Community Media: Selected Clippings – 08/14/07

Connecticut franchise fight continues
Fierce IPTV

Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is standing firm against AT&T, contending that telcoTV should be franchised the same as cable TV. Blumenthal filed an emergency petition last week with the Connecticut Department of Public Utility Control that AT&T be ordered to seek a cable franchise license for its IPTV service, U-verse.  …The Connecticut DPUC had not acted on the petition at press time, nor did AT&T respond to queries. It’s in the telco’s best interest to keep a very low profile on this one, since other states may sit up and take note.

AT&T Asks Court To Reconsider ‘U-verse’ Decision
Company’s new interactive video service must abide by cable-TV rules, judge said
by Patricia Daddona
The Day (CT)

AT&T has asked the U.S. District Court in New Haven to reject a recent federal opinion that finds the same rules for cable programming apply to a new video product offered by the phone company.  At the same time, one of the plaintiffs in the case, the state’s Office of Consumer Counsel, has asked Judge Janet Bond Arterton to halt AT&T’s acceptance of its new “U-verse” interactive video technology until it obtains a cable franchise license and to direct the state Department of Public Utility Control to require the company to take that step immediately.   —>

Cable TV PEG channels deserve lawmakers’ aid
Asheville Citizen-Times (NC)

Competition usually results in lower prices and better service and products. Who can argue with that? The question is, better service and lower prices for whom?  In the case of cable television franchises, a 2006 North Carolina law passed in an effort to encourage competition could eventually mean better service and lower prices for densely populated affluent areas. It could mean poor or no service for poor or rural areas.

That’s not all the Video Service Competition Act accomplished. It provided a windfall for cable companies, which will no longer have to negotiate contracts with local governments. Local governments demanded capital and operating revenue for public, education and government (PEG) channels and other benefits as a condition of granting franchises. They also required service to all areas meeting basic density requirements.  To make matters worse, the hoped for competition hasn’t materialized.

An effort to mitigate the impact on PEG channels, sponsored by Sen. Walter Dalton, D-Rutherford, passed the Senate during the 2007 session but stalled in a House committee after significant provisions were removed from it. Despite great demand and potential economic significance, PEG channels are barely scraping by. Lawmakers should restore the provisions that were removed and pass the bill into law during the short session.   —>

The push is on to bring broadband to whole state
Boston Globe (MA)

Before Sharon E. Gillett took charge of the state’s newly formed Department of Telecommunications and Cable in May, she wrote reports about broadband access and policy. Now, she is shaping the state’s telecom landscape, starting with the Patrick administration’s $25 million initiative to bring high-speed Internet to 32 unserved communities, which she discussed with Globe reporter Carolyn Y. Johnson.   —>

Broadband plan gets second look
by Brier Dudley
Seattle Times (WA)

It’s time for a fresh look at Seattle’s dream of providing superfast, fiber-optic broadband to every home in the city.  A year ago I said the broadband plan was a potential giveaway, since the city was offering public real estate to lure private investors. Having watched Mayor Greg Nickels tango with Paul Allen in South Lake Union, I still don’t trust City Hall to negotiate a deal that’s in the public’s best interest.

But the broadband situation is getting critical. Maybe it’s time for a leap of faith.  It’s coming to a head this fall. In four to six weeks, Bill Schrier, the city’s chief technology officer, plans to give Nickels a list of options for moving ahead with the broadband project, which began in 2004. Topping the list is a proposal to select a company or a consortium that would build and manage a citywide fiber-optic network. The city would contribute rights-of-way and access to current fiber lines.   —>

Second Bainbridge Island Television Channel Planned
by Rachel Pritchett
Kitsap Sun (WA)

Bainbridge Island Television plans to add a second channel Sept. 4.  Joining BITV Channel 12 will be Channel 22.  BITV Executive Director Scott Schmidt said one channel will generally be devoted to governmental programming, such as local city meetings, and also will have more meetings that take place at the county and regional levels.  The other channel will be devoted to community and educational topics.   —>

Editorial: Public access TV
The Daily Journal

Should Kankakee County have a public access television station?  You bet.  It’s simple. It’s educational. It will boost the spirits and the future of the community. And it will do so for literal pennies on the dollar.

Years ago, in the dawn of time, when cable television first hit the area, the government in Manteno was wise enough to negotiate a cable agreement that helped set up a simple studio that provided some basic equipment and training. For years, government meetings and important events have been broadcast there. Tune in in Manteno and you can see Christmas cantatas, the Oktoberfest parade, local football and basketball games and school board meetings. When there are no tapes of local events, the channel serves as a message board, telling people when leaf pickup might be, or advising them of the next village board meeting.

That opportunity escaped Kankakee, Bradley and Bourbonnais. When it came time to negotiate in the rest of the county, most likely no one thought to ask.

The local cable controversy has been fixated along three lines:
* One: How much money does local government get?
* Two: My cable bill is too much now.
* And, three: The near-frantic panic that sets in among some folks when the cable goes out, as if someone had unplugged their iron lung. “Maude, the cable’s down; call Speakout!”

Now, from the discussion at the Kankakee County Board, you would think the folks up in Manteno were engaged in a deeply subversive communist plot by broadcasting American Legion ceremonies, youth soccer games and high school graduations.  Several county board members said they favored a “tightly controlled system,” that limited programming to government meetings.

Well, until Comcast moved its manager out of the downtown Kankakee office, the utility readily accepted tapes for broadcast. It was possible, not so many years ago, to tune in and see the Herscher Labor Day parade, for example.  In arguing for tight control, local officials attack a problem, more or less, that does not really exist.

New ‘Olelo TV center to open
Honolulu Advertiser (HI)

The grand opening of ‘Olelo Community Television’s newest community media center takes place from 10 to 10:30 a.m. today at Waipahu Intermediate School at 94-455 Farrington Highway.  Lt. Gov. James “Duke” Aiona will speak.   —>

Hilltopper’ video wins local producer a TV award
by Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy
The Journal News (NY)

CHAPPAQUA — A long driveway flanked by apple orchards in the hills of Chappaqua leads to a 1914-built Gothic Tudor mansion, the subject of an award-winning video produced for New Castle Community Television.  The three-minute video, “Apple on a Hill,” produced by resident Linda Kallner, won first place in the Video Art category from the Alliance for Community Media, a national nonprofit organization representing more than 3,000 public, educational and government-access stations across the country.   —>

Meeting Webcast proponents spell out plan
City considers whether council session broadcasts are in tune with Kenai residents’ wishes, pocketbooks
by Phil Hermanek
Peninsula Clarion (AK)

—>  In May, when the idea of broadcasting meetings was first suggested by Krusen, council members agreed to have Kenai Central High School students videotape the proceedings and have the videos played over cable TV. Councilors gave the green light to giving the idea a try beginning with the upcoming school year.  In the meantime, Krusen and Molloy changed course and are now recommending the meetings be sent out over the Internet. .   —>

[ The access angle is not mentioned until the last ‘graph of this excerpt.  Hats off to Acadiana Open Channel and its producers! – rm ]

The Struggle to Free The Jena Six
by Jordan Flaherty
Heads Up Collective Live Journal

Almost a year ago, in the small northern Louisiana town of Jena, a group of white students hung three nooses from a tree in front of Jena High School. This set into motion a season of racial tension and incidents that culminated in six Black youths facing a lifetime in jail for a schoolyard fight.

The story that has unfolded since is one of racism and injustice, but also of resistance and solidarity, as people from around the world have joined together with the families of the accused, lending legal and financial support, adding political pressure, and joining demonstrations and marches.

The nooses were hung after a Black student asked permission to sit under a tree that had been reserved by tradition for white students only. In response to the three nooses, nearly every Black student in the school stood under the tree in a spontaneous and powerful act of nonviolent protest. The town’s district attorney quickly arrived, flanked by police officers, and told the Black students to stop making such a big deal over the nooses, which school officials termed to be a “harmless prank.” Walters spoke in a school assembly, which like the schoolyard where all of this had begun was divided by race, with the Black students on one side and the white students on the other. Directing his remarks to the Black students, District Attorney Reed Walters said, “I can make your lives disappear with a stroke of a pen.”

The white students who confessed to hanging the nooses never received any meaningful punishment. Nor did the white students who months later beat up a Black student at a school party, nor did the white former student who threatened two Black students with a shotgun. But, after these incidents, when Black students got into a fight with a white student, six Black youths were charged with attempted murder, and now face a lifetime in prison. The white student was briefly hospitalized, but had no major injuries and was socializing with friends at a school ring ceremony the evening of the fight. The accused students may not have been involved in the fight, but they were known to be organizers of the protest under the tree. They were also star athletes in the school football team, and had no history of discipline problems.

The Black students were arrested immediately after the fight, in December of last year. School officials and police officials took statements from at least 44 witnesses. The statements do not paint a clear picture of who was in the fight. Statements from white students refer to a group of “Black boys,” but most testimonies are unclear as to the identities of who was involved. Some of the arrested youths are not implicated in the fight at all.

Despite this, when Mychal Bell, the first youth to go to trial, refused to take a deal in exchange for testifying against his friends, he was quickly convicted by an all-white jury. Bell’s public defender Blane Williams, visibly angry at Bell and his parents because the youth did not take the deal, called no witnesses and gave no meaningful defense. This attorney’s behavior gives a vivid example of our nation’s broken and underfunded public defender system. Some have called Jena a throwback to the past, but in fact Jena presents a clear vision of the current state of our criminal justice system.

In Paris Texas, a white teenager burns down her family’s home and receives probation, while a Black student shoves a hall monitor and gets 7 years in prison. Genarlow Wilson, in Atlanta, is sentenced to ten years in prison for participating in consensual oral sex with a 15 year old when he was 17. Like these and many other cases, the case in Jena is textbook proof that there are still two systems of justice functioning in this country, one for Black people, and one for white. The unpunished incidents in the days and months leading up to the fight clearly demonstrate that the students of Jena would never have faced charges if white students had beaten a Black student.

Local Resistance

Immediately after the arrests, parents of the accused began organizing. Their call, “Free the Jena Six,” was initially heard by activists from other parts of Louisiana, such as the Lafayette public access TV show, “Community Defender,” which was the first media from outside their immediate area to give coverage of the case. Noncorporate media has been vital in spreading word of the case, beginning with blogs and YouTube videos, which then led to articles in grassroots publications and high profile stories on Democracy Now and in The Final Call.   —>

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

Explore posts in the same categories: broadband policy, human rights, IPTV, media justice, municipal broadband, municipal programming, PEG access TV, public access television, U-Verse, video franchising

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