Archive for November 2007

Martin’s FCC, 70/70, (a la carte?), & You

November 30, 2007

We’ve received some requests to help explain just what went down at the FCC this week.

Hard on the heels of FCC Chairman Martin’s full-tilt-boogie on relaxing media ownership/cross-ownership restrictions in recent hearings in DC and Seattle, comes his push to invoke Section 612(g) of the 1984 Cable Act – the so-called “70/70” provision. In short, this provision states that at such a time when cable systems (36 channels or more) pass 70% of US homes, and 70% of those homes subscribe, the cable industry shall be deemed to be uncompetitive, allowing the FCC to then adopt additional unspecified regulations in order to increase program diversity.

While Martin’s 70/70 gambit has received a great deal of press and analysis, it is not as straight-forward a matter, nor as urgent an action item, as the media ownership issue. There remain now just 11 more days for comments to be filled on the media ownership matter. If you haven’t yet submitted comments in that proceeding, please visit and do so – a simple online form is there, as well as info on other steps you can take to help.

Before moving on to 70/70, please note these important up-coming meetings:

Dec. 5 – House Oversight Hearing of the FCC: Media Ownership – Subcommittee on Telecommunications & the Internet; 9:30 am.

Dec. 13 – Senate FCC Oversight Hearing – Full Commerce Committee; 10 am
“At this hearing, the Committee Members will hear from the five Federal Communications Commission commissioners on current proceedings involving media and telecommunications policy.”

Dec. 18 – the next public meeting of the FCC.

StopBigMedia suggests you contact your congressional reps. Especially if your reps sit on these committees, it would help IMMENSELY if you contacted them before these hearings, letting them know how important localism in general and PEG access in specific is to your community.

Thanks. Now – on with the show…

I’ve been collecting every story I could find about 70/70, but learned early on that blindly forwarding them could do more harm than good. At this point, I’m going to suggest that the best single piece of info on this is Harold Feld’s Nov. 14 blog post:

Time For Some Hot Bi-Partisan Action on Cable: Or, Why Copps and Adelstein Need to Work With Martin Here Part I” – quoted extensively below. (In fact, since Harold is consistently fair in linking to those with opposing views, I’d say overall his blog is the best single source, certainly on this issue. ACM listserv readers may remember that Lauren-Glenn Davitian pointed to Harold’s blog after the FCC action this week for his take.)

Harold is an attorney with the Media Access Project – an organization that has a long history of being up-close and personal with the various media reform issues before the FCC. His post is fairly lengthy, but well worth reading in full. He gives an excellent whirlwind tour of cable regulation; great context-setting for those of us in the PEG access community.

I’m merely going to quote two extensive passages here, make one comment about where we’re at presently, and leave it at that. I don’t expect this topic to turn into a thread on the ACM’s lists, but this is an item we should all understand and be able to follow as the story develops. Here’s a start.

Harold begins his post by humorously addressing the difficulties some may have in accepting that Kevin Martin may actually be doing something helpful for increasing program diversity. In the second excerpted passage, after having looked at the source data and its sources, he then speculates about what additional regulations 70/70 could trigger – starting with a national PEG set-aside, and moving on to the ‘dreaded’ a la carte!

Time For Some Hot Bi-Partisan Action on Cable: Or, Why Copps and Adelstein Need to Work With Martin Here – Part I
by Harold Feld
Wet Machine

I gotta hand it to the NCTA – they really know how to spin the press. Given the outrageous excesses of market power displayed by incumbent cable operators, you would imagine that activists would leap at the opportunity offered by Kevin Martin to reign in cable market power – regardless of whether one likes Martin personally or thinks he is a Bellhead or industry tool in other respects. But no, over the weekend, the NCTA has done an exemplary job of spinning the upcoming sledgehammer to cable market power as a bad thing.

I am talking primarily about the news that the FCC may invoke the “70/70″ provision of Section 612(g) of the Communications Act (codified at 47 U.S.C. 532(g)). For those not as obsessed with the Communications Act as yr hmbl obdnt, this provision states:

[A]t such time as cable systems with 36 or more activated channels are available to 70 percent of households within the United States and are subscribed to by 70 percent of the households to which such systems are available, the Commission may promulgate any additional rules necessary to provide diversity of information sources. Any rules promulgated by the Commission pursuant to this subsection shall not preempt authority expressly granted to franchising authorities under this subchapter.

Now you would think anyone who opposes media concentration would be jumping for joy here, wouldn’t you? At last, a clear source of authority for the FCC to regulate cable in the name of diversity, and a directive from Congress to do it (without preempting local franchise authorities). And one would certainly expect that the Democratic Commissioners, Copps and Adelstein, who have repeatedly shown themselves stalwart champions of diversity and enemies of consolidation, would rush to seize the moment. But while I hope the later is true, some normally sensible people are buying into the cable spin that this is somehow bad because (choose however many apply):

A) It’s an “archaic leftover” of another time and nowadays cable is “highly competitive.”

B) It’s not really true that the 70/70 test is met anyway so the courts will just reverse it.

C) Kevin Martin is an evil Bellhead who has it in for cable, wants to deregulate broadcast media, and shafted local franchising authorities, so you know this must somehow be evil, even though it is something media reform advocates have fought for over 20 years to achieve.

D) Somehow, this is just an effort to distract us from the fact that Kevin Martin is an evil Bellhead who eats puppies and throws kittens into trees for his amusement.

E) Martin is just slapping the cable guys around because they didn’t do family tier.

G) Somehow this helps Kevin Martin deregulate the broadcast industry.

Having spent the last several years trying to get the FCC to recognize the goddamn truth that 70/70 was met years ago, and trying to get the FCC to address leased access and carriage complaint issues, the 30% cable ownership cap, and a bunch of other reforms to address cable market power, I am just a shade peeved to see folks who should know better eating out of NCTA’s hand. Because public policy is not about whether I like or dislike the current FCC Chair or whether I would rather he focus on reigning in telcos rather than cable cos. It’s about what is the best public policy. And what Martin has put out for a vote: 70/70, reform of leased access and the carriage complaint process, and reaffirming the 30% cable ownership cap, are all things justified by the record and urgently needed.


What does 70/70 Do For Me?

The 70/70 trigger gives the FCC a “power boost” on a number of pending proceedings to reign in cable market power, such as the leased access provisions and the 30% ownership cap. It also potentially gives the FCC new authority. To take a few examples of possible FCC Orders.

1) National PEG set aside. The FCC could decide that, because PEG channels are being eliminated by state franchising rules, it will require all cable operators to set aside capacity for PEG programming regardless of whether the local franchising authority requires it. Hard to say that doesn’t “increase diversity.”

2) Must carry for Low Power TV stations. There are a lot of low power TV (LPTV) stations, many of them providing Spanish-language programming (others provide religious programming, home shopping or just plain local programming). While a small class of these have must carry rights on cable, most don’t. Again, hard to say this doesn’t “increase diversity.”

3) Sometime back, I wrote a piece about a company called VDC:Virtual Video Cable. They are trying to do for video what companies like Vonage did for VOIP — a purely internet-based play that lets you get cable networks via broadband. Unsurprisingly, cable operators refuse to sell them programming, claiming that the rules requiring them to sell programming to rivals do not apply here because VDC is not a “cable service” as defined by statute. Equally unsurprising — given the “craptastic” speed with which FCC Media Bureau staff enforce the law against cable companies (official slogan of staff “If we wait long enough, the complainant will go bankrupt and our cable masters will reward us with doggie treats!”) — VDC’s emergency complaint is still pending. Well, triggering the 70/70 threshold could provide the FCC with authority to resolve the issue in favor of VDC without deciding whether they are a cable service. Similarly, the FCC could prohibit Comcast and other cable companies from making exclusive deals for “must have” video on demand, for “must have” sports programming, or other anticompetitive means by which cable operators prevent programs from appearing in other venues.

Of course, the FCC has none of these things teed up. The MVPD report merely notes that the 70/70 threshold has been met. If the FCC wants to do these things or anything like them, they would need to start a rulemaking and conclude that the new rules were necessary to maintain or increase diversity of views. Which leads us to the great elephant in the room — a la carte.

Isn’t this a sneaky way for Martin to do A La Carte/Isn’t this a great way to finally get a la carte?

“A La Carte” is French for “split the public interest community into bitterly warring factions.”

A La Carte rules would require the cable operators to offer cable channels on a per channel basis. Cable operators could also offer bundles, but would be required to offer individual channels as well.

A number of organizations like Consumers Union, Free Press, and Consumer Federation of America, love a la carte. They believe it will reduce cable rates and will force cable operators to give independent channels a fair chance because cable companies will only make money if they sell programming people actually want. On the other hand, a number of organizations like National Hispanic Media Coalition and Minority Media Telecommunications Council hate a la carte. They believe that minority-oriented programming and news programming will die, and we will be left with a handful of channels that compete for the ever-popular-with-advertisers 18-35 yr old white male eyeballs.

At Media Access Project, we resolve this conflict among our close allies by saying “SO HOW ABOUT THEM RED SOX!” everytime the subject comes up. If pressed, we will spill coffee or some other suitable beverage all over ourselves and flee the building. We have actually all signed a statement affirming that, even if threatened with waterboarding, we will not endorse a position on a la carte. —>


And the outcome for Section 612(g) at the FCC this week? Democrat Copps agreed with Martin and said ‘go for it’, republicans Tate and McDowell said the threshold hadn’t been met, and democrat Adelstein said, essentially, he’d like nothing better, but would like better data. (In fact, he said, “I would have no hesitation to invoke our authority if the evidence clearly justified that the standard had been breached. Many positive initiatives to promote diversity, such as a national baseline PEG requirement, could result.”)

So that’s what they voted for – let’s get that better data in here but fast. Their statements are all online at

Further press and blog accounts you can read will fill in the colors and political ramifications of these people’s actions, and that can be fun to know – but for now, for the PEG access community, our efforts can only be strengthened by the prompt delivery of better data. In the meantime, perhaps we may want to better inform ourselves about this ‘a la carte’ thingy. Seems possible that’s not going to go away. As Harold says, “stay tuned.”

Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media


Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/29/07

November 29, 2007

Sunshine Week 2008: People, Get Ready…
by Charles Davis
FOI Advocate

Sunshine Week 2008 Hits the Campaign Trail:
Candidates from President to Mayor to be Quizzed on Access Issues
Actors, Scientists, Researchers Join Growing Call for Open Government

Washington, D.C. — The Sunshine Week alliance has begun a yearlong Sunshine Campaign project to bring the discussion of open government issues to election campaigns from president to local city council. While the initiative expands the scope of Sunshine Week to cover the entire election season, specific events and coverage are still planned for Sunshine Week, March 16-22, 2008…

Resources such as suggested questions and links to additional material to help get people involved in the project are on the Sunshine Week Web site. —>

Policy Changes Threaten Local Nature of Radio and Television, Scholar Says
by Gina Vergel
Inside Fordham Online (NY)

Philip M. Napoli, Ph.D., Magis Professor of Communications and Media Management, is a huge fan of talk radio. Daily newscasts courtesy of National Public Radio help get the 37-year-old through his long commute to work and his favorite on-air sports personality is New York Yankees broadcaster and Fordham University alumnus Michael Kay (FCRH ’82).

Napoli may love to surf the dial but that’s not to say that the director of the Donald McGannon Communication Research Center doesn’t see problems in the ever-volatile world of radio—and television, for that matter. In fact, Napoli believes that both media are under increasing danger of losing their sense of localism and thus their grounding in the communities radio and television stations serve.

“Media content and services that address local interests and concerns,” Napoli said, “are essential to the welfare of local communities.” The problem, however, is that given policy changes in recent years, that essential role played by local radio and television station is under attack like never before.

For years, the federal government imposed strict limits on the number of television and radio stations a single company could own in one community. In 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed a variety of media ownership regulations. The move resulted in large media companies acquiring many more radio and television stations in the same market. The policy change sparked a widespread debate, with critics arguing that the rules would result in fewer companies controlling more of what Americans see and hear.

So far, Napoli said, the critics were on the right track. “The biggest disparity we see is in terms of source diversity—the diversity of information sources available—given the increasing concentration of ownership of the major media outlets,” Napoli said. “The problem has been that policymakers have increasingly emphasized economic efficiency to the neglect of non-economic policy objectives such as diversity and localism.

“A media marketplace of diverse sources is inherently inefficient in that it’s more efficient to have one source covering a story, for example, than four or five different sources,” Napoli said. The move by media companies to buy more stations and leave fewer independent voices in local communities has implications for society as a whole and minority communities in particular, Napoli said. “Content flows from owners,” he said. “The statistics on minority ownership are really disappointing. It simply hasn’t kept pace with the increasing numbers of minorities in the country.”

So what can be done to fix the problem? —>

Teletruth News Analysis: PART TWO (Summary)
by Bruce Kushnick

NOTE: This is the second in a series examining how the FCC’s brand of deregulation harmed America’s economy and digital future. Part One: 56% drop in wireline competition since 2004.  . To read the details of Part Two.

Part TWO: Summary:

* Killing Off 7000 Independent Internet Service (ISPs) Providers by the FCC Created Net Neutrality Problems — a 74% Drop in Companies Since 2000.
* The FCC Used Bad Data and Undue Corporate Influence to Destroy the Small ISPs, Violating Section 257 of the Telecom Act.
* The FCC, FTC and DOJ Supported Actions that Blocked Small ISPs from Migrating Their Customers to Faster Services, Failed to Enforce Laws, Harming Choice and Increasing Duopoly Controls.

According to the Census, in 2000 there were 9335 independent, mostly small ISPs operating in America. By 2005, there has been a 74% drop in the number of independent ISPs in the US.

Uniform cable agreement changes channel on WBRW
by Chris Gray
Romeo Observer (MI)

You’ll have to exercise your thumb a bit more to get your local public access news coverage. Letters were recently sent to residents in Bruce and Washington townships and the Village of Romeo, stating that Channel 6 will be known as Channel 902 as of Jan. 15. This is caused by the Michigan Uniform Video Service Local Franchise Agreement. —>

Manatee gives up cable TV suit plans
Bright House basic cable subscribers will need upgrade for county channel
by Frank Gluck
Herald Tribune (FL)

MANATEE COUNTY — When Bright House Networks decided to charge thousands of cable subscribers higher fees to view public access channels, Tampa Bay-area governments promised a legal fight. These broadcasts, while hardly ratings grabbers, give homebound residents a way to keep up with local news and watch live public meetings. Charging more would be unfair, especially to the poor, officials argued.

The cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg filed federal lawsuits earlier this month to block the Dec. 11 channel change. But Manatee County, also a leading opponent of the cable company’s plans, is now backing down. Here, Bright House subscribers with basic cable subscriptions, and no digital channel box, will soon have to pay for an upgrade if they still want their MGA-TV, Manatee’s government channel.

Robert Eschenfelder, assistant county attorney, said a lawsuit could have proved costly. And a court victory would have ultimately been pointless, he said. Federal law requires that all full-power television station broadcasts be digital by Feb. 17, 2009. That means televisions will need to either be digital-ready or viewers will need converter boxes to receive most broadcasts. —>

Guest commentary: Wisconsin deserves better cable bill
by Senator Judy Robson
Beloit Daily News (WI)

Since the dawn of broadcasting, the public interest has struggled with commercial interests for use of our public airwaves. The government decides how much control of the airwaves to hand over to private corporations, and how much control to retain in the hands of the people. So far, control has gone largely to the corporations. A few bones have been thrown to the people in the form of public television and radio, public access cable stations, and public service announcements. But by and large, our public airways are wholly owned by corporations whose primary interest is maximizing profits.

Consumers get stuck paying ever-increasing prices for channels they don’t want in order to get a few channels they do want. People are clamoring for change – for more options and lower prices, and more control over price and options. In swoops AT&T with legislation it claims will provide more options and bring down prices. AT&T calls it the “cable competition” bill. A more apt name is “cable deregulation.”

The bill may create competition in some markets. But the areas that are most in need of cable and Internet options – rural and low-income urban neighborhoods – will continue to be bypassed. The Legislature could have added requirements to wire more of these areas, but it did not. That was but one reason I voted against the bill. —>

Airing of 9/11 film ignites debate
Some say channel is for local access
by Eric Moskowitz
Boston Globe (MA)

The Groton Channel usually carries local selectmen’s meetings and high school sports events. So Joan Simmons was taken aback this month when she flipped on the cable-access channel and found a documentary that argued the Twin Towers fell because of a planned demolition, not because of the crash of two hijacked airliners…

Colman said he hopes any attention generated by the movie will help increase the community’s understanding of public-access TV – and draw viewers to its locally generated programming, like a recent documentary on the high school’s robotics club that won its producer, Astrid Jacob, a regional excellence award from the Alliance for Community Media. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/28/07

November 29, 2007

Comcast to change public channels
Channels 6 and 12 will require digital converter
by Shannon Murphy
Port Huron Times Herald (MI)

After Jan. 14, Comcast no longer will offer government and school programming on basic cable.  The public access channels, which are 6 and 12 in St. Clair County, will be moved to the cable company’s digital tier. Channel 6 will become digital Channel 902, and Channel 12 will become digital Channel 900.   —>

School board channel set to switch
by Linnea Brown
Hernando Today (FL)

BROOKSVILLE – In two weeks, Bright House Network customers will have to be a bit more creative with their remote controls to find the Hernando County School Board channel.  HCSB TV currently airs on Bright House Networks’ Channel 14, but starting Dec. 11, local school news will jump to Channel 614.  The channel is one of three government access channels — channels 14, 19 and 20 — that the company is relocating from the easily-found lower basic tier to the upper digital channel tier, where some people may have trouble finding them.  Also, customers whose televisions aren’t digital-ready will have to pay $1-a-month for a converter box to receive the channels.

Hernando superintendant Wayne Alexander said he finds the move “very upsetting.”  “It’s an absurdity to expect that people, many of whom have limited incomes, will have to go out and purchase a box just to get public information,” Alexander said.  HCSB is an instructional television station that aims to provide quality educational programming to county residents. It offers a variety of services, including weekly shows produced in its studio, as well as taped graduation ceremonies, football games and school board meetings and workshops.

The channel also runs a “Hernando bulletin board” each day to inform the public of all school events and other community related items, updated weekly.  The channel is frequently watched by locals who have limited transportation to meetings and other public events, Alexander said.  “You’d be amazed at how many people watch our channel, as well as the county’s public access channel,” he said. “I run into people all the time who comment on (news) they saw on HCSB TV.”   —>

North End station and cable deal on Council agenda in Dover
by Leslie Modica
Foster’s Daily Herald (NH)

—>   The council is also scheduled to discuss and vote on a new cable service contract renewal agreement between the city and Comcast.  If approved, the 10-year renewal agreement, which has been negotiated for about three years, will include several changes from the original agreement made in the 1970s. Included in the changes is an addition of an educational access channel, which will be financed by a franchise fee paid by subscribers; an annual $25,000 technology grant from Comcast to help fund city and school Internet service; and a wider range of access to cable service in the city.   —>

Legislators decide not to change public comment rules for meeting
by Kim Dunne
Herkimer Evening Telegram (NY)

HERKIMER – The members of the county Legislature’s Administration/Veterans Affairs committee voted, 4-1, Tuesday evening to keep the public comment period the same at regular meetings of the Legislature.  The committee did leave the door open to possibility of reviewing the guidelines and changing some of the rules at a later date…  Another issue legislators will address in the future is whether or not to videotape legislative meetings and air them on public access television. Maneen said that issue will be discussed after the public comment period is further addressed.

Forum for Peace Available on Cable TV and Online
by Phil Guie
Brooklyn Downtown Star (NY)

A recent forum sponsored by Brooklyn For Peace, the borough’s largest independent peace organization, was intended to be the first in a series of panel discussions devoted to ending the violence in Israel and Palestine.  The session took place at St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights on Sunday, November 18, and featured a trio of award-winning journalists with experience reporting on an international level as panelists…  Video of the forum will be broadcast on Brooklyn Community Access Television (BCAT) —>,

Do It Yourself Oppo
by Todd Beeton

Today the DNC launches Flipper TV, hours and hours of raw tracking video of Romney, Giuliani, Thompson and McCain on the campaign trail.  For months now, Democratic Party staffers have been tracking the Republican presidential front runners as they travel across the country, compiling a video library of candid moments as they campaign. With FlipperTV, Americans can now watch and download this video, and use the footage as they wish, putting raw material into the hands of the American people to hold these candidates accountable for their comments and actions.

As Michael Gehrke, DNC’s Director of Research, puts it:  “People often say to us, `Why didn’t you make an ad from that?’ Now we can say, `Go make it yourself.’ If it’s good, maybe we’ll steal it.”

This is an incredible resource. The site currently features around 80 videos and will update as new footage comes in, starting with tonight’s GOP CNN/YouTube debate.  So scour the videos, download them over at and post what you come up with. There is a downside of course: you have to watch Republicans for hours on end; the upside, however, is that you could very well uncover the next macaca moment.

Throttling Bit Torrent
by Mic Mell
State of the Mind of Art

Bit Torrent throttling is becoming a real issue. Although it has not yet seen much mainstream attention, controlling users access to internet bandwidth is a disturbing precedent to flow of free information. Seemingly an effort to control the illegal sharing of files, the impact of throttling can be far reaching.

Somewhere around a third of all web traffic is Bit Torrent File Sharing. Keep in mind that a significant amount of Bit Torrent traffic is legitimate, such as file backups for large companies, or as a tool for academic research. A neurocognitive scientist posted on the DSLReports forum how bandwidth throttling is hindering scientific research in a field where leading researchers live great distances from each other. In other words, limiting people’s ability to use their internet waves affects more than porn and Britney Spears.   —>

Uruguay – Senate Passes Community Broadcasting Bill
IFEX – International Freedom of Expression Exchange

In what the World Association of Community Radio Broadcasters (AMARC) calls a “groundbreaking move for freedom of expression in Latin America,” the Uruguayan Senate approved a Community Broadcasting Bill that recognises community broadcasting in its own right and says television and radio frequencies should be more equitably distributed.  The bill acknowledges the importance of this “third” broadcasting sector alongside the state and private sectors, and stipulates that one third of the AM and FM radio airwaves and television broadband will be reserved for community-based media outlets, which AMARC says ensures greater diversity of media ownership.   —>

Presentation: Community 2.0
by Stuart Buchanan

[ SlideShare]

‘Community 2.0′ was presented at the 2007 Community Broadcasting Association of Australia conference at the Sebel Hotel, Albert Park, Melbourne. The audience featured a broad mix of community broadcasters, all ages and demographics were represented – some of whom would have had an understanding of web 2.0 in practice, others were newcomers to the concept. I attempted to map the philosophies that underpinweb 2.0 with the ideologies that course through the blood of community media makers, and then looked ahead to see how web 2.0 would impact on the sector and, more broadly, on society at large.

Web bubble 2.0 for social networks?
by Paul R. La Monica

You may have heard that social networking is the wave of the future.  News Corp.’s (NWS) MySpace and privately held Facebook are attracting millions of users each month. Google (GOOG) is trying to cash in on the social networking craze by partnering with the likes of MySpace, Bebo and other top social media companies through its OpenSocial initative. And Microsoft (MSFT) spent $240 million last month to buy a 1.6 percent stake in Facebook, a price that values Facebook at an eye-popping $15 billion.

But is there a bubble brewing in the social media market? One industry expert thinks so. I sat down to chat with Jim Nail, the chief strategy and marketing officer of Cymfony, an online advertising analytics firm that was acquired by media research company TNS Media Intelligence earlier this year.  Nail, a former analyst at Forrester Research, said he thinks that some advertisers are making the mistake of thinking that social media will be the answer to all their advertising needs, and that MySpace, Facebook, YouTube and others of their ilk will become the ABC, CBS and NBC of the 21st century.   —>

Government refuses to license Zarqa community radio station (Jordan)
by Ahmed Humeid

I received the following press release from AmmanNet radio. I am republishing it here with:

The government rejected a petition to grant a local radio license for the third biggest city of Jordan, Zarqa. In one of its last decision the outgoing Jordanian cabinet rejected the application by AmmanNet to set up a community radio station that will not broadcast news or politics.

This is the first known case in which a radio license has been rejected in Jordan since the deregulation of airwaves allowing for private ownership.  No explanation was included in the November 13th decision of the outgoing Bakhit cabinet which rejected the request based on clause 18.b of the Jordanian audio visual law. That clause states “The Council of Ministers may refuse to grant broadcasting licenses to any entity without stating the reasons for such rejection.”

Daoud Kuttab founder and director of AmmanNet called the decision an indirect punishment to the people of Zarqa. “With so many radio licenses in the capital, we expected the Jordanian government to support rather than reject a radio license that will offer public broadcasting to community services-deprived Zarqa. “ Kuttab says that an advisory board made up of community leaders was assembled, a studio space was rented in downtown Zarqa and equipment for the station was ordered. “At a time that Jordan is encouraging independent community-based media, this unexplained decision surprised us, “ he said.

Kuttab called on the newly appointed prime minister to reverse the decision. He also called on the newly elected parliament to revise the Audio Visual Law in a way to make the distribution of radio frequencies a more transparent affair. AmmanNet’s founder also called on the Higher Media Council to act quickly to ensure the respect of the audio visual regulatory process.

AmmanNet said that all the technical requirement for the station were assembled to the satisfaction of the relevant Jordanian regulators. The station reaffirmed its commitment to the people of Zarqa and called on the government to explain why the cabinet chose to reject our request, so that it can correct them.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/27/07

November 27, 2007

FCC Seeks Public Input on WWOR-TV License Challenge
Senator Lautenberg, Local Leaders and Concerned Citizens to Attend FCC Public Forum In Newark Tomorrow
Common Dreams

On Nov. 28, the Federal Communications Commission will hold a public forum for residents of New Jersey to weigh in on Fox Television Inc.’s application to renew its broadcast license for WWOR-TV 9.

WHAT: FCC Public Forum on WWOR-TV License Renewal
WHEN: Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2007, 4 p.m.
WHO: Sen. Frank Lautenberg, FCC Commissioners, local leaders, media representatives and concerned citizens
WHERE: Rutgers-Newark Paul Robeson Campus Center, The University Club, 2nd Floor, 350 Dr Martin Luther King Blvd., Newark

FCC Commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps will hear from the public and a panel of experts on how well WWOR-TV is serving — or failing to serve — New Jersey residents. The public forum will feature an “open microphone” session for the public to offer testimony on a first-come, first-served basis.

This rare public forum will also include remarks from Sen. Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.), a longtime critic of WWOR-TV’s coverage of important New Jersey issues.  “WWOR’s license depends on how well it meets its public interest obligations to New Jersey,” said Senator Lautenberg, who secured the hearing from the FCC this summer. “I am pleased that the FCC is coming to New Jersey to hear from our residents about whether WWOR has failed to serve our state.”

Last May, Voice for New Jersey, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, and United Church of Christ, Office of Communication Inc. filed a petition to deny the renewal of WWOR-TV’s license.  “Any decision to renew the license of WWOR-TV harms members of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition who reside in New Jersey,” said Rainbow PUSH Founder and President Rev. Jesse L. Jackson Sr. “In a media system where too few, own too much, at the expense of too many — we cannot afford to lose an opportunity to give an independent voice access to the public airwaves. Our local members want more media diversity — not more of the same.”   —>

TV Contest Lets Kids Have Their Say
by Tammy Daniels (MA)

NORTH ADAMS – Area students are being given a chance to send a message to Northern Berkshire residents – but they have to do it in less than five minutes.  Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp. is asking middle and high school students in its coverage area to create public service announcements. The winners will be aired on the public access station’s Channel 16.

“It’s our first [student competition] and we’re doing it encourage students to show what they’re doing in the schools,” said Joanne Hurlbut, coordinator of the station’s education programming. “They are coming up with a lot of creative ideas.”

Most local students have increased access to computer and video technology; the contest is designed to encourage their creative side and give them a chance to show what they’ve been learning or what they’re interested in. If equipment is unavailable, they may be able to use the station’s cameras and equipment. Call 413-663-9006 for more information.   —>

Pemi-Baker Community Access Media moves to multi-camera coverage with MX-4 (NH)
by Noe Sacoco Jr
Digital Content Producer

  Local programming is tasked with keeping its citizens informed, involved, and engaged in local government activities and community events. Unfortunately, large budgets may not always accompany these lofty goals. Like so many others involved in Public, Educational, and Government (PEG) stations, Jamie Cadorette, Executive Director of Pemi-Baker Community Access Media, is challenged with keeping up in a world of big budget entertainment and increasingly complex special effects.

Pemi-Baker Community Access Media offers live and taped coverage for a wide range of community events, including government meetings and town parades for Plymouth, New Hampshire—a small town nestled between the state’s Lakes Region and  White Mountains. The town wanted to enhance its overall production capabilities by transitioning from single camera coverage to multiple cameras. But as a public station with a limited production budget, Cadorette needed to find equipment that offered exceptional performance, reliability, and price.

Solution:  Based on the recommendation from a local production company, Cadorette purchased the MX-4 Digital Video Mixer from Focus Enhancements. The eight-input (four composite, four S-video), four-channel mixer provides seamless video switching, enhanced synchronized audio mixing, internal graphics storage, and Ethernet-based connectivity—without the big price tag of other equipment.   —>

Campus television studio receives grant money for state-of-the-art equipment
by Tyler Will
The Good 5-cent Cigar (RI)

Students enrolled in broadcast journalism classes at the University of Rhode Island will be able to produce statewide live broadcasts in the future, assistant journalism professor Barbara Meagher said. The enhanced capabilities will be made possible through $119,800 in grant money from the Champlin Foundations, which provides capital to tax-exempt organizations.   —>

Gordon Webb, taxpayer advocate and public-access TV founder, dies at 69
by Hugh Reynolds
Daily Freeman (NY)

KINGSTON – Gordon Ross Webb, a taxpayer advocate, Public Access TV founder, and school and government critic, died at Benedictine Hospital from a rare form of leukemia shortly before noon on Monday. He was 69.  Close friend and sometimes target Donald A. Williams, who first met Webb after becoming Ulster County district attorney 12 years ago, hailed him as “a man with an unparalleled commitment to the safety of this community, a man of principle.”

“I think he’ll be remembered as very honest and direct,” said Williams, 54, who will retire from office next month. “Compared to his intense loyalty and friendship, everything else for me is insignificant.”

Webb, a self-employed real estate appraiser who lived on St. James Street at the time of his death, arrived in the Rondout area of Kingston from Long Island in the mid-1980s. A Republican, he ran unsuccessfully for alderman in the former 11th Ward as a write-in candidate in 1989, but then became involved in a host of public activities.

“We started it all, Public Access TV, he and I,” said Joe Marchetti, a longtime friend. “We sort of took civic involvement and activism to the next level. It had been dormant here for a long time.”

Webb, a founder and president of the New York State Taxpayers Association and the Kingston Taxpayers Association in the early 1990s, bought a used video camera, usually held together with duct tape, and filmed all manner of public events for Public Access TV, now Channel 23. His was a familiar figure at public meetings, sporting events, parades and concerts. He also produced his own television show on Public Access, parading a host of public figures before his camera.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/26/07

November 27, 2007

Fox 7 News Public Access TV Story (IN)
by eliot508

This is an edited version of a FOX 7 Evening News’ Top Story on the stopping of public, education, and government (P.E.G.) access TV in Evansville, IN (Which, is mainly composed of church shows including my “What’s Up With That” Bible study/skits/cooking show) between the local cable companies and municipalities. Shown in the interview are producers Matt Hawes and David W. Johnson. This edit is made and posted with permission from FOX News.

Public access channel change riles officials
They say the move would make it difficult for residents to find community programs.
by Steve Pardo
The Detroit News (MI)

CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Officials in the state’s largest township are upset that Comcast plans to change the public access channel from Channel 5 to somewhere in the 900s. For the past 20 years, Clinton Township residents who subscribe to Comcast have been watching board meetings, community events and other township-related activities on Channel 5. The local schools have been broadcasting programs on Channels 20 and 22.

But in a letter sent last week to township officials, Comcast representatives explained starting Jan. 15, it would begin offering the public, education and government programming in digital format. The move would correspond with the change that would “place these channels in consecutive channel positions largely uniform across the state.” —>

Gwinnett TV show focuses on family violence
by Andria Simmons
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)

—> An ambitious group hopes to lure viewers into putting down their remotes for a while, though, with its new show “The Gwinnett Force.” A three-member cast and one guest host will engage in a round-table discussion patterned after the daytime talk show “The View” on ABC as they tackle different issues related to domestic violence. The Gwinnett County Family Violence Task Force chose the format to get out its message of stopping domestic abuse.

A recent meeting had the task force sitting around a table at the Gwinnett Justice and Administration Center as they discussed headline-grabbing domestic violence incidents of the week. “We’re trying to juice it up a little bit more,” said Sgt. Tracy Lee, a cast member and deputy in the Gwinnett County Sheriff’s Department. Fellow cast member Lynda Waggoner, who represents the medical community on the task force, was quick to add the warning, “while staying in government access guidelines.” —>

Public comment may be limited
by Bryon Ackerman
Utica Observer-Dispatch (NY)

HERKIMER – Residents may have to get approval for their topics before speaking during the Herkimer County legislature’s public comment period. That’s one of the options that will be discussed Tuesday when the legislature’s Administration/Veterans Affairs Committee meets at 7 p.m. in the legislative chambers to consider changing or eliminating the public comment period. —>

UPDATE: The FCC’s Second Report and Order on Cable Franchising
by Lincoln Shurtz
Lincoln’s Legislative bLOG (UT)

On October 31, 2007, the Federal Communications Commission adopted a Second Report and Order in MB Docket No. 05-311, FCC 07-190, released November 6, 2007, that addressed whether findings and relief for new entrants, promulgated in the Docket’s First Report and Order, also known as the Section 621 Report and Order, should be extended to current cable service providers (“incumbents”). The FCC found the following:

1. Application Time Limits. The provisions regarding time limits for franchise negotiations are only applicable to new entrants. The time limits cannot apply to incumbent renewals, which are governed by the renewal procedures set forth in Section 626 of the Communications Act (the “Act”), 47 U.S.C. § 546. The underlying rationale, to prevent unreasonable delays and to allow new entrants to provide service, is inapplicable to incumbents who are able to provide service during renewal negotiations.

2. Build-Out Requirements. The findings of the FCC regarding build-out requirements are only applicable to new entrants. Specifically, the finding that a local franchising authority (“LFA”) cannot refuse to award a competitive franchise because the applicant would not agree to unreasonable build-out requirements, is based on Section 621(a)(1) of the Act, 47 U.S.C. § 541(a)(1), a provision which does not apply to incumbents. The underlying rationale, that build-out requirements may act as a barrier to new entrants, is inapplicable to incumbents.

3. Franchise Fees. The FCC’s findings in the First Report and Order that certain costs, fees, and other compensation required by LFAs must be counted toward the statutory 5% cap on franchise fees, should be extended to incumbents. The findings interpreting Section 622 of the Act, 47 U.S.C. § 542, apply equally to incumbents and new entrants and include the following: (a) that an operator is not required to pay franchise fees on revenues from non-cable services; (b) that certain fees are not “incidental” and must therefore be counted toward the 5% cap; (c) that funds requested by LFAs for municipal projects unrelated to cable services are subject to the 5% cap; and (d) that payments to support the operation of public, educational, and governmental (“PEG”) facilities are subject to the 5% cap unless the payments are for capital costs.

4. Public, Educational, and Governmental Access and Institutional Networks. Many of the FCC’s findings relating to PEG access facilities and institutional networks (“I-Nets”) should be extended to incumbents. The findings relating to PEG access and I-Nets include the following: (a) all non-capital costs to support the operation of PEG facilities are subject to the 5% franchise fee cap; (b) the FCC’s refusal to adopt standard terms for PEG channels for new entrants applies to incumbents; and (c) the FCC’s refusal to hold that it is per se unreasonable for LFAs to require ongoing PEG support by new entrants (so long as the costs are subject to the 5% cap) applies to incumbents. The FCC held that other findings relating to PEG access and I-Nets should not apply to incumbents.

5. Authority Over Mixed-Use Networks. The findings of the FCC regarding mixed-use networks are based upon interpretations of Section 602 of the Act, 47 U.S.C. § 522, which does not distinguish between incumbents and new entrants, and as such, the findings should be applicable to incumbents as well. Since the jurisdiction of an LFA applies to cable services that are provided over cable systems, an LFA may not use its franchising authority to regulate an entire mixed-use network. It would be unreasonable for an LFA to impose its authority over non-cable services or facilities that do not qualify as a cable system.

Existing Franchise Agreements

The FCC recognized that since franchise agreements involve contractual obligations, the Second Report and Order does not give incumbents any right to breach their existing contractual obligations contained in franchise agreements. Instead, the FCC believes that each situation must be assessed on a case-by-case basis under the applicable law to determine whether the FCC’s statutory interpretation should modify the incumbent’s existing franchise agreement. The FCC encourages LFAs to work cooperatively with an incumbent who asserts that terms of its franchise should be amended as a result of the Second Report and Order. The FCC stated that some incumbents may seek modifications to franchise agreements pursuant to a most favored nation clause in the franchise agreement, pursuant to a compliance with law provision in the franchise agreement, or pursuant to the modification provision, Section 625 of the Act, 47 U.S.C. § 545. The FCC also recognized that if these efforts fail, some disputes may eventually find their way to court.

Customer Service Requirements

In the Second Report and Order, the FCC addressed the application of different state and local cable customer service requirements. Based upon the statutory language of Section 632 of the Act, 47 U.S.C. § 552, the FCC declined to preempt state or local cable customer service requirements that exceed FCC customer service standards, and stated that LFAs and cable operators may agree to more stringent customer service requirements.

Effective Date

The Second Report and Order will be effective 30 days after publication in the Federal Register.

Get On TV with Your Own Public Access Show
by Lou Bortone

Local public access TV stations may be the best kept secret in America. Where else can you get free access to training, equipment, support and the local airwaves all in one location? For small businesses, local access TV is an opportunity to produce your own TV show, become known in the community and build your reputation as an expert in your field. Local access or community media, is also known as “PEG” access, as in:

1. Public – Stations open to the community for local programming
2. Educational – Stations dedicated to educational or school-related programming
3. Government – Government access channels for town meetings and city business

It’s the “public” channel that offers the most potential, and here’s how to maximize it:

• Check your local listings

Not every town has all three “PEG” outlets, but with over 3,000 community media centers across the country, chances are there’s one near you. Check your town’s Web site or contact your town hall. Another misconception: You do not necessarily have to live in the town to utilize their community access station. Most access centers are eager for new producers and new programs. FYI: The Alliance for Community Media is a national, non-profit organization that promotes and supports public access TV. They maintain an extensive database and links to local access centers. Look for your town there. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/24/07

November 26, 2007

episode 22. drishti media & video volunteers
by noneck
On the Luck of Seven (India)

(T)he journey into understanding participatory culture doesn’t start with digital technology. the study of participatory culture should arise from the understanding that one shoe doesn’t fit all. since my time in ahmedabad, i’ve come to see drishti and video volunteers as the premier example of interactivity between online/offline, between old media/new media, between bitching and getting things done. the prime directive should not exist on earth. if we truly care about a participatory society, we must embrace tools as forms of technology and work hard to impart their use among all. i hope you check out more of video volunteers work.

Weapons of mass distraction
by asterix786
Straight from the Gut (India)

There’s a looming threat of misinformation in the Indian subcontinent. Most media houses are either run by businessmen with strong links to politicians or worse, run by the khaki-clad themselves. If it was a covert operation earlier, today the ownership is out in the open. Every political party worth its salt is trying to gather as much media steam to envelop the country. Knowledge is power, but when the power of disseminating it is at the hands of netas, you have to take every information from their media vehicles with much introspection. —>

Why the Maghreb needs community radio (Morocco)
by Hélène Michaud and Andy Sennitt
Radio Netherlands Worldwide

All that’s needed to create a community radio station is a low-powered transmitter and antenna, a small studio and a microphone. Yet this phenomenon, considered irreversible and essential to development and democratisation elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, has not spread to the countries of the Maghreb. However, there are increasing calls, in particular in Morocco, to introduce community radio.

One of the main proponents is Professor Jamal Eddine Naji, who holds the UNESCO Chair in Public and Community Communication in Rabat. The reforms announced by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to fight corruption and improve the country’s human rights records must be extended to the media, he says, in order to be successful.

Professor Jamal has been trying to mobilise Morocco’s burgeoning civil society to consider using community radio as a tool. Many private radio and television networks have recently been launched in Morocco, but “we need to go much further in the direction of the appropriation of the media by Moroccan citizens.” And this means opening up the media landscape to community radio. —>

Wired resistance in Pakistan
by Amber Vora
Rabble News

It should come as no surprise that on the fateful night of Musharraf’s first coup in 1999, one of the only showdowns occurred at the state-run PTV television station. The offices were stormed by armed men, some backing Musharraf and others backing then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. At the time PTV was the only news station in Pakistan, so controlling its broadcast meant controlling the news. PTV went off the air for 3 hours that night. When it returned, it was to announce the dismissal of Sharif’s government.

Loss of access to communications has become a warning sign to Pakistanis that trouble may be brewing. In September 2006, a massive power outage caused an interruption of television broadcasts, spurring rumors that another coup had transpired. In that instance a technical failure, not the Army, was to blame.

This time around, when Musharraf declared de facto martial law on November 3, there were many more television stations to shut down – ironically the very same private stations that were allowed to flourish under his rule. He also placed severe restrictions on print media, leaving most Pakistanis with limited information about what is happening inside their own country. However, such measures no longer control the flow of information as effectively as they did eight years ago…

Several LUMS students I interviewed spoke with the giddiness of those who have only recently discovered their power. Their sentences were peppered with the parlance of blackberries, blogs, facebook and flickr. A senior named Ayesha described how SMS’s spread faster than wildfire across the campus, announcing and coordinating meetings and rallies.

Photos of a favourite professor being arrested by police were circulated over the Internet, outraging previously apolitical students. Cricket star turned political party leader Imran Khan, who temporarily escaped arrest, issued YouTube appeals from hiding encouraging students to mobilize. —>

Cable bill proves campaign reform need urgent
by Dave Zweifel, editor
Capital Times (WI)

On Sunday the State Journal ran a front page story that suggested the new “cable reform” legislation might not save consumers money after all. So what else is new? The story confirmed what opponents of the legislation had been repeatedly saying as loudly as they could for months and months while AT&T and others filled campaign coffers in the state Legislature.

It’s what we said in numerous editorials leading up to the final vote in the state Senate earlier this month and what several in-depth reports by our reporter Judith Davidoff revealed several weeks ago. Not only is this new law unlikely to save cable TV customers any money, it severely weakens the consumer safeguards that have been in place in Wisconsin since cable TV arrived on the scene.

A majority of the state Senate thumbed its nose at the consumer advocates, who wanted some safeguards written into the bill. Those advocates wanted to protect things like the funding of public access channels, which cable TV firms are required to provide now.

If the Assembly concurs in a few changes made by the Senate and Gov. Jim Doyle signs the measure, and the betting is that he will, local control of cable will be taken away. The state’s Department of Financial Institutions, a department led by political appointees, will provide oversight instead.

In what has to be the irony of ironies, the supposedly corrupt state of Illinois enacted a much more consumer-friendly cable law when that issue came before its Legislature earlier this year. It remains a mystery why Wisconsin legislators couldn’t insist on at least the same safeguards.

And when the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the organization that monitors campaign contributions, detailed the largess senators received from AT&T and others supporting the legislation, there were howls of indignation from the politicians. It’s irresponsible, one Senate staffer wrote me, after we printed the WDC’s report that the 23 senators who voted in favor of the bill received $1.2 million in contributions from the special interests backing the legislation.

No, what’s irresponsible is the Legislature’s continued failure to fix this system that allows special interests to ply government officials with huge sums of money and, in the end, get what they want at the expense of the public interest. Even if this were all somehow just a coincidence, the public perception is clear — our government is for sale to the highest bidder. —>

AOC & LUS’ Franchise
by John St. Julien
Lafayette Pro Fiber (LA)

This morning’s Advocate has a story focusing on one benefit from Tuesday’s approval of the LUS’ cable franchise: Acadiana Open Channel (AOC) will benefit to the tune of $50,000 dollars and a new capacity to offer on-demand programming.

As Blanchard points out, most of the franchise agreement is, for legal reasons relating to the (un)Fair Competition Act, a clone of Cox’s 2000 agreement. There are some differences, however, including the way the LUS agreement deals with the Acadiana Open Channel:

Each year, the Cox franchise agreement requires Cox to pay $50,000 to the open channel to run a public access channel, although that figure can go down if the city-parish doesn’t match funds up to a certain amount.

The LUS agreement calls for the open channel to get a flat $50,000 regardless of any conditions.

While there is a dark lining on this silver cloud, my guess is that Ed Bowie over at AOC’s Lee Avenue offices regards this as a good thing. After all, the perennially cash-strapped organization is getting a new, solid, continuing funding source for the next 10 years. With new federal regulations threatening to further erode the principle of local control of cable media by telling localities that they can’t demand much of anything other than cash for letting cable corporations rent their rights-of-way all public access groups are facing a bleak future. Likely LUS’ commitment will make it politically difficult for Cox to back out of its commitments just because the Feds say they can renege. Cox appears to have a good relationship with AOC. The corporation recently extended AOC’s reach into the surrounding communities recently (you can see AOC’s programming in X, Y, Z now) and provides AOC with net connection. (LUS should certainly match that.)

Even as AOC programming has solidified—it now really fills the two channel slots it has been allocated—and in part because of increased demand for its services AOC’s staffing problems have increased. This is especially true in the critical technical area that will be its future and the additional shot of money will no doubt be helpful there.

But there is a downside to the LUS’ unconditional gift to AOC. It’s unconditional. That means that should the council decide it doesn’t want to match LUS’ contribution in the same way it matches Cox’s then their decision to be chintzy doesn’t let LUS off the hook. With the Cox money the local government has to continue to support AOC or let Cox walk away with money that could be returned to the community. The way LUS has set up its contribution the city is freed from that responsibility. Of course that doesn’t free it from the moral obligation to help pay for valuable community resources. AOC is a magnet for creative types and AOC’s broadcasting of public meetings is an essential public resource. The city-parish should do the right thing. —>

Mark Cuban upset with P2P freeloaders
by PelicanKiss

In a blog titled “An Open Letter to Comcast and Every cable/Telco on P2P” Mark Cuban urges broadband Internet providers to “BLOCK P2P TRAFFIC , PLEASE.”

Calling P2P users “freeloaders” he urged internet service providers to charge commercial rates to users Seeding or relaying P2P traffic. He said “The last thing I want slowing my internet service down are P2P freeloaders. Thats right, P2P content distributors are nothing more than freeloaders. The only person/organization that benefits from P2P usage are those that are trying to distribute content and want to distribute it on someone else’s Bandwidth dime.”

The outspoken billionaire arguably has an interest in freeing up bandwidth currently being used for P2P traffic. His 2929 Entertainment venture is working to implement a distribution plan that includes simultaneously releasing movies theatrically at the same time they’re available in home video formats. No doubt he’d benefit from reduced P2P traffic as it would free up bandwidth that could be used to deliver quality hi-def content. However, rival content providers are testing P2P technology, most notably BitTorrent, for their own content delivery. Even the music industry is looking at the potential of a P2P distribution model. No doubt they’re less than thrilled with his proposal. —>

More cities broadcasting their business on the Web
In effort to increase transparency, more municipalities air meetings, offer services online
by Elizabeth Langton
The Dallas Morning News

Two decades ago, broadcasting city council meetings on cable access was cutting edge. But not in the age of wireless Internet, YouTube and podcasts. Now people expect information on demand, and government is responding by putting more and more of its business on the Web.

Municipalities across the Dallas-Fort Worth area offer a variety of online services, such as ways to report tall grass and broken streetlights or to pay parking tickets and water bills. Some have posted videos on YouTube and set up podcasts on iTunes. And a growing number provide on-demand video of council meetings. “It’s fast food, immediate gratification,” said Laura Hallmark, assistant to the city secretary in DeSoto. “Everybody is in a hurry. They want what they want, and they want it right away.”

The Texas Legislature first offered online video of proceedings in 1999. A handful of state boards offer webcasts of their meetings. When New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer took office in January, he ordered that all of the state’s public meetings be broadcast on the Internet to make government more accessible. —>

The Role of Ethnic Media and Ways to Report on Minorities
by Andrew Lam
New America Media

It is very difficult to frame the picture of the US media because we’re in a period of great turmoil. We have cable, DSL, bloggesphere, major, alternative, youth, and ethnic media, just to name a few. More fragmentation is sure to happen as more individuals have the power to be broadcasters and reporters and entertainers than ever before. We’re also in the age of citizen reporters- people who have a mobile phone and tape and take pictures and film events and break news before any professional journalist can arrive to the scene.

Major news organisations are losing viewers/listeners/readers while small news providers sometime discover that they can reach far wider audiences than they ever dreamed before. The mainstream press is shrinking and many are putting their resources on-line. This is where it’s still dynamic and vibrant.

Ethnic media, however, are growing and there’s still room to grow as the US demographic shift is changing very quickly, toward more a pluralistic society. In California, one out of 4 persons is an immigrant and 40 % of California households speak a language other than English. Our news organization has a directory of ethnic media and so far we identified more than 2500 news outlets that serve ethnic communities in the US. We think the real number may be more than double of what we chronicled.

When we did a poll as to how many American adults access ethnic media, the results were astounding: 51 million American adults access one form of ethnic media or another. That’s about one sixth of the general population. Half of them use ethnic media as their primary source of information. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the white population in the US will be under the 50% mark. This means that there’ll no longer be a majority. It also means that we should all prepare ourselves to find good viable models for our very pluralistic society. —>

Finding their own voice
by Matthew Ricketson
The Age (Australia)

HERE are two snapshots of the ways young people engage with the media: the first is from the shootings in April at Virginia Tech in the US, where, as Cho Seung-hui went on a rampage over several hours, students sought information and sent out news by using their mobile phones and laptop computers wirelessly connected to the internet.

They sent text messages to reassure their parents; they called friends, asking if they had heard of anything untoward at their college; they urgently searched online news websites for official confirmation, and they used their mobile phones to film the terrifying events as they happened.

In this snapshot, young people performed not only the traditional role of eyewitness to newsworthy events but used modern communication technologies to act as news-gatherers. When the mainstream media arrived, desperate to find out what had led one student to shoot 32 of his classmates and teachers, many young people showed an acute awareness of the media’s modus operandi and a savvy regard for the value of controlling their own “story”.

These young people are not just consumers of the media, but “pro-sumers”; that is, producers as well as consumers, who in the world of web 2.0 interact with media outlets and even create their own media.

The second snapshot comes from a survey, released in the same month as the shootings, that tested young people’s knowledge of news and current affairs. Conducted by the Pew Research Centre, a philanthropically funded nonpartisan “fact tank” based in the US, the survey showed that 56% of people aged 18 to 29 performed poorly on its test. Only one in six performed well. The test asked Americans to identify various public figures and tested their knowledge of recent events such as the Democrats gaining a majority in the House of Representatives, as well as their understanding of issues such as whether more civilians than troops have died in the Iraq war. The Pew Centre found that only one in four young people could identify Nancy Pelosi, who this year became the first female Speaker of the House, but that 95 per cent could identify Arnold Schwarzenegger — they got a tick if they identified him as either California Governor or a former action movie star.

What are we to make of these seemingly contradictory snapshots? When it comes to media, are today’s young people free-thinking innovators or self-centred escapists? Are we looking at a possibly disastrous decline in public knowledge, or a youth-led backlash against elitist and increasingly irrelevant traditional media?

Discussion of the issue is fraught, both because young people act as a lightning rod for society’s anxieties and because the media are a conductor for those anxieties. Further complicating the picture are the changes blowing through the media — the biggest since the introduction of television more than 50 years ago. So how, exactly, are young people using the media? —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/21/07

November 21, 2007

Teen’s Tragic Death Recounted on Los Gatos TV
Eye Q, The Eric Quesada Story on KCAT TV-15
by Alastair Dallas
Los Gatos Observer (CA)

KCAT TV-15 will broadcast Eye Q, The Story of Eric Quesada on Wed., Nov. 21 at 8:00 p.m.  Los Gatos High School student Eric Quesada was killed in an alcohol-related accident Thanksgiving weekend in 2002. This powerful film was created by Eric’s close friend Andrew Quillin and other Los Gatos High students, in conjunction with EMQ Children and Family Services. Eye Q delivers an emotional message to teens about the potential consequences of unwise decisions…

At 8:30, following Eye Q, KCAT will air “Alcohol and Drugs: Effect on the Adolescent Brain,” a fascinating and lively talk by Ralph Cantor, the Tobacco, Alcohol, Drug and Violence Prevention Coordinator for the Alameda County Office of Education. KCAT produced this program in conjunction with the Teen And Family Counseling Center. Mr. Cantor is an inspiring and entertaining speaker who provides important information for teens and parents.

KCAT TV-15 is the community access television station serving Los Gatos, Monte Sereno and the Lexington Hills communities including Redwood Estates, Chemeketa Park and Aldercroft Heights. KCAT is seen on Comcast cable channel 15.


Supporting youth programing is a very important aspect of our mission. Over the last several years, the station has seen a growth in the number of students that are taking advantage of the television opportunities offered here at WYOU. From grade schoolers to college grads, from short films to live shows, the sheer numbers of students and programming that have come through our studios is a testament to the service that cable access offers the community.  See a sampling of this Youth TV every Wednesday at 3:30 pm right here on cable channel 4.

Towns Take Different Approaches To Government TV
by Tim Wood
Cape Cod Chronicle (MA)

Seated in front of a bank of television monitors in a basement room at the Chatham Town Offices, Danni Krash manipulates a joystick that controls a ceiling-mounted camera in the adjacent meeting room.  He jabs a button that switches the master shot to a different camera, all the while calling out instructions to his assistant, Bill Darmon.

“OK, lose the date,” Krash says as Darmon, sitting at a nearby computer, hits a few keystrokes that fades out the date displayed beneath the picture.  “Let’s get ready with Riley.”  He hits the console button again and the shot switches to another camera showing a local attorney beginning a presentation to the zoning board of appeals.

Cut to a similar scene, several miles away, as Harwich High School students crowd around a similar console in a room at the community center preparing for their weekly newscast.  Channel 18 Station Manager Jill Mason oversees several students seated in front of the monitors, VCRs and audio and video mixers, dispensing tips and asking questions to see how prepared they are for the show.  Kids come and go, working participation in the school’s TV club with other activities.  “Sometimes we’re stretched thin,” said senior Patrick Blute, who also does a cooking show on Channel 18.  “It gets kind of hectic around here when that happens.”

Two towns, two different approaches to government cable access television.  Under each town’s contract with ComCast, the cable company is required to provide a government access channel which only subscribers in that town can receive.  Money that covers the cost of government access operations in both communities also comes from ComCast, funded through a small fee levied on each subscriber’s monthly bill.

How the channels operate is left up to each town, which must decide the extent to which the service will be utilized and what sort of programming will be shown.  Some towns simply run a bulletin board of events; others provide hours of original programs.  Chatham and Harwich both fully utilize government access resources, but in very different ways.  While Chatham is strictly a government channel, Harwich works more like a community access outlet.  Both approaches have their strengths and drawbacks and both serve the community in different ways.   —>

LUS Cable Franchise Set
Lafayette Pro Fiber (LA)

The LUS franchise agreement was approved yesterday evening in a quick, low-key Lafayette Public Utility Authority session before the main event.  …Huval gave a brief powerpoint presentation which focused on one main point: the franchise agreement is as near a copy as is possible of Cox’s 2000 agreement. A chart of the ways in which the two contracts were the same was the central feature of the presentation. This parallelism was repeatedly presented as a direct consequence of Lousiana’s “Fair Competition Act,” a point we have made in these pages as well.   —>

BOMA says no to AT&T bill
by Jeff Farrell
The Mountain Press (TN)

SEVIERVILLE – An AT&T representative’s attempt to get city support for a statewide cable franchise bill backfired.  City Administrator Doug Bishop told aldermen during a workshop that AT&T had asked them to sign a resolution supporting a bill in the Legislature that would remove the power of local municipalities to establish and enforce regulations for their cable systems, and put it in the hands of the state.

That prompted the board to approve a resolution reiterating its opposition to the bill and sending copies to the county’s legislative delegation, along with letters explaining their position.  “This legislation will necessitate a state franchising process and diminish local authority to negotiate much needed (public education channels) and cable television service to schools and libraries,” the letter states, adding, “Statewide franchise agreements will complicate the market and inhibit local monitoring of franchise fee payments and audits.”

Comcast Closes Public Access TV Studios Across Northern Indiana
by Andrea Price
Our Channels Indiana

A year and a half after the enactment of the Indiana Telecommunications Reform Act of 2006, Comcast notified producers in South Bend, Hammond, Merrillville, Mishawaka, Plymouth, Goshen, and Portage — and Edwardsburg, Michigan – that it would be closing production studios and playback facilities for public access TV.

According the language in the Indiana video franchising law, a video services provider with existing requirements for public, education, and government (PEG) “channel capacity, facilities, or financial support under a local franchise issued before July 1, 2006,” shall provide at least the number of PEG channels “under the terms of the local franchise.”  The law goes on to explain how the financial support should be paid, and that it is not part of the franchise fee. If facilities were required in the local franchise agreement, wouldn’t that mean they should continue to be provided?  Comcast thinks not.

“While the state statute ensures that channel capacity will be provided for access channels in existence on July 1, 2006; there is no requirement to continue to provide personnel, studios or equipment,” wrote Amy Hansen of Comcast in a letter dated August 28, 2007. “Comcast will begin working with local municipalities and non-profit groups to transition the studios and equipment to new locations.”  Studios in Hammond, Portage, and Mishawaka closed on September 28; producers can drop off tapes at Comcast until December 15 or “until the transition has been completed.”

According to Jerry Puckett, a public access TV producer in Hammond, the public access channel is already no longer airing programs.  Like most of the public access channels in northern Indiana, Hammond’s channel was a shared PEG channel and included coverage of council meetings and weekly programs with the mayor.

The City of South Bend is attempting to find a solution.  “Our city had not taken advantage of this access channel,” said Council member Dr. David Varner who has started to investigate what other cities are doing and sees the closing as an opportunity: The taped Common Council meetings were the only local government meetings aired on the city’s lone public access television channel. “Our first responsibility is … to bring government to the people,” said Dr. Varner, also a proponent of giving community voices access to the television.  According to Tom Brown, a long-time public access television producer, Comcast will terminate the channel if a community has not worked out a plan for their own studio by December 15.    —>

County prepares for boxes
by Paul Dailing
Kane County Chronicle (IL)

A new state law allows AT&T to create a statewide cable service network, but residents and governments will be the ones dealing with the large utility boxes that the system requires.  Throughout the county, there are plans for the new boxes, which are more than 6 feet tall and will be placed either in public rights of way or on the properties of people who have made easement agreements with AT&T.  For a home to be able to get AT&T’s Lightspeed fiber-optic service, it must be within about 3,000 feet of a box, said Kurt Nika, Kane County division of transportation permitting chief.   —>

Letter: Volunteers needed for Salisbury cable committee
Daily News of Newburyport (MA)

To the editor:

Community access cable television is about to get a lot better in Salisbury. If you live or work in Salisbury and are passionate about good communication, then we are looking for you with that process.

Thanks to a recent new contract with Comcast, the town’s cable provider, Comcast is required to make financial resources and channels available for use by the community, as rent for the cable system’s use of public property, those wires down streets, which deliver its services to subscribers.

As a result, a new not-for-profit organization is being established to oversee the Salisbury Community Television and Media Center, which will be used to create, produce and broadcast public and community programming over Salisbury’s two local cable stations. This Media Center will be housed in the small schoolhouse located behind the former Salisbury Memorial School and operated with funds provided by Comcast as part of this new contract.

Why is this so important to Salisbury? First, because it will enable residents, civic and community groups to use these new cable airwaves to provide local programming knowing as PEG (Public, Education and Government) access. The opportunities to provide information and public discourse on a wide range of topics concerning education, youth activities, cultural and human service initiatives, government and more are endless.

Also important, however, is the fact that Dec. 31 is the last day that Comcast will provide technicians who broadcast the town’s meetings over the local cable channels. Beginning in 2008, we, the Town of Salisbury, assumes all responsibility for local programming. It is therefore critical that we get this new community-based organization up and running at the earliest opportunity.

This local organization will manage the center as a not for profit with 501(c)(3) IRS status and be led by a board of directors made up entirely of community stakeholders: residents, elected officials, business owners, educators, seniors and more. This board will hire and oversee an executive director with proven experience in community media start-up skills.

We are looking for people to serve on the initial board of directors. Applicants should first and foremost be passionate about Salisbury and interested in seeing public airwaves used to foster communication in our community. Other tasks that the board will tackle include establishing and reviewing the goals and objectives of the organization; managing the budget; developing policies; and hiring, supervising, evaluating and working closely with the executive director to run the organization.   —>

Unboxing “Unboxing TV”
by Derek Kompare
Derek Kompare’s Media Musings

Just back from Cambridge, where I attended Unboxing TV, one of the most satisfying “conference experiences” I’ve ever had. So, right off the top, yay Jonathan Gray and Joshua Green for putting this together. Let’s do it again.

In the wake of MIT5, Jon and Josh cooked up the idea for a small, one-stream conference of TV Studies scholars where the focus would not be on the conference paper as the kind of finished idea polished for presentation, but on the much more engaging process of interactive thought and discussion. They were also inspired by the design of last year’s Flow conference in Austin, which similarly put the “discussions in the corridor” front-and-center. The difference was in scale. Flow was not large, but certainly not small. There were 30 invited participants to Unboxing TV, present at every panel, in the same space, for a day and a half. This produced the effect of an undistracted collective experience, an ongoing evolution of discussion throughout the weekend.

The larger conferences in our field (e.g., SCMS, at around 800 participants) can be exciting but exhausting in all their numerous, too-brief meet-ups and scurrying between panels. By contrast, as one person put it, Unboxing TV felt like the best grad seminar ever, where everyone has done the reading, and everyone has something interesting to say.

You can do the reading as well here, where you’ll find PDFs of the “provocations” – the short thought pieces that each participant contributed. Collectively, they indicate how we’re working to understand and contextualize both the rapid changes happening in and around television (and media and culture more broadly) and the continuities of so much unfinished lines of inquiry. Rather than break down each panel, as I did for MIT5, and will ideally do for similar conferences, I thought I’d do a synthesis here instead, giving a general sense of what our collective intelligence generated.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media