Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/10/07


State of Emergency in Pakistan: An Analysis of Local Media
by Huma Yusuf
MIT Center for Future Civic Media

Much can be said about Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf’s decision to declare a state of emergency in my home country. In this post, I will set aside political commentary and restrict my comments here to the role that news media and new media are playing in the national crisis.

On Saturday, November 3, soon after proclaiming emergency rule in a televised address, Musharraf demanded that all cable operators stop beaming the broadcasts of all local and foreign new channels, except those of the state-owned Pakistan Television. Nearly 30 channels were promptly taken off the air. On Sunday, policemen raided the Islamabad offices of Aaj TV, a private news channel, and attempted to confiscate the channel’s equipment.

This nationwide broadcasting blackout was accompanied by sporadic efforts to cut telephone lines and jam cell phone networks, even though the telecommunications infrastructure in Pakistan is privately owned. According to VOA News, the telephone lines of Pakistan’s main independent news channel Geo TV were cut.

On Tuesday, November 6, Iftikhar Chaudhry, the ousted chief justice of the Supreme Court who is currently under house arrest, called for mass protest against the government and for the restoration of the constitution via cell phone. According to the BBC News Online report, most mobile phone services in Islamabad went down during Chaudhry’s address, prompting suspicions that they had been jammed. The jamming of cell phone networks became de rigueur since emergency rule was imposed last weekend, as the mobile connectivity of the Supreme Court, protest sites, and the homes of opposition politicians and lawyers who are under house arrest is being jammed.

That said, SMS text messaging is being lauded across the blogosphere as the savior of communication in this time of crisis. According to unofficial reports issued by mobile phone service providers, record numbers of text messages have been sent in the past five days as the medium is used to stay in touch and organize protests….

…Given this scenario, designers and activists hoping to build new technologies that can foster civic engagement and community building should consider the power of mesh network options that are independent of centralized communications networks (such as cell phone transmission towers) that are dependent on the licensing mandates of potentially authoritarian governments. The fact that Musharraf chose to block television–the medium that attracts most eyes in Pakistan–should revive interest in local information dissemination options such as community radio and local newsletters.

Streaming meetings coming soon to city Web site
by Marsha L. Melnichak
Northwest Arkansas Times

Fayetteville residents will soon be able to watch city government meetings with a click or two on a computer mouse.  Recordings of Fayetteville government meetings, such as the City Council and Planning Commission, will be available for viewing at any time by way of the city’s Web site beginning in early 2008.  No specific date is set, but the service is coming.

“ Basically all the public meetings they do now on the Government Channel can be stream blogged, will certainly be streamed and kept for a year for public viewing, ” said Scott Huddleston, director of the city’s Information Technology department.  “It’s not just live streaming, see it and miss it. It’s live plus it’s stored for a year, ” he said…

… Cold CAT ? The plan for using vendor Web streaming does not include the city’s Cable Access Television (CAT ) station. Richard Drake, chairman of the Telecomm Board of Directors, said he believes board members were “ taken by surprise” by the Information Technology plan. He also thinks it is unfair. “ It’s a good plan, but CAT needs to have their programs on the Web. It would be unfair for everyone else in the PEG system to have their Web streaming costs taken care of by others, and expect CAT to fend financially for themselves. That’s not an even playing field, ” Drake wrote in an e-mail to the Northwest Arkansas Times Thursday.   —>

Allen City TV winning program accolades at state, national levels
by Carolyn Tillery
The Dallas Morning News (TX)

The tables have turned on the Allen City Television station. Rather than highlighting the achievements of others in the community, the station is in the limelight itself after winning numerous awards for excellence.  The Allen television station, which can be seen on Time Warner Channel 16 in Allen or online at, received five first-place awards, three second-place and one third-place honor from the Texas Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors.

The station also picked up two first-place awards and one second-place honor from the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors and the Telly Awards, including an award for excellence in government programming.  “This is the first time in history a Texas station has won for government programming,” said Mark Kaufmann, video producer. “It’s kind of a big deal. This includes counties as well as cities. Second place went to a county station in Oregon.”

Since it launched, ACTV has won more than 70 local and national awards, including its first Lone Star Emmy in 2006.  It started in 2000, when Mr. Kaufmann was hired to run the televised production of the Allen City Council meetings. But he had a few ideas of his own.  “I had a bigger look on the whole station,” he said. “I started out with a VHS camera and a tripod with a bad leg. But in working with the mayor and the City Council, we’ve been able to grow to this.”  In addition to Mr. Kaufmann, the station employs another full-time person and Mr. Kaufmann’s assistant, Imran Ali, a radio, television and film student at the University of North Texas.   —>

F.C.C. Planning Rules to Open Cable Market
by Stephen Labaton
New York Times

The Federal Communications Commission is preparing to impose significant new regulations to open the cable television market to independent programmers and rival video services after determining that cable companies have become too dominant in the industry, senior commission officials said.  The finding, under a law that gives the commission expanded powers over the cable television industry if it becomes too big, is expected to be announced this month. It is a major departure for the agency and the industry, which was deregulated by an act of Congress in 1996.

Officials say the finding could lead to more diverse programs; consumer groups say it could also lead to lower rates.  Heavily promoted by those groups and by the commission’s Republican chairman, Kevin J. Martin, the decision would be a notable exception to the broad deregulatory policies of the Bush administration. Officials in various agencies have relaxed industry regulations and have chosen not to challenge big corporate mergers.

“The finding will provide the commission with additional authority to assure that there is opportunity for additional voices,” Mr. Martin said Friday in an interview. “It is important that we continue to do all we can to make sure that consumers have more opportunities in terms of their programming and that people who have access to the platform assure there are diverse voices.”

The commission’s conclusion that the cable industry has grown too large will be used to justify a raft of new cable television rules and proposals. They include a cap that would prevent the nation’s largest cable company, Comcast Corporation, from growing, and would prevent other large cable companies, like Time Warner, from making any new large cable acquisitions.

The decision comes as Mr. Martin is about to formally announce his plan to relax a different media ownership rule. That rule has restricted a company from owning a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same community.

How dominant the cable industry is has been a matter of dispute. The largest cable companies say they are under increasing competition from the satellite and telephone companies. But commission officials and consumer groups say that the large cable companies dominate the marketplace. They cite as evidence the fact that cable rates have risen significantly faster than inflation.

Next week, Mr. Martin is expected to formally propose that the newspaper and broadcast cross-ownership restriction be relaxed in the nation’s largest cities if the television station is not one of the largest in the community. He has told officials that he hopes to complete action on that rule in December.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: democracy, FCC, freedom of the press, government access, human rights, internet censorship, media justice, municipal programming, PEG access TV, press freedom, public access television, streaming

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