Community Media: Selected Clippings – 06/11/07

Charter contract options listed
Tullahoma News (TN)

Tullahoma’s cable TV franchise agreement with Charter Communications expires this month, so the Board of Mayor and Aldermen is faced with renegotiating its contract amid determining how the city’s Public Education and Government Channel 6 fits into the picture.

Meanwhile, Tullahoma Utilities Board has received funding approval from the Board of Aldermen for $17.1 million in a bond issue to develop a municipal fiber optics network system that will provide cable TV, Internet and telephone service.   —>

Connecticut Legislators Approve Franchise Reform Bill
Broadcast Newsroom (Multichannel News)

Connecticut legislators, on the last night of their session June 6, approved a franchise reform bill that will subject AT&T U-verse TV product to some regulation. This is notable because, in a controversial decision in 2006, the state’s Department of Public Utility Control concluded that the telco’s Internet-delivered product is not the same as a cable service and therefore not subject to regulation. That regulatory ruling is being challenged in federal court by the New England Cable Telecommunications Association.    —>

Foley pushes SB 117 amendments to prevent digital abandonment, create state broadband partnership
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Blog (OH)

I mentioned the other day that there are a few dozen amendments proposed for Senate Bill 117, the state video/broadband franchising bill, as it nears final House markup… possibly as soon as next Tuesday.  Four of those amendments are being proposed by Rep. Mike Foley, whose 14th House District includes the far West Side of Cleveland and a few adjacent suburbs.

Two of Foley’s proposals are small but significant changes to the bill’s anti-redlining language. One would change the definition of “low income household” from a flat $35,000 to 150% of the Federal poverty level (that’s $31,000 in 2007). The second would eliminate low-income access percentages as a legal defense against charges of racial discrimination by a video/broadband provider.  The other two Foley amendments are aimed at bigger targets.

1. No abandonment. Under the bill passed by the Senate, a cable company that switches from its local franchise to a state Video Service Authorization is no longer bound by any requirement of the old franchise to provide community-wide access. In effect, this is a license to abandon less profitable communities. Foley’s amendment would require such a company to continue to provide service everywhere it does under its local franchise, for the entire ten years of its initial Video Service Authorization.

2. Connect Ohio. Foley’s fourth amendment requires the state’s Office of Information Technology to set up a public/private partnership that includes several state agencies as well as local governments, telecom companies and unions, community technology centers and other community nonprofits, farm groups, etc. This “Connect Ohio” partnership (modeled to some extent on Connect Kentucky) would have the following responsibilities:   —>

SB 117: Time Warner insists on right to abandon Cleveland neighborhoods
by Bill Callahan
Callahan’s Cleveland Diary (OH)

For months, critics of Senate Bill 117, the state video franchising bill, have complained that the bill permits incumbent cable companies to abandon service to neighborhoods (like the lowest income parts of Cleveland) that they’re now obligated to serve by their local franchises.  And for months, spokesmen for the cable industry have responded with wide-eyed, injured innocence: How can you think such a thing? Of course we would never walk away from our existing customers… why, we’ve already invested in the infrastructure to serve them.

After listening to this softshoe routine from Ohio Cable Telecom Association President Jon McGee in the House Public Utilities Committee hearing three weeks ago, Rep. Mike Foley of Cleveland asked him the obvious question: If it’s true that your members have no interest in using state franchising as an opportunity to withdraw service from any neighborhood, how about putting that assurance into the law — like, with an amendment requiring cable providers who switch to state Video Service Authorizations (VSAs) to continue to offer service everywhere they offered it under their local franchises?

McGee did a fast tap dance around the question, muttering about “changing business plans” and “flexibility” while promising Foley that something could be negotiated.  Now it turns out that at least one cable company — the state’s biggest, Time Warner Cable — is not about to agree to Foley’s amendment and give up its “right to abandon”.

Sources close to the last-minute flurry of backroom negotiation (the bill is scheduled for final markup tomorrow) say that Time Warner will agree to an anti-abandonment requirement only until the end of its current franchises. That’s the substance of the anti-abandonment language included in a package circulated to Committee members by chairman John Hagan on Friday, supposedly reflecting agreements between AT&T and Governor Strickland. Here’s the proposed new language:   —>

Feud better not sabotage cable television bill
Editorial: Daily South Town (IL)

The General Assembly last week appeared to be on the verge of doing a good thing for consumers by bringing more competition to the cable television industry in Illinois. The House unanimously passed a bill sponsored by state Rep. James Brosnahan (D-Evergreen Park) that redefines the playing field for the industry. The bill was sent to the Senate, where it also has strong support.

But late in the week, passage of the bill did not appear to be a sure thing. And according to Rich Miller’s Capitol Fax, ego apparently was the reason. The personality clash between Senate President Emil Jones and House Speaker Mike Madigan, which has played a major role in producing a most ineffective legislative session, is responsible for souring the cable bill for now.

According to Miller, Jones may be irritated at the credit being handed out to Madigan and his daughter, Attorney General Lisa Madigan, for their roles in crafting this important piece of legislation. Jones also is upset by a provision that give the attorney general more oversight of the cable industry.

We hope that this latest snit is just a small bump in the road and the Senate promptly advances the bill and sends it on to Gov. Rod Blagojevich for his signature. Adults should stop acting like kids in Springfield, forget about who’s being handed gold stars by the teacher and get on with the important issues at hand.   —>,111EDT1.article

Statewide cable franchising flops in Texas. Worried yet?
Fox Cities HD (WI)

—>  While opponents of Wisconsin’s pending legislation are holding Texas’ results up as a possible outcome in our own state, the legislators and AT&T-paid lobbyists including TV4US are blasting the survey as incorrect and flawed. Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Green Bay) says the study doesn’t account for “bundled” services, where TV service is combined with other services like home phone, internet, and cellular phone. Thad Nation, a PR consultant working with TV4US says the study is flawed because it measured products “few customers opt for, has the least competition among providers and has thin (profit) margins and little potential for decreased prices.”

Wait. What?

The study seems to have focused on basic and standard cable TV service. I don’t know about you, but isn’t that what most current cable TV subscribers who complain about the cost of cable prices want? Ask any cable customer who’s resisted using a cable box in the past couple years — and there are more than you think — and they’ll tell you they do care about just plain ol’ basic/standard service.   —>

TV committee seeks public access in Eliot (ME)
by David Ramsay
Seacoast Online

ELIOT, Maine — Eliot’s Cable TV Committee said last week that their recent survey of town residents shows the community is solidly behind the proposal to bring community cable to town.  “Two thirds of those 65 residents who returned the cable TV questionnaire really want a public access channel if it were available through the contract with the cable provider,” said James Atwood, Cable TV Committee member. “Two thirds also said they would be willing to pay an extra dollar a month charge for a community channel.”   —>

Redding League hears about public access to Internet and TV
Redding Pilot (CT)

Do you know that the many corporations vying to control the electronic networks that link us to the Internet and TV could possibly curtail our access to certain sites and to channels that now offer public, educational and governmental programming? It is a possibility that guest speaker Pua Ford, Connecticut League of Women Voters secretary and media guru, introduced to the Redding League at its annual luncheon meeting at Clemens restaurant on May 30.

Ms. Ford’s talk was titled “Informing the 21st Century Citizen: Electronic Media, News and Opinions.” Two areas are of concern, Ms. Ford said, are, first, safeguarding net neutrality and, second, guaranteeing community access channels on new telephone company video services over the Internet.    —>

Clock’s Ticking On Net Neutrality
by Kevin Howley
Hartford Courant

The next time you use the Internet, type the phrase “net neutrality” into your favorite search engine. You might be surprised by all the information you’ll find on network neutrality – a topic that most Americans have never even heard of. And yet, for anyone who uses the Internet – for e-mail, online shopping, research or recreation – the principle of net neutrality is vital for keeping the Internet the open communication platform we have come to know.

Put simply, net neutrality protections ensure that network operators provide nondiscriminatory access to the network and online content. Think about it like this: When you make a phone call, the telephone company can’t keep you from talking to whomever you want, or prevent you from talking about whatever you like. Net neutrality applies the same operating principle to Internet communication.   —>,0,6102241.story?coll=hc-headlines-commentary

You, too, tube
Worcester’s Democracy is changing its name and the way we watch
by Chet Williamson
Worcester Magazine (MA)

A Worcester-based non-profit that makes the open-source Internet TV platform called Democracy has received a $100,000 grant from Mozilla, the creator of Firefox, often recognized as the poster child for the open-source movement. The Democracy Player, which has been described as “TiVo for the Internet,” is a free and open way to watch, share and broadcast video on the Internet.

In an online statement issued last week, Nicholas Reville, executive director and co-founder of the Participatory Culture Foundation (PCF), the company that created the software, said, “Mozilla shares our mission, almost to the letter — they are a non-profit, building open tools that defend and expand the fundamentally democratic nature of the Internet. What they are doing for the Web, we want to do for video.”

Asked to describe what Democracy is, Reville says, “We make video software that you can download. It is designed in a way that keeps things open for publishers and users. It’s designed to take advantage of the openness of the Internet.”

Here’s how it get it: Go to Download the software the same way you would download Skype, Firefox or I-Tunes. Run it and you can see all the different channels or videos that you can subscribe to. The software automatically checks the channels every day. If there are new videos it will download them. The software and content is free.

“Our goal isn’t to make money off of you,” Reville says. “Our goal is to give you the best possible video experience. Let me tell you the reason why we are doing this. TV is the most important medium in our culture and it is moving online. I think everybody can see that. As that happens, it’s important that it moves online in a very open way and not be controlled by a handful of corporations.   —>

KCSB: 45 years of community radio
by Sonia Fernandez
Goleta Valley Voice (CA)

On Monday mornings there’s the Freak Power Ticket. Wednesday evenings they’re Speaking of Sex. The Friday Riff takes us into the end of the week, and over the weekend they have us groovin’ to rock, reggae, jazz and Indian music. And it’s all in our backyard, on KCSB.

After 45 years on the air, the local community radio station at 91.9 FM has earned its bragging rights. It was there when the bank burned in Isla Vista. It was there during the Diablo Canyon protests, the anti-apartheid rallies, the Isla Vista evictions and when Bill Clinton and Paul Orfalea came to town.

“I don’t believe radio is dying, though that’s what I hear,” said the station’s staff advisor, Elizabeth Robinson. The emergence of satellite broadcasts, the Internet juggernaut and the hundreds of channels on TV might pull away some people’s attention these days, but they’d still be hard put to replace a community-focused media with its eyes and ears on the local scene.

KCSB has the distinction of being the first radio station to come out of any of the University of California campuses, though no particular political or personally creative reason drove its creation.  “It was started by a group of students who were interested primarily in the technology,” said Robinson. “They were geeks who wanted to know how to do radio.”   —>

Access Sac stays solvent
by Sam McManis
Sacramento Bee (CA)

Here’s some good news for fans of community-access TV: Access Sacramento has retained its funding.  As we reported here a few days ago, the Sacramento Metropolitan Cable Commission was threatening to take away grants for two popular local features, “Hometown TV” and “Game of the Week.”

But the commission on Thursday not only voted unanimously to retain the funds, but even kicked in money to get two new vehicles for the crews.  Ron Cooper, Access Sac’s executive director, today wrote in an e-mail to supporters: “…We thank the members and staff of the Cable Commission for their continued support and recognition of community-produced television and radio.”

Public meeting coverage goes digital
Eureka Reporter (CA)

The nonprofit group Access Humboldt announced this week that it has made upgrades to civic media for Humboldt County and the cities of Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna.  The upgrades include new video cameras and recording equipment, according to a news release.

The new digital camera systems aired more than 20 hours of live meeting coverage this week for the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors and the Eureka, Arcata and Fortuna city councils, as well as the Humbolt County Planning Commission.  Sean McLaughlin, executive director of Access Humboldt, said civic media services, including live meeting coverage, help local citizens participate in local government.

“This technical upgrade for the public meeting rooms of the largest jurisdictions is just the beginning as we develop new digital media services for the Redwood Coast,” McLaughlin said. “Access Humboldt’s vision is to create next-generation community networks to support digital media access for all.”   —>

L.A. Joins Suit Against Franchise Rules
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

The city of Los Angeles has become the latest jurisdiction to join the suit challenging the Federal Communications Commission’s March 5 order that localities must approve franchise applications from new competitors within 90 days.  The L.A. City Council voted May 31 to ask to intervene in the challenge, which was filed in multiple districts of the U.S. Court of Appeals on April 3. The suits have since been consolidated and will be heard in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.    —>

Massachusetts Bill Faces Delay
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

A vote on a bill that would reform cable franchising in Massachusetts, much criticized by local officials, may be headed for a 90-day delay.

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

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, community radio, FCC, Internet TV, municipal broadband, municipal programming, net neutrality, open source software, PEG access TV, public access television, redlining, user-generated content, video franchising

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