad Ashwell, a lobbyist for Florida PIRG, a nonprofit citizens advocacy group, said the bill could hurt consumers by allowing the new cable providers to offer their services in limited areas.  “We are vehemently opposed to it,” Ashwell said. “It represents an about-face. It’s completely unacceptable from the consumer’s standpoint.”

The Senate bill is scheduled for its first floor debate Thursday.   —>  http://www.theledger.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070425/NEWS/704250438/1004
~

Phone cable plan touted as boon, feared as bias
by Kristi E. Swartz
Palm Beach Post (FL)
04/25/07

[Listen to this article or download audio file.]

>   More than just a television issue
Even though millions of American consumers pay for some sort of television, it’s not an essential service, like running water.

“When you stop and think about it, multichannel video is not a necessity in this world, although a lot of people are so taken with it that they spend an enormous amount of money on it,” said Steve Wilkerson, president of the Tallahassee-based Florida Cable & Telecommunications Association, the cable industry group that’s lobbied against changing the state’s franchise laws for two years.

The argument isn’t about watching more TV, consumer advocates say.  “It’s important to look at it not just as cable television, but that it’s bringing you broadband Internet,” Fazullah said. “That’s the key distinction to why it’s important.”  They say it would be discrimination for AT&T and others not to run a high-speed fiber-optic line through every neighborhood to give all residents access to video service.

“The debate is not over HBO,” said John Wayne Smith, a lobbyist for the Florida League of Cities. “It’s over a fiber-optic system that’s being put in the ground. People depend on that like water, like sewer. People depend on that for information.”

The outcome of the debate will be momentous, Smith said.  “Not since we made investments for a national highway system is there a more important, more contemporary type of an issue in terms of how we upgrade this type of infrastructure,” he said. “If it’s in front of your house, you have access to the world.”   —>
http://www.palmbeachpost.com/politics/content/business/epaper/2007/04/25/m1a_cable_0425.html
~

AT&T Bill Rammed Through Wisconsin Assembly; Senate Follows the Law and Refers Bill to Joint Finance
by Barry Orton
Paul Soglin: Waxing America (WI)
04/25/07

In a marathon session yesterday, the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Assembly defeated over two dozen Democratic-sponsored amendments on party-line votes and passed AT&T’s “video competition” bill, AB 207.  The Senate, on the other hand, followed state law and referred SB 107, its version of the bill, to the Joint Finance Committee for consideration of the costs to the taxpayers of Wisconsin.   —>
http://www.waxingamerica.com/2007/04/att_bill_rammed.html
~

Lawmakers delay cable bill decision
by Keegan Kyle
The Badger Herald (WI)
04/25/07

>   Although estimates vary, one report prepared by the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection — which, under the bill, would oversee all complaints by video service subscribers — said the bill could cost state and local governments $312,000.

Arguing against the referral, Senate Minority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said there has been plenty of discussion and public debate since the bill’s introduction just more than a month ago.

“At this point, it seems useless to send it to committee for hearing,” Fitzgerald said. “I’m very concerned. … There’s no assurance it may ever get a hearing.”

The Joint Finance Committee, composed of eight Democrats and eight Republicans, is currently deliberating its version of the state budget, a process that usually takes several weeks. On Tuesday, it was unclear whether Decker would place the video franchise bill on the committee’s agenda before or after the budget’s completion.

In the Republican-controlled Assembly, Democratic legislators also pushed for the bill’s referral to the Joint Finance Committee, but they were unsuccessful, as legislators voted along party lines.

Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Madison, and others said passage of the bill would violate state statutes because legislation expected to have a financial impact of more than $10,000 might not be approved before the state budget. The new fiscal cycle does not begin until July 1, though the state budget may be approved before that date.   —>
http://badgerherald.com/news/2007/04/25/lawmakers_delay_cabl.php
~

The SB117 Hearing
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Diary (OH)
04/25/07

>   I’ll post my own testimony tomorrow. For now I want to mention my two favorite Things That Should Have Gotten The Committee To Sit Up And Take Notice, But Apparently Didn’t:

1. Gary Cavin, the Chief Information Officer of the City of Columbus, pointed out that his city has three competing cable companies, but Time Warner still charges just as much for basic cable there as it does in places with no competition.

2. A representative of Cleveland Heights reported that in their negotiations with AT&T over a local “video competition agreement”, AT&T frankly acknowledged that it didn’t plan to offer its U-Verse service in the (predominantly Black) part of the city closest to East Cleveland… which is why Cleveland Heights terminated the negotiation.   —>
http://www.callahansclevelanddiary.com/?p=258
~

Sen. Bill 117 & the Ohio Constitution’s Impairment of Contracts Clause
MCDAC Blog (OH)
04/25/07

One of the bills being talked about in the General Assembly is Sen. Bill 117 which would apparently wipe out local franchise agreements between cable tv providers and local governments. Apparently members of the General Assembly are taking some heat from mayors and other local government officials. You can read about their pressuring the Ohio Senate by clicking on the link in this entry’s title.

What Sen. Bill 117 supposedly does is wipe out local franchise agreements and replace them with one state-wide franchise agreement. What is interesting about this proposal is that it would seem to violate the Ohio Constitution. The Ohio Constitution contains a provision that prohibits the impairment of contracts. The clause is found in Art. II, Sec. 28, which reads as follows:   —>
http://mcdac.blogspot.com/2007/04/sen-bill-117-ohio-constitutions.html
~

Telecommunication bill passes hurdle
by Don Moore
Germantown News (TN)
04/25/07

>   Goldsworthy also said the legislation “allows video service providers to pick and choose customers, serving some and not being accessible to others.”  The mayor said Germantown could lose PEG channels, including the award-winning GHS-TV production and telecasting program at Germantown High School.
http://www.germantownnews.com/articles/2007/04/25/news/news1.txt
~

Activists Seek Access To All Debate Footage
by The Associated Press
Broadcasting & Cable
04/25/07

Media activists want to loosen the TV industry’s hold on presidential debate footage.  An eclectic group has sent letters to the heads of the Republican and Democratic National Committees asking for assurances that video from the presidential debates they are sponsoring can be shared on social networking sites like YouTube, blogged about and re-used “without fear of legal repercussion.”

The signatories to the letters–which include MoveOn, Craigslist founder Craig Newmark, the heads of the National Organization for Women, and dozens of bloggers, journalists and academics– argue that rather than allowing TV stations or networks to retain the rights to footage of debates they broadcast, the footage should be made part of the public domain or shared under a “creative commons” license http://www.creativecommons.org , which allows content generators to modify their rights.   —>
http://hardware.broadcastnewsroom.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=132546
~

WBRW celebrates 20 years of local public access coverage
by Michele Tanguay
Romero Observer (MI)
04/25/07

From Romeo High School sports to church services, from news of the area to cultural events, WBRW Channel 6 has been there to cover it.  WBRW, whose call letters represent the communities it serves<Bruce Township, Romeo and Washington Township celebrates its 20th anniversary this month, having first hit the airwaves on April 9, 1987.   —>
http://www.romeoobserver.com/story.asp?storyid=9454
~

House Leaders Back Cable in FCC Fight – Barton, Upton criticize Martin for cable decisions
Removethelabels
04/25/07

Conservative representatives Joe Barton (top contributor: Comcast) and Fred Upton (more partial to AT&T and Verizon) agree with the cable industry’s recent complaint that FCC chief Kevin Martin is being too hard on them. Martin has angered the industry with his push for “a la carte” programming tiers, the set-top box waiver dispute, his pro-telco franchise reform push and, most recently, the capping of cable ownership limits. This is in contrast to his treatment of the incumbent phone providers, who the cable industry insists get preferential “hands-off” treatment. Martin, meanwhile, is pushing hard to expand his agency’s indecency authority over TV programming.   —>
http://www.removethelabels.com/?p=2175
~

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/24/07

April 25, 2007

Decision coming for franchise bill
by Keegan Kyle
The Badger Herald (WI)
04/24/07

City officials across Wisconsin will watch the state Legislature closely this morning as it may pass a bill that would reshape the distribution of revenue-sharing agreements with cable, satellite and other broadcasters.   —>
http://badgerherald.com/news/2007/04/24/decision_coming_for_.php
~

Reality Check: Cable Prices To Drop?
Group Says Increased Competition Will Lower Prices
Channel 3000 (WI)
04/24/07

On Tuesday, state lawmakers will vote on a bill that, if passed, would deregulate the cable industry. But could it mean a drop in prices?  The bill would allow other companies — likely the telephone companies — to provide video service with a state franchise. Lawmakers in favor of the bill said it would increase competition and lower rates for consumers.  Whether the bill will actually help is subject of the latest “Reality Check.”   —>
http://www.channel3000.com/news/12948900/detail.html
~

State agencies would handle TV complaints under video bill
by Steven Walters
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel (WI)
04/23/07

If you’ve been griping to city or village officials about cable TV service problems, get ready to take your complaints instead to someone in state government in Madison.  A bill the Legislature is expected to pass would redirect consumers’ complaints about cable TV and digital satellite service to the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

And in a development that could further confuse consumers, a second state agency – the state Department of Financial Institutions – would license video service providers. It couldn’t revoke their licenses for consumer-protection violations, however.   —>
http://www.jsonline.com/story/index.aspx?id=594871
~

Ziegelbauer will wait and see
HTR News (WI)
04/24/07

The State Asesmbly may vote today on a bill, which could change who can offer consumers video programming and what local prep sports might be shown.  Rep. Bob Ziegelbauer, D-Manitowoc wasn’t prepared Tuesday morning to indicate whether he would vote in favor or against Assembly Bill 207, the so-called “Video Franchise Bill.”  Ziegelbauer said there have been a “whole slew of amendments … I will only vote (yes) on a package that I think is a good bill.”

City of Manitowoc Mayor Kevin Crawford said Monday in his community update column that high school sports, along with school theater performances “will disappear from the airwaves three years after this new legislation is signed into law.”  “The local programming issue is important because people are paying a lot of attention to it,” Ziegelbauer said. He said he would pay close attention to how local programming is treated in a final package.   —>
http://www.htrnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070424/MAN0101/70424077/1984
~

Cable TV bill appears headed for passage
But vote will be postponed for fiscal impact study
by Judith Davidoff
The Capital Times (WI)
04/24/07

Senate Majority Leader Judy Robson, D-Beloit, says there would be enough votes in the Senate to pass a controversial cable bill today, but she is going to postpone a vote until questions about its fiscal impact are resolved.

“She feels it’s come a long way over the last few weeks in terms of consumer protections,” said Robson aide Josh Wescott this morning. But those protections mean more cost to the state agencies charged with overseeing the law, and the full cost needs to be determined, he added.  “Once we figure that out, we’re ready to roll here,” said Wescott, who noted Robson would refer the bill today to the Joint Finance Committee for review.

That development created uncertainty this morning for the Republican-controlled Assembly, which was also expected to take up the bill today.  Bob Delaporte, spokesman for Assembly Speaker Mike Huebsch, R-West Salem, said the Assembly could still take action on the bill, but Assembly leaders would be discussing their options this morning.  “Anything could happen,” Delaporte said.

The Joint Finance Committee is set to start deliberations on Gov. Jim Doyle’s budget Thursday, but Wescott said Robson hoped to have the bill back by mid-May.   —>
http://www.madison.com/tct/news/index.php?ntid=130828&ntpid=2
~

Cleveland City Councilman Matt Zone’s testimony to the Ohio Senate on SB117
Brewed Fresh Daily (OH)
04/24/07

>   Although the City of Cleveland has many objections to SB 117, I will limit myself today to just a couple of critical issues for the City of Cleveland.  First and foremost, S.B. 117 represents a direct assault on the City of Cleveland traditional Home Rule authority as embodied in Art. XVIII, §3 and §7 of the Ohio Constitution.   —>
http://www.brewedfreshdaily.com/2007/04/24/cleveland-city-councilman-matt-zones-testimony-to-the-ohio-senate-on-sb117/
~

S.B. 117 Check-in
by Pho
Pho’s Akron Pages (OH)
04/24/07

>   The Senate Committee vote looks about as wired as a vote ever is. By my count, proponents have signed on as co-sponsors four of the six Republicans (Niehouse, Spada, vice-chair Buehrer and Jacobson who is lead sponsor) and two of three Democrats (Mason and Ray Miller.) Since lawmakers rarely vote against bills they sponsor, I think we can count on this one getting out of committee unscathed.

At this point, the House side is less certain. The House Public Utilities Committee has a couple obvious utility friends on the R side, but aside from that I can’t tell much. One artifact of the last election is that the House is more closely divided than the Senate – as are the committees. Whereas the Senate committee is 6-3 R’s to Dems, the House Public Utilities Committee is made up of 12 Republicans and 11 Dems. If opponents of the bill can keep a Dem coalition together and turn a couple Repubs, the bill may quietly die in committee.

If. Unfortunately, telecom and cable legislation tends to be awfully arcane to build a grassroots effort against. I am hearing a swell of grassroots cross-party opposition based mostly on the threat to PEG access. (That’s public/educational/governmental cable access. Public access in the vernacular.) I just don’t know that there is enough time, energy or money to translate that into a lobbying force that can counter the campaign time largess the telecoms are capable of wink-nudge offering.

If you are unclear on what the bill would do, start by listening to the Meet the Bloggers podcast, then surf over to Bill Callahan’s blog where he has a new post on Senate 117 nearly every day. Meanwhile, check out the House Committee listing and, if you see your Rep. there, start emailing. Now.
http://phosnorkapages.blogspot.com/2007/04/sb-117-check-in.html
~

Avon council opposes state cable bill, could lose more than $100,000 a year
by Megan King
Morning Journal (OH)
04/24/07

Avon City Council last night voted to oppose a bill going through the Ohio legislature that would make the state, not individual communities, responsible for cable franchising.
http://www.morningjournal.com/site/news.cfm?newsid=18251361&BRD=1699&PAG=461&dept_id=46371&rfi=6
~

Oppose SB 177
The Free Press (OH)
04/24/07

The Ohio Community Computing Network encourages you to oppose Ohio Senate Bill 117 (see below). This bill would eliminate local franchising for video services. There are many ramifications to the passage of this bill including: elimination of PEG access channels (we provide telecourses and share guest speakers on Educational Access), disincentives to build broadband in rural and low-income areas (effecting our ability to serve these areas), removal of local consumer protection (no service requirements, support of community networks, etc.), removal of local control of rights of way (ATT can put a big ugly switcher station on your tree lawn), loss of local revenue, perhaps a quarter million dollars annually in Columbus (pick the City service you want to see cut).   —>
http://www.freepress.org/doit.php?strFunc=display&strID=297&strYear=2007
~

Lawmakers beat partial retreat on statewide video franchising
by Aaron Marshall
Cleveland Plain Dealer (OH)
04/24/07

After getting an earful from local mayors as well as the public access crowd, state lawmakers retreated Tuesday on several of the more controversial elements of a bill setting up a statewide franchising agreement for video service providers.

The bill, known as Senate Bill 117, which is being pushed primarily by telecommunications giant AT&T, would wipe out the local agreements that individual communities negotiate with cable companies and other video service providers in favor of a single, statewide agreement.

Changes to the bill were outlined near the beginning of opponent testimony on the bill in a Senate Committee Tuesday by state Sen. Jeff Jacobson, a Dayton-area Republican sponsoring the bill. Coming out of the bill: Language which local mayors were worried would erode their ability to control public rights-of-way as well as a more narrow definition of “gross revenues” than what some communities had negotiated with their local video providers.

The bill’s current definition didn’t include revenues from such things as advertising and shopping channels, leaving communities with agreements in place covering those areas concerned they could lose big bucks.  “We’re going to let that be a local decision,” Jacobson said.

Also being substantially tweaked will be language that public access TV supporters had worried would severely limit the channels that would be available for government and public access shows. Jacobson said the bill will be reworked to include a “more generous” definition of what it means for local government and public access channels to be “substantially utilized.”

Under the current bill, those local access channels would have to generate almost 10 hours a day of original programming to meet that definition.    —>
http://blog.cleveland.com/openers/2007/04/lawmakers_beat_partial_retreat.html
~

Phone-cable bill is on the line
What began as a consumer-friendly proposal tacked to the cable-video franchising bill to keep basic local phone rates from rising could ultimately end up sinking the legislation.
by Monica Hatcher
Miami Herald (FL)
04/24/07

After the Consumer Choice Act failed to pass the Legislature last year, local phone companies hoping to break into the cable-television business figured they’d improve the cable-franchise bill’s chances this year by throwing in a bonus for consumers.

AT&T, Verizon and Embarq agreed to give consumers a roughly $150 million break by forgoing a rate hike planned for later this year. But there’s a catch: Skipping the rate hike means they have to renege on $150 million in fee reductions promised to other phone companies who use their networks, namely wireless and long distance carriers.

Those carriers are now striking back. And the perk for consumers, which in part helped the Consumer Choice Act pass the House last month, could be its undoing in the Senate.

Sprint/Nextel has asked lawmakers to amend the bill requiring the local phone service providers to deliver the reductions in the intrastate access fees they promised. Sprint said it wants to pass these savings down to customers in the form of lower in-state long distance rates and use the rest to invest in its wireless networks.   —>
http://www.miamiherald.com/103/story/84329.html
~

Franchise Fee Sticking Point In Video Businesses
News Channel 9 (TN)

Huge communication companies face off for your business in a controversial state bill called the Competitive Cable and Video Services Act.  NewsChannel 9’s John Madewell explains Chattanooga’s part of the battleground. —>
http://www.newschannel9.com/articles/point_11657___article.html/franchise_sticking.html
~

DeStefano to answer citizens’ questions on biweekly television program
by Andrew Mangino
Yale Daily News (CT)
04/24/07

Programs on public access television starring a city mayor are not unprecedented, but they have debuted to mixed reactions and generally have not managed to last through multiple terms. In Yonkers, for example, former mayor John Spencer televised a program for several years called “Yonkers Matters,” in which he purported to focus on “the issues” but instead turned the show into a political bully pulpit, rarely inviting guests who disagreed strongly with him.
But DeStefano is casting his program as apolitical.   —>
http://www.yaledailynews.com/articles/view/20904
~

Our View: Commitment worthy of praise
Crime victim’s advocate deserves recognition for her pursuit of justice and closure
Merced Sun Star (CA)
04/24/07

After nearly 20 years of tireless work on behalf of crime victims, a Merced woman finally has been honored for what she has done.  Jacque MacDonald became a victim’s rights advocate when her grown daughter was murdered in 1988 and the quest to seek justice for homicide victims and their families goes on.

MacDonald was the only Californian to receive the prestigious National Crime Victim Service Award, presented by U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales in the nation’s capital. It is part of the observance of National Crime Victims’ Rights Week going on this week.

If there is ever a motto that should stick with MacDonald, it’s never give up. It took nine years before the killer of her daughter received a 30-year prison term. During that time she doggedly pursued all manner of efforts to keep the facts of her daughter’s death in the public’s eye and she has helped a number of other families deal with the murder of their loved ones.

MacDonald deserves recognition for the “Victim’s Voice” television program that regularly airs on public access television. She interviews grieving family members as well as police and sheriff’s deputies to keep awareness on other homicides that have not been solved. The Merced area has a number of unsolved murders and MacDonald is one of a number of people trying to bring closure, perhaps justice, in some of these cases.   —>
http://www.mercedsunstar.com/opinion/story/13515713p-14121663c.html
~

McCollum sets her priorities as she readies for national role
Immigration, telecom reform on League of Cities’ to-do list
by John Peck
Huntsville Times (AL)
04/24/0
7

Enacting comprehensive immigration reform, expanding sales tax collections to e-commerce and keeping control of cable franchising in local hands top the legislative agenda of the National League of Cities, Madison City Councilwoman Cynthia McCollum told a convention of Alabama city leaders Monday…

Reform telecommunications laws that allow cities to retain franchising rights. The National League of Cities is suing the Federal Communications Commission for attempting to take away the franchise authority from local governments. The move would restrict control over franchising fees and regulatory decisions such as the placement of cable lines and areas to be served.

“We would have no control. If our constituents have some problems, we’d have to say, ‘Call the FCC in Washington.’ That’s crazy,” McCollum said.    —>
http://www.al.com/news/huntsvilletimes/index.ssf?/base/news/117740611251610.xml&coll=1
~

Report Proposes Public Broadband Nets
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable
04/24/07

On the eve of two hearings Tuesday on the rollout of broadband high-speed Internet and video service, the studies were flying thick and fast.  In addition to two released by the Benton Foundation  suggesting the U.S. was behind the curve and a report by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, there was another from BNA division Pike & Fisher. Their study was suggesting the FCC should carve out a space for community networks from some of the so-called white spaces between broadcast channels it plans to open up to advanced wireless services, likely unlicensed ones, as part of the switch to digital.   —>
http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6435990.html
~

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/23/07

April 23, 2007

New legislation, same old phone company
by Brad Ashwell
Florida Voice
Daytona Beach News Journal (FL)
04/23/07

Among the things that never seem to change in Florida: The Gators and Seminoles will always feud and our local Bell phone company will always be lobbying Tallahassee for a new rate hike, deregulation bill or clever tax loophole.

In 2003, BellSouth used a phone deregulation bill to raise rates on Florida consumers by $300 million — the biggest price hike in history. And in 2006, it exploited a regulatory loophole to stick consumers with a $34 million bill for repairing their phone network because the company failed to purchase storm insurance. Each time, the details might be different, but the tale is as old as a dial tone — raise rates and reduce consumer value, all while avoiding real competition.

Now, AT&T (formerly BellSouth) wants us to believe that it has become the bulwark of competition, but only for the cable TV and broadband markets. A quick look at the legislation being pushed through the Legislature reveals that this competition flag-waving is really a game; AT&T’s real agenda, it seems, is to eliminate the widely supported non-discrimination laws by allowing the giant telephone monopoly to offer services exclusively to the rich side of town, thus severely limiting competition but fattening its bottom line. —>
http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/Opinion/Editorials/opnOPN08042307.htm
~

[ This Bill Callahan post merits reposting in full. – rm ]

Lev Gonick: SB 117 vs. I-Nets
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Diary (OH)
04/13/07

A very important point yesterday at Bytes From Lev:

“Missing from almost all the analysis is the single most important part of existing franchise agreements and those are the provisions that relate to so-called I-Nets (Institutional Networks). In the first round of franchise agreements with Cable providers, the City template franchise agreement for providing rights to lay out fiber included a public set-a-side of 6 or more fiber pairs to be used to connect public institutions like schools, government buildings, public health care services, and other public institutions. The provision was slightly ahead of its time but in the past 10 years or so, enlightened Cities (and Counties) are significantly leveraging their negotiated rights to use I-Net infrastructure.

“The current language in Bill 117 is entirely silent on the right of the State or any local jurisdiction to conclude a franchise agreement that will provide public set aside access of fiber pairs to enable communities and their elected officials to use fiber to create connected communities around the country. Make no mistake about it, while cities like Cleveland and Dayton stand to loose $250,000 per year or so through certain changes in the proposed formulas for the franchise agreements, the real economic loss will come from giving up the provisioning of I-Nets as part of the entitlement of cities and the State of Ohio. The long term impact will be measured in hundreds of millions of dollars not to mention public capacity to participate in framing a public agenda for public benefit in the Internet Age.

“…Looking back 20 years from now, a decision to miss bringing forward the provisions of I-Nets will be seen by future pundits as the key legislative miss (while cable television will likely be a largely irrelevant issue). While Europe, Asia, and many other countries in Latin America, Canada, and elsewhere are leveraging public access to fiber to position their countries to be leaders in the emerging Internet Age, U.S. and Ohio legislators are losing the opportunity to leverage legislative authority in the public interest.”

Unfortunately, Lev is in error about SB 117 being “silent” on this issue (but that only makes his point more important). Here’s Section 1332.30 (B):

No municipal corporation or township shall require a video service provider to provide any institutional network or equivalent capacity on its video service network.

I hope Lev is planning to submit testimony. It would be nice if the Energy and Public Utilities Committee got to hear from an actual recognized expert on the future of networks.
http://www.callahansclevelanddiary.com/?p=255
~

Why Change What Already Works? How SB 117 Is Unfair & Unwarranted
by Doug Fritz
Uncommon Sense (OH)
04/22/07

The question someone should be asking in regards to the current telco legislation in Ohio, Senate Bill SB 117, is this…. Is TimeWarner profitable? I believe the answer is yes.

So if they have been able to make a profit under the current law, why should we assume another company could not be as equally profitable? Why would we modify a law that is working for business and for consumers? —>
http://www.ustvmedia.org/corporate-democracy-and-usa-inc/2007/04/22/why-change-what-already-works-how-sb-117-is-unfair-unwarranted/

~

Protecting the spectrum for media freedom
By Nalaka Gunawardene
Matchstick Steps
04/23/07

On May 3, the annual World Press Freedom Day will once again be observed worldwide, focusing public attention on a multitude of threats to freedom of expression through the mass media. But amidst the extremely relevant and necessary slogans, we are unlikely to hear this slogan: Hands off our spectrum. Yet saving our spectrum is critical for ensuring media freedom.

The electro-magnetic spectrum has been called the ‘invisible wealth of nations’, and all broadcasting using the airwaves relies on the fair, equitable and sound management of this common property resource. And as economic and cultural practices move more and more into the digital realm, the spectrum’s value is only set to increase.

But few people -– even within the media profession and industry -– appreciate our dependence on this finite resource. Out of sight does seem to push it out of most people’s minds. Therein lurks a danger: what we don’t see and value can be quietly taken away, without many of us realising it.

Evolving into an information society requires that frequencies are allocated in a balanced way amongst community, commercial and public service media. But that’s just what has not happened in a large number of countries — some developed and many developing ones among them. —>
http://jhybeturtle.livejournal.com/69556.html
~

Nonprofits benefit from new media organization
By Joanne Fox
Sioux City Journal (IA)
04/23/07

> “I started thinking about what I had done in Denver and how positive it was that these nonprofits were getting their message out,” he said. “In the back of my head, I got the idea that it could be done here in Sioux City.”

Rouse brought the idea from the back to the front of his head and researched the concept. He discovered CableOne was offering nonprofits air time, but for the most part, production was the nonprofits’ responsibility. He found Morningside College had a television studio and equipment that could be used. “The first year, I set up Siouxland Community Media, it was a fairly loose operation,” Rouse admitted. “Gradually, we set up a board of directors and were incorporated with the state in 2007.”

Rouse began making phone calls inviting nonprofits to be a part of this new endeavor. Organizations, agencies and schools may use the volunteers with Siouxland Community Media to produce a message about the services and programs they provide and/or to announce upcoming events. —>
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2007/04/23/news/top/78be5f43a45d3d64862572c6000cf372.txt
~

Learn How To Create, Publish And Promote Your Online Video: Make Internet TV
by Robin Good
04/23/07

Make Internet TV is a long-overdue resource that does a great job of tackling the entire web video process, from beginning to end. Until now there have been lots of great articles, tools and services put together to make your web-video-making life easier, but finding them isn’t always easy when they are scattered across the web.

The most significant thing about Make Internet TV is that everything the budding web-videographer might want to know has been gathered in one place, and made both accessible to beginners, yet modular enough that more experienced visitors can skip to the exact information they are looking for.

Each of the six chapters that make up the Make Internet TV guide are further subdivided into sections, and it is possible to follow them one-at-a-time, building up your knowledge in a linear way, or just skip to the exact resource that matches your needs. This is a well-thought-through approach to information design, and there is little chance of anyone getting lost in what is a very easy-to-navigate website. —>
http://www.masternewmedia.org/video_internet_tv/internet-tv-online-video-web-tv/internet-television-resource-20070423.htm
~

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650