Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/25/07

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

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.   —>

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

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.   —>

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

[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.”   —>

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)

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.   —>

Lawmakers delay cable bill decision
by Keegan Kyle
The Badger Herald (WI)

>   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.   —>

The SB117 Hearing
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Diary (OH)

>   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.   —>

Sen. Bill 117 & the Ohio Constitution’s Impairment of Contracts Clause

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:   —>

Telecommunication bill passes hurdle
by Don Moore
Germantown News (TN)

>   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.

Activists Seek Access To All Debate Footage
by The Associated Press
Broadcasting & Cable

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 , which allows content generators to modify their rights.   —>

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

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.   —>

House Leaders Back Cable in FCC Fight – Barton, Upton criticize Martin for cable decisions

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.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Dir., Information & Organizing Services
Alliance for Community Media

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

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