Archive for May 2007

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/31/07

May 31, 2007

TV bill passes state House panel
Chicago Business (IL)

Legislation to bring TV over phones lines to Illinois, ending cable TV’s near-monopoly, is on the move in Springfield. Ending lengthy negotiations, AT&T Corp. agreed early Thursday morning to a number of consumer protection provisions crafted for the legislation by Attorney General Lisa Madigan. Consumer groups and municipalities had fought an earlier version of the bill that would have allowed the phone company to win a statewide television franchise with few restrictions.

“Illinois is getting a bill with better consumer protections than other states,” says Brian Imus, director of the Illinois Public Interest Research Group. “It should set a benchmark for consumer protections in other states. That’s a good reason to support it.” —>

Cable association shows porn at SB 117 hearing
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Diary (OH)

…> The attack (on Local Voice Ohio) was, basically: “Hey, where do these people get off raising money to pay for lawyers and lobbyists?” McGee read from an email the coalition’s lawyers at Walter Haverfield sent out to municipalities in April, asking for contributions to support the campaign against SB 117: “Based upon our estimate of the work involved in the above-described activities, we suggest a contribution to Local Voice Ohio in the amount of 3% of your community’s annual franchise fee revenue.” (See the whole email at Bytes from Lev.) McGee indignantly told the committee that if every Ohio city and town had responded with a 3% donation, Local Voice Ohio would have raised nearly two million dollars to fight the bill. (He said $1.6 or $1.8 million, I can’t remember which.)

McGee did not report, and nobody on the committee asked, how much AT&T, the Ohio Telephone Association, and his own trade group have raised and spent on lawyers and lobbyists to get SB 117 passed. It would have been fascinating to take an inventory of the hourly charges for pro-SB 117 consultant fees, legal fees, executive salaries, et al. that were being rung up in that hearing room while Mr. McGee testified (including Mr. McGee’s own salary, of course.) And strangely, no one asked who’s paying for all those prime-time TV4Us commercials.

But the highlight of the McGee/Kozelek testimony was the part where Kozelek lit up a big flatscreen and showed an “example” of public access programming: about a minute of people engaging in various extremely lewd acts at a bar or party. Yes, folks — it was serious porn, right there in the Statehouse, where god-fearing legislators just got through raising the moral tone of Ohio’s strip clubs.

We were warned to look away if we were easily offended, but as far as I could tell everyone (including 100% of the committee) summoned the strength to watch the whole thing.

Of course Mr. McGee didn’t say, and no one on the committee asked, just exactly which PEG channel on which cable system had carried this minute of debauchery, or how it made its way into OCTA’s porn collection, or what exactly the committee was supposed to learn by seeing it. But it sure got everyone’s undivided attention. And isn’t that what great TV is all about?

On the substantive side, a few legislators got to ask the cable people serious questions. Points for substance go to Garrison (D-Marietta), Stewart (R-Athens), Okey (D-Carrollton), Barrett (D-Amherst), and Foley and Williams (D-Cleveland). —>

Locals fight to keep rein on cable TV
by Laura M. Colarusso
Boston Globe (MA)

As the Legislature focuses on a bill that would seize from municipalities the authority to approve cable TV licenses, local opposition to the proposed law is growing. That resistance is expected to be on full display Tuesday when a legislative committee holds a public hearing on the bill, which would allow telecom companies to bypass local governments before entering their cable markets.

The Massachusetts Municipal Association, which advocates for cities and towns, has formed a task force to fight the initiative, known as the Massachusetts Cable Choice and Competition Act. Introduced in January, the proposed law would allow cable operators to bargain directly with the state for access to cities and towns.

“It is a bad law,” said Reading Town Manager Peter Hechenbleikner, a member of the task force. “It’s a bad law for local government and for local consumers. The better process is for local franchising to get the right agreement for each community.” —>

Governor signs video franchise bill AT&T wanted
by Scott Leith
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)

AT&T, which harbors hopes of becoming a big force in selling TV services, got a boost Wednesday from the state of Georgia. Gov. Sonny Perdue signed a bill that revamps how video franchises are granted, a move that should make it easier for AT&T to compete with cable in providing TV. —>

Cable bill’s effects are still fuzzy
by Tony Marrero
Hernando Today (FL)

BROOKSVILLE — The county’s cable franchise agreement with Bright House Networks remains safe for now despite a new law that changes the rules for such agreements, according to a spokesman with the firm. “At this point it’s way too fresh to make any decisions but preliminary thoughts are nothing’s going to change with regard to any franchise agreement,” said Joe Durkin, spokesman for Bright House.

The future picture, however, is somewhat fuzzier. Changes to or a termination of the agreement could force a consolidation of the county’s three government access channels, said county Community Relations Coordinator Brenda Frazier. —>

Choice and Competition in Cable and Telecomm, Take Two (NC)

> But recently, in North Carolina, there has been a new and ominous twist in the Telecomms’ effort to protect their turf, though no one has said the Telecomms have had anything to do with this. It’s ironically called “The Local Government Fair Competition Act”. According to The Wilson Times, “The bill, which is in committee in the N.C. House, would establish a series of hurdles for local governments seeking to provide communications services, including telephone, cable television and Internet connections.

While some of the provisions can be justified, others are transparently intended to discourage cities or counties from creating competing networks, such as the fiber-optic network the city of Wilson is already installing.”

… All you state and muni level legislators who are now involved in this issue, take heed. I’m sure that North Carolina is just the first in line for this legislation, which, if it wasn’t written by the telecomms, should have been. And with the upcoming FCC spectrum auction coming up, passage of legislation such as this could be devastating to our future as a broadband economy, a future that’s already been jeopardized by the telecomm’s reneging on their 1996 promise to build out the broadband network despite billions of dollars in tax incentives they received to do so.

I think it’s time to stop bending over for the Telecomms.

John Edwards and… spectrum?
By Art Brodsky
TPM Cafe

For those of us who labor in the arcane world of telecommunications policy, this had been a red-letter week. One presidential candidate, and one person who should be a presidential candidate are helping to put the issues of who owns the Internet front and center. Who knew?

For the most part, telecommunications issues tend to be very complex and, as a result, very hidden from public view. They are important, to be sure, but they are not usually the types of things that reporters for print publications want to get into, and they are certainly not fit for television or cable news — particularly if the television or cable industries are involved.

So it was with a certain amount of disbelief on my part when I saw that Democratic candidate John Edwards had actually come out with a public letter to the Federal Communications Commission on one of the most arcane issues of them all — spectrum policy. I’m glad it was noted over at Election Central, because this is notable for two reasons.

First, it is notable because it exists. That is nothing but miraculous. Most active legislators don’t care about this stuff. Presidential candidates never do — until now. The Obama campaign has a telecom policy advisory group, but even they haven’t gone this far.

What is also worthwhile is that it was the Edwards camp that contacted public-interest experts in the field for help. That shows an unusual awareness of a very important issue. —>

Edwards, Huckabee Support an Open Internet, McCain Waffles
by Tim Karr
Huffington Post

More 2008 presidential candidates are making an open and neutral Internet a part of their platform, while others prefer fence sitting, perhaps fearful to upset one of Washington’s most entrenched and moneyed corporate lobbies.

As reported earlier, Democratic candidates, including Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joseph Biden, Christopher Dodd, Barack Obama and Bill Richardson, have staked out their support for Net Neutrality. They were joined recently by GOP candidate Mike Huckabee, who last week told a collection of bloggers that Net Neutrality must be preserved. —>

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


Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/30/07

May 30, 2007

Culver signs cable television expansion bill
Governor vetoes Missouri River panel changes
by Dan Gearino
Sioux City Journal (IA)

DES MOINES — Gov. Chet Culver closed the books on this year’s legislative session Tuesday, signing 11 bills, including a measure that will allow cable television providers to apply for the right to sell their services statewide.   —>

Perdue signs new laws, vetoes 41 bills
The Associated Press
Access North Georgia

>   Under the new cable law signed by Perdue, cable operators would be able to apply for a franchise through the state instead of having to go through the lengthy process of negotiating deals with individual counties and cities.  The measure was among the most heavily lobbied at the state Capitol this session, with AT&T leading the charge. The bill would make it easier for AT&T to debut television services to compete with cable providers. Consumer advocate say it could drive prices down….

AT&T, which purchased Atlanta-based BellSouth last year, was the largest contributor to Perdue’s inaugural fund. The company forked over $200,000 to help pay for the governor’s inaugural festivities in January.   —>

Ohio Senate Bill 117 is not “TV4US”
by Sibley Arnebeck
Common Cause Blog

SB 117, Ohio’s “state video franchising reform” bill is yet another business friendly scheme borrowed from Michigan.  A previous effort was the successful “buying” of (through illegally funded “issue ads”) a business friendly supreme court.  This time telco giants are spending large amounts of money through their phony “astroturf” front groups to advertise and lobby to “buy” legislation favorable to their shareholders, with no regard for their obligation to provide diversity of information and service to all of the people.   —>

Public has a right to know where bill proposals are coming from
by Stan Milan
Spooner Advocate (WI)

MADISON– It’s surprising even by Madison standards – the issue of whether lobbyists can review bill drafts when the drafts are still out of public view is still swirling around inside the Capitol.  Former Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager thought it was improper for lobbyists to have access to legislative documents, mainly bill drafts, when the public was barred from having the same access.  She felt strongly enough to sue Rep. Scott Gunderson (R-Waterford) and then-Sen. Dave Zien (R-Eau Claire) after they refused to share with her bill drafts relating to a concealed weapons bill in which the National Rifle Association had a hand…

By the way, if the suit is successful in stopping lobbyists’ access to confidential material, lobbyists will still write legislation. Does anyone believe that AT&T didn’t write the proposed anti-cable bill?  Let the lobbyists, special interest groups and constituents help write bills and bill drafts. The issue should be to let the public know who is participating in the process.   —>

PEGASYS facing financial shortfall
Enid News (OK)

PEGASYS board members had their 2006-07 budget ready for approval at their meeting Tuesday, but after hearing a proposal from City Manager Eric Benson, the board decided to wait to see if they will have any money to spend.  Executive Director Wendy Quarles said Benson’s proposal will cut city funding to the public-access television station by 33 percent, or $100,000, the next fiscal year and eliminate it totally in three years.

When asked, Benson did not say he would eliminate PEGASYS funding, but he said every city department is being examined closely, and every opportunity to save money will be studied.  He said nothing is off the table, and there are no “sacred cows.”…

“We looked at every single line item in the city and reviewed it for appropriateness, effectiveness. It’s not our budget. The city council makes it up,” he said.  Benson said the city is facing a $1 million bridge collapse repair that was not foreseen.   —>

Video Summer Camp open
Enid News (OK)

PEGASYS, Enid’s public access television station, is offering its fourth annual Video Summer Camp June 12-16.  The camp is geared toward students ages 12-17 and will include 40 hours of intensive, hands-on training covering all aspects of television production. As a final project, students will produce a video that will air on Suddenlink Cable Channel 11 throughout the summer.

“By the end of the week, each student will be able to include television producer on his or her resume,” said Wendy Quarles, PEGASYS executive director. “This will be a great learning experience, and they’ll have a lot of fun.”   —>

Welgraven a semifinalist in film competition
by Bob Williams
The Daily Journal (MN)

Alex Welgraven has been nominated as a semi-finalist in the Film Your Issue 2007 International Film Competition. Alex Welgraven, 19, of Fergus Falls, has been selected as a semi-finalist for a major international film competition for young people, Film Your Issue (FYI) 2007. An online voting platform on Yahoo! will end May 31 and will decide the winners for the next round. Locals are encouraged to vote online for the semi-finalist from their area or their favorite film.

Welgraven’s film, “Move Your Feet,” is one of 36 entries from around the globe from young adults 16 to 25 to be selected.  “I love film because of its ability to inspire people to act,” Welgraven said. “I chose to make this film because the world suffers from inaction. It is inaction that destroys the world.”

Welgraven is currently finishing his two-year degree at Minnesota State Community and Technical College-Fergus Falls. Next fall, he will be transferring to Minnesota State University, Moorhead, to major in film, with an emphasis in production.

“I’ve lived in Fergus Falls for the last couple of years, and my time here has a great deal of influence on my interest in film,” he said. “PEG Access Television made the equipment available with discounted memberships for students like myself. I owe a great deal to this facility.”  Aside from local equipment, Welgraven used the talents of local actors as well.   —>

The politics of online journalism
Polis – Journalism & Society

>   But Ros Taylor of Guardian Online said there was a danger of universalising.  Online reaction to events like 7/7, a kind of “Internet imperialism”, when in fact access to the internet is limited:  “It is a fantastic medium if you speak English, have the bandwidth, and are articulate. I would argue that online the most articulate are at the forefront of the content to the exclusion of others. We are English/UK/American centric in our discussions and we need to remember that there is a whole world that is not online.   —>

With the Decline of Traditional Journalism in California There is a Challenge
by Frank D. Russo
California Progress Report

A very thoughtful and mourning (no misspelling here) column appeared in yesterday’s San Francisco Chronicle, “The Decline of News,” by Neil Henry a Professor of journalism at the University of California who was a correspondent for the Washington Post. I highly recommend reading this article, even though there are parts that I’m not sure I agree with.

The main point of Professor Henry’s article is that, with the decline of traditional journalism, we are losing “access to important news, gathered according to high standards.” He says that “increasingly it is highly skilled professional journalists committed to seeking the truth and reporting it, independently and without fear or favor” who are being let go by the “old” media. He takes as a given that this will and must result in a net loss, stating, “The fact is there will be nothing on YouTube, or in the blogosphere, or anywhere else on the Web to effectively replace the valuable work of those professionals. ” In short, we are left with “a society increasingly fractured, less informed by fact and more susceptible to political and marketing propaganda, cant and bias.”

… There are other media that have threatened the captains of the printing press. Television and radio were seen as upstarts in their infancy, and there were disputes by the Capital Correspondents Association here in California over whether they should be credentialed as “reporters.” While generally the broadcast media have given shorter glimpses into politics and public policy in this state and in the country, there are exceptions. CSPAN, the California Channel, public radio and television, and public access channels allow for longer and sometimes unfiltered content to be viewed or watched. —>

[ Sound familiar?  He could just as easily be describing community access channels. rm ]

The Blue Highways Journal
Dispatches from a Latter-Day Johnny Appleseed
by Jock Lauterer
The Carrboro Commons

Let’s get this straight: Newspapers are not vanishing. At least not my kind of newspapers.  Yes, many major metros are in a circulation free-fall. But not my guys. The small, local or what we call “community newspapers” – papers with circulations below 50k, many of them found off the interstates on the so-called “blue highways” of this nation – are doing very well, thank you.  In fact, these “relentlessly local” papers are so quietly successful that big-city papers have finally noticed and are copying them! Ex: pick up today’s N&O and count the number of local stories on the front page.


North Carolina has only eight papers that might be considered major metros – all the rest are “my peeps” (as my hip Carrboro daughter calls “her people”) – this includes the 192 weeklies and small dailies of the Old North State.  If you’re like me, numbers make your eyes glaze over. So I’ll make this quick. Of the 9,321 newspapers in the U.S. only 217 are considered “large.”  Now listen to this stat: statewide and nationwide 97 percent of our newspapers are SMALL PAPERS. And they reach almost three times as many readers as do “big” papers.

OK, enough math. Let’s cut to the chase.


Veteran Chapel Hill editor/professor Jim Shumaker used to demand that of his reporters when they pitched him a story: Tell me why this matters!

These are the papers that tell you when your garbage pick-up has changed, what the town council is up to, who’s going to be playing at quarterback this week, when the library will open, why the school board decided to adopt a year-round calendar, what’s for lunch at the school, who made the honor roll, when that road widening project will be done and how best to avoid traffic jams…

These are also the papers where many of our students get their first internships and many grads get their first jobs. Just looking at the sheer numbers, wouldn’t you think it’s the job of a great public university to service this industry?

That was my thinking when in 2001 we launched the Carolina Community Media Project as a way to help strengthen the state’s community papers – both rural and suburban. The real reason “Shu” would pay attention to my pitch: the better the community paper, the more likely it is that that community will have a vital civic life and a sense of pride in place – both keys to high livability in a free democratic society.  The better the paper; the better the community.   —>

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

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/29/07

May 29, 2007

Pull the plug on cable bill
Editorial: Leader-Telegram (WI)

The issue: The state Legislature considers a bill supporters say would increase cable competition.  Our view: The bill is deeply flawed. It would strip local control, harm public access channels – and there’s no guarantee cable rates would drop.   —>

Stay tuned on cable bill
by Bethany Carson
Illinois Issues Blog

A measure posing AT&T against local cable and telephone companies could come to light soon in a House committee, where it’s been stalled for more than a month. The House Telecommunications Committee met Tuesday morning but recessed to “the call of the chair,” allowing sponsor Rep. James Brosnahan, an Evergreen Park Democrat, to reconvene the committee as soon as the compromise language is ready to go. He said he hopes that would happen in the next two days.

Then again, the urgency of state budget negotiations between Gov. Rod Blagojevich and the top Democratic leaders could delay Brosnahan’s proposal into the fall veto session, says Gary Mack, lobbyist for the Cable Television and Communications Association that opposes the measure.

The proposal would basically allow such telephone companies as AT&T and Verizon to compete with cable providers that have enjoyed a monopoly in providing high-tech video services. AT&T wants to change the way video providers get authorization to build a video franchise using broadband, fiber optics and Internet protocol technology to supply those services. AT&T can do that right now, but it would have to do the same as cable companies and go through individual municipalities to get approval to provide the service. Brosnahan’s measure would allow providers to get a statewide video franchise through the Illinois Commerce Commission instead. But the original language in his measure limits the commission’s power to approving or denying applications to provide the service, so it stops short of giving the commission the ability to regulate what happens after that, says Jim Zolnierek of the commerce commission.

Attorney General Lisa Madigan wants the commission to have more regulatory power. Her office joins other opponents — cable providers, public access channels and consumer advocates — in arguing that the legislation opens the door for a deregulated industry and doesn’t adequately protect local control, public access channels or customer service standards.   —>

Community Media Summit (IL)
Benton Foundation

The Benton Foundation, the Chicago Community Trust and the Chicago Media Workshop are co-sponsoring the first Community Media Summit June 14 and 15, 2007.

We’re gathering to understand and examine the voices and content that make up community media and to imagine and explore the potentials of community media for serving basic human and community needs. We’ll learn about how innovators in the fields of Community Development, Immigrant and Refugee Issues, and Creative Expression and Learning are creating and using community media. We’ll also share experience from Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, and Detroit. Keynoters Richard Somerset-Ward and Julia Stasch will provide national perspective and Chicago’s context for the Summit.

Who’s coming? National leaders and practitioners will be presenting exemplary community media projects and comparing notes on lessons learned to date and challenges still to face. A diverse group of community media makers”from ethnic and community newspaper publishers to pioneers in the new arts of Internet-based storytelling – as well as nonprofit leaders and technologists, educators, journalists, philanthropists, and public officials are all expected.

We have two goals: first, recognizing a new practice taking shape on the ground in Chicago; second, helping to chart a course for practitioners that will strengthen this emerging field. We will be examining these issues across three themes: Community Development and Community Media, Immigrant and Refugee Issues and Community Media, and Creative Expression and Learning through Community Media. We’ll also be sharing experience from other Midwestern communities: Minneapolis/St. Paul, Cleveland, and Detroit. Two keynoters, Richard Somerset-Ward and Julia Stasch, will provide national perspective and Chicago’s context for the Summit.  Agenda:   —>

Nevada Franchise-Reform Bill Heads to Gov.
Legislation Would Mean Secretary of State Would Issue Cable Franchises
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

A bill reforming cable franchising is headed for the desk of Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons.  The bill unanimously passed the state Senate May 25. If signed by the governor, the bill mandates that franchises will now be issued by the Secretary of State.    —>

Are “class issues” slowing IPTV rollouts?

Regulations usually involving cable franchise rights have slowed down the rollout of IPTV services by telcos in the U.S. for a variety of reasons, however, one seems to be coming up again and again: concerns over “cherrypicking.” AT&T and Qwest have both found it particularly onerous in some areas to gain a foothold in a new market because lawmakers said they were concerned the new TV operators would only offer the IPTV service to the more affluent neighborhoods. The AT&T-backed statewide franchise bill in Tennessee reportedly lost steam over cherrypicking concerns, and Qwest is having similar issues in parts of Colorado.   —>

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

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/28/07

May 28, 2007

Instruction in TV Production
Gloucester High students can earn certification in the school’s TV studio.
by Mathew Paust
Daily Press (VA)

GLOUCESTER — One after another, Gloucester High School students climb up onto the stool under the floodlights and answer questions about what they’re getting from the school’s television/video production course. “I was kind of shy at first, but I’m not shy anymore,” said one girl, smiling boldly into a video camera that was being operated by a fellow student.

Conducting the interviews was their instructor, Jeff Leone, a former professional TV producer and director in New York. The class, his first as a teacher in Gloucester, is producing a video to promote the school’s career and technical education curriculum.

It’s also the first year that television/video production has been offered as a career-oriented course. Previously, it was part of the fine arts curriculum. —>,0,5613353.story?coll=dp-news-local-mp

City TV dons stilettos and vinyl
The NYC channel sexes up — no more back-to-back council meetings here — and wins fans globally.
by Erika Hayasaki
Los Angeles Times

NEW YORK — Looking like a superhero in her vinyl black trench coat, stiletto boots and red choker, she navigates the city with a hand-held Treo-like device and struts to the drum of rock music. Facing her camera crew, this diva host is more MTV than municipal programming, but make no mistake, she is the face of government television.

Kelly Choi, a journalist and former model, is the star of “Secrets of New York,” the latest hit show in the rebirth of NYC TV — New York’s government-run television station under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s charge. Gone are the days of back-to-back City Council meetings and government news on Channel 25.

Now, the cable channel has positioned itself as a magnet for a younger, hipper audience, with programs featuring indie bands, bars, fashion, celebrity chefs and hip-hop videos. It’s a model that government-run stations across the country and around the world are trying to learn from. NYC TV’s producers have received calls from stations in Los Angeles, Seoul and other cities interested in developing similar shows.

Producers say the concept is useful and entertaining for residents, and has boosted local tourism and business. “We wanted stuff that people could actually use, as opposed to this ethereal wonkish government stuff,” said NYC TV General Manager Arick Wierson, a former investment banker who helped revamp the station’s image beginning in 2003 after working on Bloomberg’s mayoral campaign. —>,1,3331211.story?track=crosspromo&coll=la-news-politics-national&ctrack=1&cset=true

Bill Olson on “Threat to Access” (WI)
Surly Robot

The man who wrote The History of Public Access Television says that history may be coming to an end. Here’s his take on the three-way dance between access, government, and telecommunication companies that may spell the death of this beautiful, quirky institution.

“Threat to Access”
By Bill Olson
May 17, 2007

You might recognize my name as the person who wrote an essay called “The History of Public Access Television.” Sadly, that history may be coming to an end, thanks to efforts by AT&T to do away with local franchise agreements.

Currently in Wisconsin, AT&T has 16 lobbyists working the statehouse, trying to pass the bills written by their corporate lawyers. AB 207 & SB 107 were written to make it easier for phone companies like AT&T to offer “video services” (cable TV) by doing away with the requirement to negotiate franchise agreements with local governments. It would also do away with PEG (Public, Education and Government Channel) fees, requirements to serve an entire community (including impoverished neighborhoods) and a host of consumer protections.

AT&T has failed to pass a national bill along these lines, so now they are going state by state. They have already facilitated the passing of similar legislation in 11 states, and if they haven’t come to your state yet, they will.

AT&T is so intent to abolish public access TV in Wisconsin that it has singled it out for special requirements engineered to make this valuable service impossible to operate, including that we broadcast no fewer than 12 hours of new locally-produced programming every day, the elimination of PEG fees and that we pay for the equipment to send our signal to the cable companies.

For us, any one of these would put us out of business.

In Wisconsin, AT&T and its supporters have kept the bill on the fast track as much as possible. Less than two months after the bills were introduced, they were up for a vote. We could’ve been abolished in early May 2007. Our supporters in the legislature tried introducing amendments and tried to slow the bills down by sending them to the Joint Finance Committee.

Voting was along party lines. In both houses, all the Democrats voted to send their bill to the JFC, and all Republicans voted against it. The Assembly is Republican controlled, so the bill stayed there, and in fact, they recently passed it. The Senate voted by three votes to send their bill to the JFC where it’s not expected to be taken up again until after dealing with the state budget. We’ve been told we probably have until September.

One can’t really say that the Republican are the villains and the Democrats are the heroes; since the phone companies are organized and the cable companies aren’t, many liberal groups support these bills. And AT&T, apparently dismayed by the party-line voting, has recently hired their 16th lobbyist – Joe Wineke, the state’s Democratic chair.

Republican Assembly Representative Terry Moulton introduced an amendment that was added to AB 207 before it passed. Mr. Moulton as been saying and writing that he has saved public access TV with this amendment, but he only created a 3-year delayed reaction. Three years after the bill is signed into law (if it’s signed into law as currently written), public access TV will be put out of business.

So there is some hope: We have until September (possibly) to defeat or change the law. We are currently circulating a petition to urge legislators to add amendments that would reduce our revenue from PEG fees, but keep the fees in place, keeping us alive. The local city council (we broadcast live city council meetings) unanimously passed a resolution supporting us. We have supporters, we have a little time. We’ll see what happens.
* * *
Bill Olson
(715) 835-6446

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

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/27/07

May 27, 2007

Video franchising a front-yard issue
Grand Chute leader wary of AT&T’s roadside cabinets
by Ed Lowe
Appleton Post-Crescent (WI)

GRAND CHUTE — Town Administrator Mark Rohloff concedes the state battle over the so-called video competition act won’t be decided by concerns about neighborhood aesthetics.  Still, he can’t see past the spread of those “obnoxious” circuitry cabinets he envisions at the edge of somebody’s yard.   —>

Lack of local cable access causes static for Verizon
by Megan Woolhouse
Boston Globe (MA)

Marlborough residents who subscribe to Verizon for cable television service can get hundreds of channels beamed in from around the world, but if they want to watch local cable-access shows, they’re out of luck. At least for now.

The situation has irritated many Verizon customers, including City Councilor Edward Clancy, who said customers pay the company a franchise fee each month to make local programming possible.  “We should not be paying for something we cannot access,” he said.   —>

Counterpoint: Local control means better cable service
by Eleanor L. Pye
Eagle-Tribune (MA)

In early June, Massachusetts Senate bill 1975 will be voted on to determine whether cable franchising will be negotiated at a state level or remain at the local level. The text of the bill begins, “An act promoting consumer choice and competition for cable service.” This statement, and the subsequent bill, could not be further from the truth.

But here are some truths: Senate Bill 1975 was authored by Verizon without any consultation by any state agency. Sections of the bill are deliberately vague, leaving little opportunity for any watchdogging by state or local officials. The application requires less information than something you may complete to join the local YMCA, and the decision process is limited to just 15 business days, leaving little room for any public opinion or hearings.   —>

Fargo to add public access channel
by Mike Nowatzki (ND)
The Forum

Fargo will plunge further into public access television next week when the new Channel 99 becomes available to CableOne subscribers.   —>

Cable TV survey
Foster’s Online (ME)

ELIOT — The Eliot Community Cable TV Committee announces the third and final portion of the Community Cable Television Survey process will be held at the John F. Hill Grange, 2001 State Road in Eliot on Wednesday, June 6, at 7 p.m. Residents are invited.

The committee will hold a public town meeting to present the results of its survey, show a video on the subject of public access television stations and answer questions, hear opinions and welcome any suggestions on how a cable television public access channel can contribute to the future success of the town.

Just Not True: Cable Rates Not Falling in Texas
Lafayette ProFiber (LA)

Here’s something to think about:  Competition has not led to lower basic cable-rates in Texas. (MultiChannel News)  That’s the long and the short of it according to a study by the Texas chapter of NATOA.   —>

Tech Closeup Closes in on Syndication (CA)
Tech TV Forever

You might call Tech Closeup “the little TV show that could.” It started two years ago as just a monthly series on Bay Area Public Access stations—where almost anybody can put on their own show that almost nobody will watch. But somebody must be watching Tech Closeup, and it’s upbeat and classy profiles of Silicon Valley technologies, researchers, and sci-tech advances. Because Tech Closeup is about to make a big national splash.   —>

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

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 05/26/07

May 27, 2007

Carolyn LaVoy,
TV host, dies
by Ray Kisonas
Monroe News (MI)

Carolyn LaVoy, a pioneer in Monroe television and longtime educator, died Thursday after a years-long battle with cancer. She was 64.

Mrs. LaVoy for years hosted “Monroe Alive,” one of the first local talk shows that centered on area personalities and events. It was shown on MPACT (Monroe Public Access Cable Television). For years, she also was director of Orchard High School in Monroe. —>

Town will fight to keep cable licensing power
by Patty Lawrence-Perry
Worcester Telegram & Gazette (MA)

HOLLAND— Selectmen decided this week to join the fight against Verizon Communications’ proposed legislation to strip communities of their local cable licensing powers.

Selectman Earl A. Johnson and board Chairman James E. Wettlaufer agreed with the Massachusetts Municipal Association’s move to “raise public awareness of the urgent need to preserve local cable and video franchising authority,” and voted Wednesday to sign Holland onto a special Telecommunications Franchising Task Force chaired by Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone. —>

Easthampton TV program seeks new status, location
by Matt Pilon
Daily Hampshire Gazette (MA)

With a budget that has doubled in a year, big changes are in the works at the city’s public access TV station.  Easthampton Community Access Television, the operation that brings City Council meetings and local events to the television sets of cable-subscribing residents, is attempting to attain nonprofit status.

The change would allow the organization to bolster its budget through fundraising and grants and provide benefits for its employees, said Station Manager Greg Franceschi.  Since the organization’s inception, the city has hired ECAT employees as independent contractors, meaning that they are not employed by the city and therefore are ineligible for health, dental and life insurance as well as other benefits…

ECAT is also looking to relocate its studio, now at White Brook Middle School.  The location comes with time constraints. The station cannot operate after 3 p.m. in the summer, making it hard for community members to create content, a key component of the station’s mission.    —>
[subscription required]

Information Technology and Coping with the Second Energy Crisis
by Dave Moisan
Dave Moisan’s Blog (NH)

[This post is part of the World Without Oil alternate-reality game but is completely factual.  See my posts on A Salem Blog ]

Many are barely aware of it, but we’re in what I call the Second Energy Crisis.  Some of you are old enough to remember the first Energy Crisis in the seventies.  If you’re in IT, whether small or large, the Second Energy Crisis will–no, already is–affecting you in big ways and small, not all of which are immediately obvious.

Consider the organization I work for, Salem Access Television.  We are a small non-profit cable television access facility, operating since 1994.  We broadcast on 3 channels and we serve government, citizens, students and businesses of Salem.  We are a small company, with just 3 full time employees, but because of our purpose, we have a surprisingly dense IT shop.

We have 11 client machines (mixed between Windows and Mac) and 2 servers;  we have a gigabit network and WiFi for use by vistors.

We worry about power all the time.  We have two UPS’s but no generator;  when we were established (and before I was working in IT there), public access TV was considered more of a luxury.  It’s now a necessity.  Our one radio station no longer exists for us, our daily newspaper is managed from Lawrence and owned in Alabama.  We have just one weekly newspaper for Salem.  And SATV.

As an example of our power challenges, I’ll talk about our cablecast area.  Cablecast has the same function as the master control area in a TV station:  To organize, store and control everything that goes out over our three channels.    —>!95CB015E3E4A702A!210.entry

Excessive music royalties threaten Internet radio
By Davey D
Special to Mercury News

A few years a ago, I ran into then-FCC chairman Michael Powell at Jesse Jackson’s Wall Street Project Conference in New York. Powell was the man of the hour. More than 3million people had contacted the Federal Communications Commission to demand that it abandon plans to allow big media conglomerates such as Clear Channel to further consolidate media ownership.

I confronted Powell about complaints I had heard from media-reform activists around the country, including the Bay Area’s People Station Campaign, Detroit’s Black Out Friday campaign and the Turn Off the Radio Campaign, which a night earlier had attracted 1,500 people, including Chuck D, Afrika Bambaata, Doug E. Fresh and other rap stars, to a meeting at a Harlem church.

In addition, members of New York’s city council had listened to six hours of testimony in which person after person complained about hearing the same 10 songs played over and over on radio, a lack of airplay for independent local artists and an abundance of harmful stereotypes broadcast daily. They also complained that management at the city’s then-No.1 station, Hot 97, allowed disc jockeys to use the “N” and “B” words constantly.

Powell listened, then dismissively told me the solution was not to increase government regulation and prevent further ownership consolidation but rather for concerned listeners to turn to Internet radio instead. He insisted that, on the Web, people could find all the diversity and niche programming their hearts desired.

Fast-forward four years, and indeed listeners, faced with little change in over-the-air radio, have found their way to Webcasts. An industry that once reached a scant few million each month now attracts more than 70 million listeners. Apparently people got Powell’s memo.

But in a cruel irony, what has become a viable alternative for many listeners now faces a big threat. In recent weeks, the major record labels and their organization SoundExchange persuaded the Copyright Royalty Board to increase fees by three to 12 times, applied retroactively.

The increases, which became effective May 15, threaten to bankrupt Internet radio. For example, the largest Internet radio company, the Bay Area’s Live365, said its current annual cost of $1.5 million would rise to between $6 million and $7 million, bankrupting the company.

What makes the increase even more insidious is that all Webcasters, regardless of size, are required to pay $500 annually, in addition to the higher rates, while satellite radio and commercial broadcasters, which have been pushing their own online and HD stations lately, are exempt from that fee.

SoundExchange said the increase was necessary because album sales are down, and the recording industry needs other sources of income to pay artists for their work. But according to Wendy Day, of the respected artist advocacy group Rap Coalition, artists aren’t the main beneficiaries.

Day, who has brokered deals for Master P, Cash Money and others, said, “The major labels are fighting hard to retain as large a percentage as possible for digital rights. Much like record deals of the past” – involving formats such as LPs, cassettes and CDs – “the labels retain the lion’s share of the profits, giving the average artist a lowly 12 percent of the selling price, after they’ve paid back every recoupable expense. … That business model still stands in digital formats. The labels still keep the lion’s share of the money. … Artists still get pennies in comparison to the labels’ dollars.”

A broad coalition, ranging from Christian broadcasters to Yahoo radio, opposes the rate hikes.

As a result, two bipartisan-sponsored bills have been introduced in Congress, HB2060 in the House and SB1353 in the Senate, which would repeal the rate increase.

If you want Internet radio to survive in the form we know it, contact your representatives to urge their support.

Davey D’s hip-hop column is published biweekly in Eye. Contact him at [subscription required]

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

To show the video or not?

May 26, 2007

Kid Gloves
by FLO
The Rule of Thirds

Last Tuesday, I witnessed a 16 year old kid at the moment when he was shot and killed.

Let me start at the beginning.

That day started like any other. Woke up late, rushed to get into work on time at 9 a.m. Arrived at work, got my gear together and loaded up in my car. The parties that be and myself had a little meeting to figure out what we would cover for the day. I got stuck with court duty. One of my least favorite assignments. A trial isn’t as exciting as it’s portrayed on “Law & Order”. In the real world, they’re boring and monotonous. A lesson in frivolity. Anyway, I headed down to the courthouse and set up my record deck. In bigger trials the judge sets up a “pool” camera. One guy, with one camera is set up in the courtroom while all the stations pack into a tiny “media room” and record on what the camera is displaying.  On most days that I have to do this, it isn’t as interesting as it sounds.  Tuesday was different.

The trial is for a 16 year old kid named Giovanni Casper.  He’s accused of fatally shooting another 16 year old kid, Kenneth Dear at a roller rink.  These cases are usually open and shut.  This one isn’t any different.  What is different about this case though is that there is a video of the murder.  Some woman was at the roller rink that night, shooting video for a public access TV show.  When a fight broke out she recorded that altercation to the point after the teenager was shot and killed.  This video was played in court, for the benefit of the jury.

One would think think that witnessing that video would be a terrible and life changing event.  Well, it isn’t.  The feelings that came to me when I saw it was more shock.  Sock at how ungraphic it was.  Instead of hyper-violence, you get a pop, some smoke, and a kid clutching his stomach and falling to the ground.  Is that terrible?  Sure, you witness a young life getting snuffed out.  But in no way is the video graphic.  I’ve seen worse at my local multiplex.

After court adjourned came the moment of truth.  To show the video on the air or to not?  Closed door meetings with the boss are never pleasant, even under the auspices of pleasantry.  My reporter and I, along with a couple of other choice people viewed the video and attempted to come up with a decision.  My reporter wanted to show it, as did I. —>