Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/09/07

Cable bill passes Senate, sent back to Assembly over changes
by Charles Brace
The Daily Cardinal (WI)

A contentious bill dealing with the cable industry passed the state Senate Thursday, though it will have to go back to the state Assembly before the governor approves it. The state Senate passed a bill hoped to encourage competition in the cable television industry Thursday, though only after an exhaustive series of amendments were debated that often passed or failed due to one vote. —>

Mayor’s Statement re: Video Franchising Bill (WI)
by Mayor Dave Cieslewicz

Mayor Dave Cieslewicz made the following statement regarding last night’s action on Assembly Bill 207:

The video franchising bill passed last night by the state Senate is bad for Wisconsin consumers, school districts and municipalities. The nine senators who fought the good fight – including the entire Madison delegation of Senators Risser, Miller and Erpenbach – to improve this deeply-flawed bill deserve our thanks. This proposal eliminates funding for public access programming, awards perpetual video franchises with minimal review, hampers the ability of local communities to control their rights of way, and provides no meaningful consumer protection or regulatory oversight.

It is truly a sad commentary on Wisconsin politics that our legislative process compares poorly to that of Illinois. In that state, parties from all sides developed a win-win compromise that paved the way for statewide video franchising, without sacrificing public access programming, consumer protection and other priorities. That was sadly not the case in Wisconsin.

This bill has been falsely described as opening the door to video competition. In fact, that door was already wide open, as Milwaukee showed earlier this year when it successfully negotiated a local franchise agreement with AT&T. This legislation simply saves video providers from the annoyance of dealing with local governments that might insist upon strong consumer protection, service to the entire community, and other basic pro-consumer principles.

It is my hope that Governor Doyle will take steps to improve this flawed proposal.

AT&T vs. the cable industry
Another bout looms over TV market in Tennessee
by Andrew Eder
Knoxville News Sentinel (TN)

Tennessee’s telecommunications heavyweights are gearing up for round two of the bout over competition in the TV market that began in the last state legislative session. In the blue corner, sporting a new state president and a strong desire to get in the digital television business, is AT&T. “It’s about competition, choice, better prices, jobs and investment,” AT&T Tennessee President Gregg Morton said of his company’s renewed push to change state law and roll out video services under a statewide agreement.

In the red corner, arguing that the country’s largest phone company is trying to gain an unfair advantage and circumvent local control, is Tennessee’s cable industry, backed by local governments. “They’re behind,” Stacey Briggs, president of industry group Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association, said of AT&T. “Now they want to pick their customers, and they’ve got to change the law to do it.” —>

AT&T gets OK to sell TV service
by Amy Saunders
The Columbus Dispatch (OH)

AT&T is closer to becoming the new cable TV competitor in town after being granted Ohio’s first state-issued cable contract yesterday. The company will be able to offer its U-verse TV service in 61 of Ohio’s 88 counties, the same territory in which the company provides phone service, according to the Ohio Department of Commerce. —>

Localism and diversity should be FCC’s priority
by Scott McCaughey
Reclaim the Media

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin has a lot on his plate, what with his rush to alter existing media-ownership rules in favor of giant media conglomerates. He’ll be in Seattle on Friday for the sixth and final public hearing on media ownership, which will examine the prudence of relaxing current stipulations. Jet lag is tough, but the crowd Martin will encounter here is likely to be even tougher.

The Seattle proceedings were announced at the last minute, giving citizens little time to prepare arguments. Many question whether Martin is sincere in his assessment of public opinion — which, when it comes to further media consolidation, is decidedly negative.

As a longtime member of the Seattle music community, I know firsthand how important radio is for musicians. My bands, Young Fresh Fellows and the Minus 5, both preceded and participated in the alternative music explosion of the 1990s, and got a major boost from college stations. Other prominent Seattle acts, such as Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Soundgarden and Presidents of the United States of America, benefited tremendously from both local and national airplay. Of course, this was before the Federal Communications Act of 1996 ushered in an era of unprecedented consolidation. Since then, we’ve been left with ever-shrinking playlists and a lack of ownership diversity. —>

Meet Kevin Martin, a very influential guy you’ve never heard of
He walks the path of a long line of chairmen of the Federal Communications Commission — an institution itself that is really powerful and virtually unknown.
by O. Casey Corr

The Federal Communications Commission might be the most powerful unknown agency of the federal government — a backwater that happens to influence a huge slice of our economy. We get a glimpse on Friday, Nov. 9, of the FCC and its boyish chairman, Kevin Martin, at a hearing on “localism and access to public airwaves” [124K PDF] at Seattle’s Town Hall, from 4-11 p.m.

Of late, our own Seattle Times has been putting a deserved spotlight on the FCC through a series called “The Democracy Papers” and a blog by Ryan Blethen, son of Publisher Frank Blethen, that tells us the American press is being decimated by consolidation. Civic debate, at least in and on the mainstream media outlets, is controlled by fewer and fewer players.

I wish I could be optimistic on this topic. Years ago, desktop publishing was going to offset the power of “big media.” Now blogging is the hope. MySpace is cool, but more so before Rupert Murdoch bought it. Facebook just got valued at $15 billion — it, too, is now big business. It’s all a bit weird when we’re rooting for Google in a contest over spectrum. —>

Jena 6, the Black netroots & the importance of media literacy
by Chris Rabb

Recently, a storm has brewed over allegations by popular radio host Michael Baisden that progressive advocacy group,, has defrauded one of the Jena 6 families. It is a serious, unsubstantiated and ridiculous charge from a man who took the lead in the corporate radio community to advocate for and promote the Jena 6. But that said, while we’re all entitled to differing opinions, we’re not entitled to different facts.

Afro-Netizen unequivocally supports They represent the future and power of renewed civic engagement in our communities. They honor the spirit of generations of Blackfolk and other freedom-fighters who organized around the message instead of merely venerating a given messenger. promotes and thrives on decentralization, diffusing influence and resources to individuals from all walks of life to get involved in ways that the cults of charismatic leadership discourage and corporate media fear.

I do not know Micheal Baisden, nor listen to his show (and rarely listen to corporate radio). So, this is really not a counter-attack. Because, really, this is not about whether Baisden is “good or bad”. It’s analogous to the common expression, “Do you see the glass as half-full or half-empty?”. Because in actuality, any many contexts, the best answers come from related, but unasked questions like, “What’s in the glass?” and “Who’s glass is it?”

…This is why media literacy is so important to disadvantaged communities who do not genuinely control their own media. Because if we knew who owns what and what they are are about, the current and future Baisden-like fiascoes would be taken for what they are: distractions from the much larger threat of media consolidation at the expense of widening and amplifying the diverse, autonomous voices of communities color.

And for all the good things Baisden may have said or done around Jena and other salient issues, if you haven’t heard him mention “media literacy”, “media consolidation” or “media justice”, now you know why.

I Want My iTV
by Cliff Edwards
Business Week


But I won’t be getting it soon. While the technology is mostly in place, the players—from cable companies to film studios—can’t agree on how to make it happen. It all started when my TiVo let me down. For years this little device has been like an old friend. It sat next to my big-screen TV to record shows and movies when I wanted, without a lot of questions, and with no judgments on what I wanted to see. But on a lazy late summer day, I came to view TiVo in a whole new light.

There’s a collision, you see, between the boob tube and the Internet. TV is all about instant gratification. The Net is about me having control. Put the two together, and the result should be personalized TV, or iTV, which lets me watch what I want, when I want it. That sounds a lot like TiVo. The recorders, which the company claims deliver “television your way,” also allow you to connect to the Net and do things like check freeway traffic before your daily commute, buy movie tickets from your couch, and listen to Web radio, all on your TV. In July, TiVo even became the first device that lets you search easily for programs from cable outfits along with movies and other content delivered off the Web from Amazon’s (AMZN ) Unbox video service.

So when my editors asked me to explain how TV and the Internet were intersecting, my first thought was to grab TiVo’s peanut-shaped remote control. I had a hankering to see 1949’s White Heat, the Jimmy Cagney flick where he plays gangster Cody Jarrett. Cornered by cops on top of a burning oil tank, he laughs maniacally and shouts: “Made it, Ma! Top of the world!” just before being obliterated. Calling up a neat bit of TiVo search software, I typed in the movie’s name.

No luck. It offered me White Men Can’t Jump on cable, or Single White Female off the Web. I tried typing in “gangster” to let TiVo troll program descriptions that might fit. There was the Gangsta Girls documentary or 1944’s Gangsters of the Frontier to rent at Amazon. No… White… Heat.


Experiences like this just make it painfully clear how far we still are from having truly personal TV. All the technology to do this is basically in place: fast broadband connections, personal media recorders, instant Web-searching software, high-definition sets. So why can’t I press a button or two and see whether the tribe has spoken, root for the next top chef, pull up a YouTube (GOOG ) clip of Ellen DeGeneres breaking down in tears over a dog—or even watch Cagney rise from small-time hood to the top of the world? I want to listen to music, have a box pop up on my screen telling me who’s phoning my home, or watch a vacation-themed slide show before forwarding it on to bore my friends on Facebook—all while sitting in front of the set in my living room. No one has yet put this wish list together in one nice, easy-to-use package.

To find out why so many have tried and failed to deliver my TV nirvana, I got up off the couch and hit the road to talk to technology wizards and top industry executives. I discovered that Hollywood, cable, satellite, phone, and consumer-electronics companies are all screaming “Go! Go! Go!” as they lay out ambitious plans to conquer the market.

But what’s holding up the transition from network TV to networked TV is that any company with a little piece of control in the way things work today is unwilling to jeopardize its power and revenues until it becomes clear how the new model will pay. Every time you hear about some product that sounds great but just has one strange limitation, follow the money to understand why. Hollywood worries digital downloads could lead consumers to stop buying $24 billion of DVDs annually, and broadcasters are nervous about the fate of the $185 billion-per-year TV advertising kitty. So studios and networks alike limit how long programs are available on Web sites or restrict the shows that play on various devices.

Cable and satellite providers worry that they will lose customer loyalty to the Web, so they impose tight controls on what content you see and have moved painfully slowly to offer advanced TV services. The people who make electronics gear fret that if they don’t lock up agreements for exclusive music or videos, consumers won’t pay top price. “You’ve got device manufacturers, content providers, service providers, networks, software makers, security providers all trying to sort out how big their piece of the pie should be,” says former Comcast (CMCSA ) executive Kip Compton. He is now senior director and general manager of video and content networking at Cisco Systems (CSCO ), which is trying to merge TV and the Web. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, Internet TV, IPTV, media diversity, media justice, media literacy, media ownership, video franchising

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