Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/02/07

On the state level: Access to local media threatened by Ohio Bill
by Rich James
The Free Press (OH)
April 2, 2007

As big media faces a more public-interest oriented Congress, some public policy battles are moving to state legislatures. Phone giants interested in entering the video market want to get rid of local franchising, the locale-by-locale permission to use public right-of-ways that cable companies have had to secure.

A community with enough foresight to take advantage of franchising–and Columbus, regrettably, has not–has been able to leverage Public, Educational and Government (PEG) channels with budgets to run them, to provide high-speed governmental and civic sector networks, to require services in low-income communities, and to generate other benefits, services and local income. All this will go away if recently introduced Ohio Senate Bill 117 becomes law. —>

Clash of Wills as AT&T Makes $4.6B Cable Move
The Business Ledger (IL)

—> The process began more than a year ago when AT&T began to negotiate with Chicago-area communities about the possibility of adding another video service to compete with incumbent cable franchises. Most municipalities were willing to hear them out, citing possible increased competition that would be good for consumers. However, as many discussions began to break down due to a number of disagreements, some municipalities passed moratoriums against AT&T’s right to build in their communities, which in turn prompted several lawsuits against these towns brought on by the corporate giant.

Naperville’s Miller said that even though his municipality was not a part of these early dealings, it willingly stepped in as a “peacemaker” and attempted to reach an agreement with AT&T that would act as a blueprint for surrounding communities. “Naperville already has four cable service providers, but we would welcome a fifth,” said Miller. “We want to give our residents as many choices as we can.”

However, during the negotiations, city officials found too many discrepancies that they could not come to terms with, primarily that AT&T would not guarantee universal coverage of its services, said Terry, placing it on a scale different from already competing entities in the municipality. “You can’t cherry pick customers,” said Miller. “How do you compete fairly when someone who says they will service everybody goes up against someone who doesn’t have to? “It is not a small issue if you say that you aren’t going to service everyone. And if we were going to be a blueprint for other areas we could not let that pass with a clear conscience.” —>

These candidates want their Bucks TV
by Jenna Portnoy
The Intelligencer (PA)

—> Santarsiero and Marseglia suggested municipalities served by public-access cable channels would show the commissioners meetings. But since cable giant Comcast provides the channels only to the municipalities who have negotiated the perk in franchise agreements, not all residents would see the meetings. Municipalities with public-access channels include Middletown, Upper Makefield, Lower Makefield, Lower Southampton, Warminster, Bristol and Bensalem Township. Residents of other municipalities may have access to programming from their school district through an educational channel.

The county itself has no leverage to make such a deal, although it did use Comcast’s On Demand service last year to show a voter education video to digital cable customers. Republican Commissioner Jim Cawley said Bucks has talked to Comcast about providing a public-access channel. “Certainly franchise agreements have provided some incentive for Comcast to enter into discussions with municipalities and that is not a tool we have,” he said. “We have been and will continue to appeal to the better nature of Comcast to see if we could come to an agreement that would be cost efficient to the taxpayers.” —>

Social Media Now: Think Locally, Surf Regionally
by Jason Chervokas
Social Media Club

Maybe it’s because I started my career in the community newspaper business, but for whatever reason I love local news. When I travel I make a point of seeking out small papers in tiny communities across the world and voraciously devour all the details of local land use battles, trash schedules and school sports. Working in community journalism also was fabulous preparation for Internet journalism. Unlike journalists at major metro institutions like The New York Times (for whom I also worked), community journalists work in a world where sources, advertisers and readers come from the same small universe and where readers regularly walk into the office to shout in your face. —>

The era of citizen journalism has inspired a new round of local online news efforts–including the recently launched, founded by my old Silicon Alley colleague Steven Johnson. The latest effort comes from Topix. The company, which is majority owned by three major newspaper companies and which previously organized search results according to local parameters, announced over the weekend the launch of–a revamp of its local news business built around community-edited blogs.

Topix CEO Rich Skrenta has a great blog post explaining the process by which Topix came to the decision to revamp. The post should serve as a model for corporate communications and transparency and I recommend it highly to anyone interested in the Internet publishing business. The most interesting part of Skrenta’s discussion revolves around creating an instantly identifiable visual metaphor for the new site, allowing users to enter without effort. Mission accomplished. The local pages look great and the blog-style layout is effortless to enter. But there’s little yet in the way of community contributed news (almost all the news on my local site came from a nearby Gannet paper–Gannet is an investor in Topix).

A lot of links to the story this morning–from Techcrunch to paidContent to Mashable–but nothing really in the way of analysis although Frank Gruber has a nice description of the new feature set. Even if it were just a matter of reorganizing its offerings to make them more accessible the Topix revamp would be a good one, but will it be enough to awaken local news online? Is local news the sleeping giant of the Internet in the era of citizen journalism?

Maybe. Certainly local information is as at home on the Net as any other kind of information. Already a generation of people use the Internet to look up movie times, peruse local restaurant menus, check the dates of recycling pick ups, and buy and sell used stuff. These things once formed the lifeblood of newspapers and their online migration goes a long way towards explaining the continuing economic demise of that business.

And in large cities like New York there are enough people in any given neighborhood for one or two people to emerge who are engaged enough to contribute and participate in local issues online. But as the focus of a local site narrows, finding those individuals becomes increasingly difficult, and of course the audience of interested parties becomes smaller. In addition, the smaller the community the more likely it is that those who care about, say, school board meetings or village trustee meetings are the people who actually attend those meetings in the first place (I wonder how the ratings for public access airings of town board meetings compare with the attendance that those meetings). Certainly major issues can stimulate community involvement online, but you can’t build a predictable business on the hope of a steady stream of major issues effecting small communities.

If I were in the local online business today I would be less concerned with citizen journalism and more concerned with socially enabled regional directories, but that’s just me. —>

Channel 21 To Go Live For Verizon Customers
by Molly Novotny

—> To learn how to do the manual switch, Watkins advised calling Verizon directly, since many televisions are different. She said the change only affects Verizon subscribers; Comcast customers already have Channel 21. Comcast still needs to put an interconnection into the building to allow other cable providers access, Flading said. The county’s government channel and public access channel will be augmented with an education channel in the next few months, she said today. Verizon and Open Band need access to the feed in order to air the channels, Flading said, adding that Comcast is supposed to provide that access by April 22.

Cheshire TV can’t run on acorns and tales of adventure! (no matter how good they are)
Free Keene

—> I think most people understand that the right to offer services on the market should not be curtailed by law. What we sold our souls for was a small franchise fee to be paid by the cable company. It appears they have not done this. What’s worse the city government does not seem to care. Since the city has decided not to enforce its agreement with Time Warner (in effect granting them the monopoly at a discount). The money that is supposed to be channeled to Cheshire TV may not arrive. When channel 8 goes black it will be too late to call the city and ask them to do their job. If you want to read the Franchise agreement, you can find it here. —>

Camden considers land lease for cell tower, sidewalk ordinance
Village Soup Times (ME)

Camden’s Select Board meets tonight to discuss a request from Verizon Wireless to lease town land and erect a cell tower there, consider a private bulkhead reconstruction project, and talk about benches on public sidewalks. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. in the Washington Street Conference Room, and will be televised on public access television Channel 22.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Director of Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media

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

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