Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/07/07

Cable TV legislation doesn’t serve consumers
by Cynthia J. Laitman
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel (WI)

The state Senate today will be asked to vote on a bill, co-sponsored by Rep. Phil Montgomery (R-Ashwaubenon) and Sen. Jeff Plale (D-South Milwaukee), that would drastically reduce Wisconsin’s control over our cable and broadband infrastructure.  AT&T and its industry allies have spent millions of dollars in our state promoting this bill as a “competition” and “jobs creation” bill that will lower consumer prices. That isn’t true.

In other states such as Texas and Virginia, where the same bill was passed, consumer prices actually have increased – and at a faster pace than before bill passage. Further, the Wisconsin bill guarantees that AT&T and other cable providers would never have to compete because the bill says these companies don’t have to expand their current service areas.

So people in Wisconsin who don’t have competition now would be unlikely to have competition after passage of the bill. And no expansion means no new build-out, which means no new jobs.  Worse yet, this bill awards franchises forever to any entity that applies for one. And it would prohibit the state from evaluating a franchise applicant’s qualifications. Nor could the state object if the franchisee decides in the future to sell its franchise, no matter who or what or where in the world the new owner might be.

The bad news continues. Under the pending bill, Wisconsin’s cities, towns and villages would lose all say over what happens to cable and Internet service in their communities and would be at the mercy of private corporations that would have no loyalty to our state and whose only motive would be to make as much money as possible. This is not a recipe for competition and lower costs.

Next, the bill would eliminate dedicated funding for public access, education and local government channels – a sucker punch to commercial-free, independent, locally produced media in Wisconsin.  Finally, this is a tax increase bill. According to the state Department of Revenue, if SB 107/AB 207 becomes law, cities and towns throughout Wisconsin would lose millions of dollars annually, necessitating local property tax increases just to maintain the status quo.

In sum, given no competition, no new jobs, higher prices, loss of local and state control, crippling public access channels and increasing local property taxes, the bill would seriously harm our state, our local businesses and our residents.

Wisconsin’s cable and Internet future is key to a robust economy in the 21st century. We simply cannot afford to relinquish all control and public accountability over our broadband system, as the Montgomery-Plale bill would require.

If you think that the state Legislature should put the public interest before private corporate profit, call your state senator and urge a “no” vote on the cable bill.  Then, insist on legislation that will protect and promote the best interests of everyone in our state, instead of this bill, which serves only the bottom line of the industry that is pushing so hard for its passage.   —>

State cable bill phoned in by AT&T
by Adi Lev-Er
Badger Herald (WI)

The state Senate will vote on a bill tomorrow that would deregulate the cable industry in Wisconsin. Currently, local municipalities are in control of the industry; they grant the necessary franchise contracts to cable companies. The proposed bill would transfer that control over to the state. Instead of relying on the local government to consider each cable company individually and set up a contract, the state would create a standard by which companies would be granted franchises.

The proponents of this bill make a convincing argument. State control of cable would allow any company that pays $2,000 to receive a permanent franchise, thus creating competition within the industry. Competition, as we all learned from famous economist Adam Smith in Econ 101, should drive down cable prices for consumers.

Unfortunately, the issue is not that simple. Similar bills have been passed in other states and the results have not been consistently positive. Research conducted in Texas showed that after two years of the state regulating cable franchising, prices did not fall.   —>

Wis. gov supports cable bill provisions

MADISON, Wis. (AP) – An AT&T-backed proposal that opponents say will kill local cable access programming offers a ‘greater hope for competition’ than the current system, Gov. Jim Doyle said Tuesday.  The proposal, which supporters say will not only increase competition but create jobs and lower cable rates, is expected to pass the state Senate on Thursday. The Assembly already passed a similar version and the bill could be before Doyle for his signature early next month.

The governor wouldn’t promise to sign it, saying he wanted to see what the final version looked like. But he voiced support for the key parts of the measure.  ‘I think there is much greater promise of competition here with this bill than right now,’ Doyle said. ‘Right now, you take what you can get. When the prices go up, the prices go up.’

Opponents argue the bill, which will make it easier for AT&T to enter the state’s cable TV market, doesn’t do enough to ensure consumers are protected and there is no guarantee of greater competition or lower rates.  In other states that have the law, cable rates went down initially but then continued to climb, said Barry Orton, a University of Wisconsin-Madison telecommunications professor and consultant to local governments.   —>

Please, please, please, FCC
by Lynne Varner
Seattle Times (WA)

“I don’t want nobody to give me nothing. (Open up the door, I’ll get it myself.”  — James Brown

The Godfather of Soul could have easily been singing to the Federal Communications Commission, a body out of control in its efforts to turn American values of independent and diverse media on their heads.

The FCC sets the rules for media; right now, it is setting them to benefit media magnates and their high-priced lawyers and lobbyists. As a result, media are whiter, wealthier and more removed from my life and yours.  This “citadel of power,” as unapologetically honest newsman Bill Moyers calls the FCC, is made up of five members, three Republicans and two Democrats.

A decade ago, Congress passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, eliminating long-standing limits on the number of radio and television stations a single company could own. Conglomerates went on a buying spree.  Clear Channel ended up owning more than a thousand radio stations, dominating the dial in some cities. Minorities and women once shut out of media ownership by discrimination were now shut out by high costs only the big boys could afford. A loss of independent voices, diversity and authenticity were the results.

The FCC wants to change the rules some more so big media can go on another binge. The commission has held public hearings around the country to gauge the public’s reaction, but it feels like window dressing on an already done deal. Cementing my suspicion was the FCC’s decision late last Friday to hold its sixth and final hearing on media ownership in Seattle this coming Friday.

Whoa! What’s the hurry? The FCC’s Dec. 18 deadline has the effect of moving big-business interests from the fast track to a bullet train.

Rep. Jay Inslee, D-Bainbridge Island, a member of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, dashed off a communiqué asking the FCC for more notice — say, four weeks. U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.,echoed the request. Sens. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., and Trent Lott, R-Miss., unlikely bedfellows, have been calling for the FCC to slow down, study the issue of media ownership more and gather more public comment.

From Oregon, Idaho and Alaska, people with a stake in this fight should be in Seattle on Friday afternoon. The five commissioners want our opinion. Here’s mine   —>

Volunteer forges community ties
by John Appleton
The Republican (MA)

When Margaret D. “Peg” Louraine moved to Belchertown 20 years ago, people would ask her how she felt about the controversial rail trail proposal and how she might vote on the issue.  Knowing little about the proposed project, she became involved with a committee interested in extending the rail trail through Belchertown.

This particular proposal was eventually defeated at Town Meeting, but Louraine’s involvement as a volunteer with town activities and committees has gone on ever since. She has often had multiple roles.  “It puts you in touch with the community,” Louraine said.

Louraine works by day as an editor and proofreader at the University of Massachusetts.  Nights and weekends frequently find her working a camera, conducting an interview or taking part in some other volunteer activity in Belchertown.  Along with her husband, Lewis, Louraine has been involved with Belchertown’s public access television station for years.   —>

OCCTAC “Alfa-Kids” in MAGIC BOOK STORYTIME on TV Starting November 13th
OCCTAC News – Orange County Children’s Therapeutic Arts Center (CA)

Dear Friends!  We have exciting news to share! Our StoryLady Lisa Cohen is bringing her Magic Book to local television!
In Magic Book our students and the little television viewers learn the alphabet through a magical storytime.   —>

Action for Animals airs on NPAT
Novato Advance (CA)

Eric Mills of Action For Animals and Virginia Handley of Animal Switchboard, Bay Area organizations, will be guests on Public Advocate TC discussion program over Public Access TV.  Host Shirley Graves will talk with them about current legislation affecting animals, and their local projects.   —>

Emmitsburg council says no to Mayor TV
by Ashley Andyshak
Frederick News-Post (MD)

EMMITSBURG — Mayor Jim Hoover won’t be beaming into town living rooms every week after all.  The mayor withdrew his plan Monday to host a TV show on Channel 99, the Comcast station that broadcasts municipal meetings and town events, after town council members said the show might create a precedent for officials or private citizens who might want TV time.   —>

Community radios ideal for national development
Republic of Botswana

GABORONE – Community radio stations have a role to play in national development if proper regulatory frameworks are put in place.  This view was echoed by panelists during a discussion on Community Radio Stations-Can They Work in Botswana, organized by Reteng, a multicultural coalition of Botswana on Thursday.   —>

Pakistanis use Internet to access news, organize protests under emergency rule
by Ambreen Ali
Medill Reports – Washington

WASHINGTON – Pakistani television stations continued their news coverage online Wednesday as police swarmed markets to enforce a ban on selling satellite dishes. Demand for dishes surged earlier this week as Pakistanis looked for ways around the local broadcasting ban.

Satellite, mobile and Internet technology have kept media-starved Pakistanis updated since President Pervez Musharraf announced emergency rule Saturday. Human Rights Watch has said that 30 TV news channels have since gone off the air.

In addition to providing access to news, the Internet has allowed dissenters to organize protests and gain international media coverage through blogs and text messages.  “I check Internet on my mobile phone since the DSL signal strength has been squeezed,” said civil rights activist Arshed Bhatti in a telephone interview. His Islamabad café serves as a place for concerned citizens to gather and discuss politics.  “Text messaging has become the alternate media for us.”

Students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences, one of the country’s largest and most prestigious institutions, staged a protest Wednesday morning after using a blog, the Emergency Times, to organize their efforts.   —>

The Community of Practice in Public Access TV
by Colin Rhinesmith
Community Media in Transition

I just found another great resource through Eric Gordon’s feed. He recently bookmarked an online article, entitled “Communities of Practice: a brief introduction” by Etienne Wenger, author of “Communities of Practice: Learning, Meaning, and Identity.” The article is particularly useful because it describes communities in a way that’s very descriptive of communities in public access TV. Furthermore, I thought it would provide context for my study of this community and its practice — or praxis — across multiple communications platforms.

Wenger writes:
Communities of practice are groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.

But he adds   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, community radio, democracy, FCC, human rights, media diversity, media ownership, municipal programming, PEG access TV, public access television, video franchising

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