Community Media: Selected Clippings – 09/06/07

Cable TV slights channels for public
Editorial: St. Petersburg Times (FL)

In signing a law this year that deregulates cable television in Florida, Gov. Charlie Crist wrote that he “will work to ensure that this bill does not dilute the availability of public access channels.” He’ll have to work quickly.

The dilution has begun, at least in the Tampa Bay area, and the decision by Bright House Networks to move local government and access channels into a higher digital tier of service is likely to be only the beginning. Just read the new law. It goes so far as to establish “utilization criteria” for each local government channel, requiring 10 hours of daily programming “of which at least 5 hours must be nonrepeat.”

Not many local channels meet that standard, and here’s the kicker: “If the applicable access channel does not meet this utilitization criterion,” the law states, “the cable or video service provider may reprogram the channel at its discretion.”  In other words, cities and counties wanting to provide televised coverage of their government meetings are now at the mercy of businesses whose agenda is primarily entertainment.

In the Tampa Bay region, Bright House is moving the channels into a tier that may cost some basic service customers extra money. And Kevin Hyman, president of Bright House’s Tampa Bay division, frames the question this way: “Aren’t we ultimately in the best position of taking the risk of deciding what’s in the best interests of our customers?”

Hyman makes a fair point, but companies that string cables across public property have historically been asked to do more than just pay a franchise fee. The local access channels were never intended to compete with ESPN or HBO or the major networks, but they do allow citizens to take the measure of their own government at work. They play an important role in democracy.

Whether Florida’s cable deregulation law will spur competition that drives down prices for consumers is debatable. But it clearly threatens the public service compact that has existed between cable companies and local governments for decades. If that picture wasn’t clear in May, when Crist signed the law, it will be crystal clear in December, when local access channels go digital.

[ The above is reprinted in full.  Please follow the link to register your interest in the topic. -rm ]

Advocates urge Pinellas to keep public access TV
by Arielle Stevenson
WMNF Evening News (FL)

[Listen ]

Public access advocates gathered at the Clearwater courthouse Tuesday night to try and save Pinellas access television from the budgetary chopping block.  With the final vote on the budget coming up in two weeks, the downstairs lobby of the Clearwater Courthouse was filled with about 150 people, and more seated upstairs in the commission boardroom for the Pinellas County Board of Commisioner’s public hearing. Many were there on behalf of public access, to try once more to save what many described as one of the few remaining public soapboxes.

Dave Figueroa, who seems to have become the spokesperson for Pinellas Community Television (PCTV) presented a plan to save public access from the chopping block.   —>

Public access TV advocates beg Hillsborough to reconsider cuts
by Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Evening News (FL)

Last night, dozens of citizens asked Hillsborough County Commission not to completely cut funding of the county’s cable access and education channels.  In the first of two public hearings on the proposed 2008 budget, citizens spoke for nearly 2½ hours in their first opportunity to challenge the $55-million in budget cuts proposed by County Administrator Pat Bean.  Bean has proposed eliminating completely the $355,000 plus for the Tampa Bay Community Network, and $419,000 for the award winning Education Channel.

Battling the County Commission for its funding life is nothing new for Louise Thompson, executive director of the public access channel called Speak Up Tampa Bay. Years ago, a drive led by former Commissioner Ronda Storms over some objectionable programming led to a similar showdown.  In her three minutes before the board, Thompson extolled the virtues of her channel and concluded with a parting shot that the County’s Government channel, is not taking a financial hit.

Although there has been tension between the board and Speak Up Tampa Bay over the years, there has not publicly been any troubles between commissioners and the award-winning Education Channel.  In a compromise, Education channel officials have proposed that they receive only 75 percent of their previous budget.   —>

Public access TV backers seek reprieve from cuts
County commissioners will make their final budget decisions Sept. 20.
by Bill Varian
St. Petersburg Times (FL)

TAMPA – For months, local and state governments have heard the cry of residents wanting cuts in their tax bills.  On Wednesday, Hillsborough County commissioners were greeted by a standing-room-only crowd and dozens of speakers asking them to spare their nonprofit groups or government agencies.  Chief among them were leaders and supporters of the county’s public and education access television stations, which are facing elimination. Commissioners have tentatively voted to no longer spend any money on either program.

The two stations got $874,443 between them last year, amounts that hadn’t been increased for several years.  “These cuts are obviously an effort to eliminate the public’s ability to speak out,” said one speaker, Mark Adams.

Ultimately commissioners took no action, though Commissioners Mark Sharpe and Rose Ferlita both asked the administration to explore ways to give the stations a portion of or as much money as they got last year. Commissioners make final decisions on the budget after a second public hearing Sept. 20.   —>

Bright House Kicks PEG Channel to Digital
Public, Educational and Government Programming in Tampa Lose Analog Positions
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

Come December, it will be good-bye analog, hello digital for public, educational and government programming in Tampa, Fla.  The Tampa division of Bright House Networks has notified producers in the seven counties it serves in the region that beginning Dec. 11, PEG programming will be moved up the dial. Kena Lewis, director of public affairs for the division, said the system is unifying the channel lineup throughout it service area.   —>

AT&T’s new chief says company will invest if legislators act
Nashville Post (TN)

‘Tennessee is surrounded’ by states that have won AT&T capital, says new AT&T Tennessee president [subscription required]

USC rejects Verizon deal
by Bob Williams
The Almanac (PA)

Upper St. Clair Commissioners rejected a franchise agreement with Verizon which would allow the media company to offer “cable-style” television service to Upper St. Clair residents.  Township officials plan to talk with Verizon about getting an additional pro-rated subsidy that will fund the township’s public access television coordinator, a subsidy that Verizon won’t simply pass along to subscribers as part of their bills.   —>

Liveblogging the Government Competition and Privatization Subcommittee
by Jesse

Thanks to the free WiFi in the committee room, I’ll be liveblogging the entire entire meeting. Check back for regular updates! I’ll be here at least until noon or the break for lunch, whichever comes first.

… 12:40PM Sen. Stephenson asked how Qwest feels about cherry-picking. He seems to approve of the concept, but he’s trying to characterize UTOPIA as seeking Qwest-style exclusive monopolies in greenfield areas. I suppose he’d know something about that, wouldn’t he? He’s now trying to claim that they’re somehow more trustworthy because they don’t promise universal service. What the?   —>

Rebutting TV and Microphone Industry Claims on Interference if Vacant TV Channels are Opened for Broadband Devices.
by Sascha Meinrath

I’ve been mired in a pitched battle between the public interest (to allow the general public to use unlicensed devices on unused TV frequencies) and the National Association of Broadcasters and various massive corporations (who have launched a FUD campaign of epic proportions here in the nation’s capital). Just today I learned that NAB and its allies have taken out full-page adds in various press going out to congressional offices claiming that these technologies will destroy TV as we know it. If this claim sounds familiar, it’s because it was the same claim used to fight low power FM radio — a claim that has since been proven to have been a lie.  Here’s the latest:  —>

Radio ‘free’ PT: Nonprofit aims for 91.5 FM
by Barney Burke
Port Townsend Leader (WA)

Stay tuned.  In a year or two, you may be able to set your FM radio dial to 91.5 and hear a Port Townsend-based radio station.  The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is accepting applications for “non-commercial educational” FM radio licenses from educational, government and nonprofit organizations during the week of Oct. 12-19.

That news was music to the ears of Sherry Jones, a local attorney and public access cable station PTTV producer who helped organize the first Port Townsend Film Festival in 2000.  Jones, 47, has led the formation of “Radio Port Townsend,” a nonprofit organization that would operate the station. “Radio is uniquely relevant media because it’s everywhere, it’s low tech, and it’s free,” said Jones.

To launch the station, she started looking for “level-headed, visionary and enthusiastic people,” Jones said.  “But she settled for us!” laughed Colin Foden, 59, referring to himself and Collin Brown, 54. Neither man is affiliated with PTTV, but both have been involved in nonprofits and in business – and they share Jones’ passion for the airwaves.   —>

WisconsinEye to broadcast from Supreme Court
by Jessi Polsky
Badger Herald (WI)

A statewide public affairs network began broadcasting oral arguments in the State Supreme Court Wednesday by airing coverage of three cases.  WisconsinEye entered into a contract with the state in 2005 to televise all three branches of Wisconsin government, beginning with the legislature.  Chris Long, president and CEO of WisconsinEye, said the company was slated to broadcast a second branch of government, either the judiciary or executive branch, by May 2008.  “We have broadcast contracts with the state … to cover the legislature and expand to cover the other two branches of government,” Long said. “There is no deadline … but we’ve been committed to covering all three branches as soon as we have the resources available to do so.”   —>

Perri leaves BTV
Colorado Daily

A Wednesday afternoon press release informed local media that Boulder Community Media (BCM) Executive Director Tony Perri has submitted his resignation to the BCM Board of Directors, effective Friday, Sept. 28. Perri will continue working with the Boulder Valley School District (BVSD) to program, produce and administer the Educational Channel 22.  “At this time, I see the need to concentrate on Channel 22 and have recommended to the board of directors that a new executive director take my place,” said Perri.  Perri began his tenure on Jan. 1, 2006 when he volunteered to manage, administer and program Channel 54 for the city of Boulder.

… In addition to building a solid foundation for community access television, Perri formed a partnership with BVSD and created Boulder’s newest local TV station, Channel 22. This educational station is countywide so that viewers throughout the Boulder Valley can watch the same educational-based television programming on a single cable channel.  Perri is also an adjunct instructor at the University of Colorado-Boulder in the Journalism and Mass Communication School.   —>

Filling Vacancies Is Top Goal for Charles
Economic Development Post Key in County (MD)
by Philip Rucker
Washington Post

—>   Also this fall, Comfort said he hopes to help the commissioners revamp the county’s public access TV station. He wants to turn Channel 95 into “must-see TV” for Charles County residents.  As county administrator in rural Queen Anne’s on the Eastern Shore, Comfort built the public access station into a popular destination for sports fans and government watchers alike. In Charles, Comfort hopes to televise more high school sporting events and features on the county’s tourist attractions.

“The TV station should be used to tell the story of government, what people are getting for their tax dollars, and right now we’re not doing a good job of communicating what we’re doing,” Comfort said.  One idea under consideration is to have Cooper sit down for a five-minute interview after each commissioners meeting to recap the policy issues discussed that day. The interview would be replayed until the next meeting.  “It’ll be more interesting than long, dry meetings,” Comfort said.

Cable TV program lets local writers and actors showcase their talents
Thousand Oaks Acorn (CA)

Readers Theater Television began its sixth season at 5:30 p.m. on Thurs., Aug. 30 on Time Warner Cable with “Noir,” written by Ray Malus of Woodland Hills.  The reading featured Tim Gallagher of Oak Park, Tim Holtwick and Srinivas Kanury of Simi Valley, Bridgette Lindgren and Matt McGee of Thousand Oaks, Michael Aronovitz and Regina Mocey of Agoura Hills and Paul D. Roberts of Los Angeles.

Readers Theater Television produces tapings of staged readings of original plays and screenplays for broadcast on Time Warner Cable, public access Channel 25 in the areas of Agoura Hills, Camarillo, Fillmore, Moorpark, Newbury Park, Ojai, Oak Park, Santa Paula, Simi Valley, Thousand Oaks and Westlake Village.   —>

I want my MTV(C)!
by Alan Saracevic

MTV is looking for someone under 25. Who understands the Internet. And has a revolutionary idea about digital media.  That would make me 0-fer-three.  But in case you do fit that bill, think about applying for a new grant that will give the right young entrepreneur up to $500,000 for coming up with “compelling ideas for using digitally delivered news and information to enhance physical communities — improving the lives of people where they live, work and vote.”  It’s called the “Young Creators Award,” and it’s being sponsored by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and MTV.   —>

Open Source Software: The Power of Community
by Bryan Cheung

Like social Web sites, open source software is most valuable when it has a strong community around it, a community that has invested time and effort into learning the technology, creating features, submitting bug fixes, and creating documentation. Open source is also about empowering users to participate and not simply consume software.  The IT industry appears to be in the thick of a number of interesting trends happening not only in technology, but in society at large. Cultural assumptions are changing about the nature of media and production, and consumers are being empowered as producers.  The Web at large has embraced this shift for several years, but businesses are just starting to realize the power and benefits of rethinking our understanding of ownership and participation   —>.

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

Explore posts in the same categories: broadband policy, cable vs telco, FCC, full power FM, municipal programming, open source software, PEG access TV, public access television, redlining, rural broadband, televised state legislatures, video franchising, Web 2.0

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: