Community Media: Selected Clippings – 06/06/07

[ Five Massachusetts legislation stories are grouped at the end of today’s post. rm ]

Akron Council opposes SB 117
by Stephanie Kist
West Side Leader (OH)

The 11 members of Akron City Council present for the June 4 meeting voted unanimously to oppose Ohio Senate Bill 117. —>

Cable competition sought
State bill would aid AT&T’s rivalry bid
by Jon Van and Jeffrey Meitrodt
Chicago Tribune (IL)

—> To make sure AT&T and other companies that enter the cable business don’t cherry-pick the richest neighborhoods, the legislation mandates that companies devote a large portion of their new systems to low-income neighborhoods. In Chicago, AT&T would be required to build at least 40 percent of its system in poorer areas, matching the city’s low-income rate. Statewide, that figure will be 30 percent. “No other state has done that,” said bill sponsor Rep. James Brosnahan (D-Evergreen Park).

The House passed the bill last week and the Senate is expected to ratify it soon, though anything can happen during the legislature’s overtime session…

A cable industry official questioned the toughness of the proposed legislation. Richard Prendergast, legal counsel for the Illinois Cable Television Association, said there are a number of “back doors” that would allow AT&T and other companies to get out of the build-out requirements. “This is a now you see it, now you don’t bill,” he said.

While municipalities have dropped their opposition to statewide franchising, some individuals have not. “I hope the governor vetoes it,” said Peter Collins, information technologies manager for the city of Geneva. “It has a lot of loopholes. I don’t see it as a good thing.”,0,2622544.story?coll=chi-business-hed

Senate Schedules FCC Spectrum Auction Hearing
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable

The Senate Commerce Committee has scheduled a June 14 hearing on the upcoming FCC auction of spectrum in the 700 mHZ band. —>

Media Briefing

The 12th annual Grassroots Radio Conference, a gathering of volunteer community radio stations, will be held this month in Lowell, Massachusetts. The theme of the conference will be diversity in grassroots media with a particular focus on media access for newly arrived immigrant groups. The conference is co-located with the Grassroots Use of Technology Conference. Details about the Grassroots Radio Conference, held Thursday, June 21 through Sunday, June 24, may be found at the Grassroots Radio Conference website .

[ A CT paper picked up a snippet of this AP story recently – here’s a lot more, including a link to the National Association of Public Affairs Networks. rm ]

C-SPAN-Like TV Pops Up on Local Level
by Paul Davenport (AP)

People who can’t get enough C-SPAN are getting more chances to watch legislative coverage from the comfort of their couches. At a time when news media coverage of most state legislatures is increasingly sparse, there are now more than 20 stations across the country offering gavel-to-gavel legislative coverage. That’s up from a handful in the 1990s.

Only about a dozen offer full broadcast slates. Others offer limited, part-time programming. The programming isn’t all humdrum public policy stuff: There are corruption scandals and election controversies and juicy hearings. —>

[ “It is the mission of the National Association of Public Affairs Networks, Inc. to proactively support the establishment and expansion of noncommercial networks devoted to providing citizens with access to unbiased information about state government deliberations and public policy events in order to educate the public and advance the public understanding of and participation in political processes and the development of public policy.” ]

AT&T entrance into local market prompts utility box concerns
by Kirk Pinho
Spinal Column (MI)

—> Under the new law, a local unit of government must allow a video service provider to install, construct, and maintain a communications network within a public right-of-way and allow “open, comparable, non-discriminatory, and competitively neutral access to the public right-of-way.” …

According to Joe Steele, spokesman for AT&T, new infrastructure boxes the company is installing to provide television and other services are about 60-inches-tall and 40-inches-wide. One of the boxes can serve anywhere between 30 and 700 homes, contingent upon how far apart the homes are from each other. “You can only send a signal so far over copper (wires), so there are physical factors there we have to take into account,” Steele said….

Steele said the boxes have to be placed within the public right of way. A representative from the Michigan Municipal League (MML) said that AT&T is sometimes placing the boxes in rights-of-way that are in residential yards. Joe Fivas, assistant director of state affairs for the MML, said the utility boxes are “absolutely huge.” “We have some in East Lansing, where I live, and they are huge,” he said. “They are putting them right in front of homes.”   —>

Access Sac funding in jeopardy
by Sam McManis
Sacramento Bee (CA)

In the past two years, Access Sacramento – the county’s community-run cable access TV service – has aired more than 80 locally produced events as part of its “Hometown TV” and “Game of the Week” programs. Want to catch the Festival de la Familia or the prep basketball playoff from Arco Arena? Access Sac provided the coverage, largely thanks to a grant from the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Television Commission.

But the future of “Hometown TV” and “Game of the Week” is in jeopardy, according to Access Sacramento executive director Ron Cooper. When the cable commission meets at 2 p.m. Thursday at the Board of Supervisor’s chambers to approve Access Sacramento’s budget for the next fiscal year, both grants are on the proposed chopping block.

“This would mean a 20 percent reduction in our annual budget and the loss of many fine community and sports television productions from throughout the county,” Cooper wrote in an e-mail. Cooper is asking for strong public support to help sway the commission to renew the funding.

Verizon officials catch static over cable TV plan
by Carolyn Y. Johnson
Boston Globe (MA)

At a packed Beacon Hill hearing yesterday, top officials from Verizon Communications Inc. faced skeptical questions about a telecommunications bill yesterday from a legislative committee and a crowd that hissed and heckled at times…. Amid a high turnout from the opposition and questions about a top Verizon official’s recent statement to investors that the current town-by-town franchising system wasn’t a problem, the company put its case for the bill in stark terms. —>

Bid for state cable-tv licensing gets static from cities, towns
by Edward Mason
Gloucester Daily Times (MA)

BOSTON – A plan on Beacon Hill to strip cities and towns of their power to license cable companies, backed by communications giant Verizon Communications Inc., is getting a poor reception North of Boston. Lawmakers are considering transferring cable licensing authority to the state and setting a 15-day time limit for acting on applications, a move Verizon says will encourage competition and lower consumers’ cable bills.

But some local elected officials contend they’ll lose control over cable companies and that local access channels’ coverage of community events and locally developed programming will suffer. —>

Strong Opposition to Verizon Bill at Cable Franchising Hearing
by Colin Rhinesmith
Cambridge Community TV (MA)

I recently returned from the first half of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy hearing on cable franchising in Gardner Auditorium at the MA State House today. The near capacity-filled room was dotted with bright yellow, green, and pink stickers that read, “Don’t Mess with Access” worn by opponents of the bill.

City and state representatives from across Massachusetts, including Falmouth, Metheun, Somerville, Arlington, Yarmouth, Lowell, Fitchburg, Woburn, Amherst, Stoneham, Deerfield, Ipswich, Bourne, Brookline, Boston, and many other cities, testified in opposition to Verizon’s legislative attempt at changing the rules of cable franchising laws that have been in place and “are working fine” (as many local representatives explained) for the past 30 years. The Massachusetts Municipal Association played a key role in organizing these public testimonies. —>

Revenge of the nerds (MA)
by Dan Kennedy
Media Nation

—> What undermines it, unfortunately, is characteristic Dig cynicism. To wit:

” At the heart of it, this is a battle between two mega-corporations — Verizon and Comcast — over who gets to have a near-monopoly where. Comcast is fighting the legislation, and is reportedly helping to fund a massive, Yay local! ad effort to defeat it. Verizon, pissed that Comcast is muscling in on its phone market, is pushing back by getting all up in Comcast’s digital-TV grill. At the end of this fight, somebody’s gonna end up richer than they were before, and it’s probably not going to be you.”

Thanks for the link, Paul. And I certainly agree with the proposition that Comcast’s motives are no more pure than those of Verizon. But at the moment, at least, it’s in Comcast’s corporate interests to keep cable franchising and regulation at the local level — and that’s what’s best for consumers and local media as well. —>

Communities must retain local cable control
by Frank Lynam
Quincy Patriot Ledger (MA)

Consumers in Massachusetts have a great deal at stake if the Legislature approves special-interest legislation to eliminate municipalities from the cable licensing and renewal process. The proposed legislation would preempt local franchising authority and force state officials to rubber stamp Verizon’s efforts to offer cable service to only a limited number of customers.

Local government officials have a duty to represent the public interest of their communities and their residents, and they exercised this authority to protect consumer rights, which is why Verizon and its fellow telephone companies are trying to wipe out local powers. —>

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

Explore posts in the same categories: broadband policy, cable vs telco, community radio, FCC, IPTV, PEG access TV, public access television, video franchising

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