Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/11/07

Using sign language, Joanne Cosentino provides a voice, ears for those who need it
by Erin Glass
Union-Tribune (CA)

As flames and city officials raced across the TVs of San Diego’s living rooms in pace with last month’s wildfires, viewers might have taken note of something unusual to these on-screen disasters.  While Mayor Jerry Sanders announced road closures and evacuations from behind his press conference podium, a woman with a bright face stood to his side, her hands fluttering like moths in a light. With her fingers she spelled out neighborhood names at lightning speed and made mesmerizing gestures for wind, planes and emergency.

Joanne Cosentino, a sign language interpreter for the nonprofit Deaf Community Services San Diego, was put to the task of interpreting the televised press conferences.  “People at the grocery store, they ask me, ‘Are you that interpreter?’ ” she said. “Yes I am. I appreciate that the hearing community appreciated it. They do care about the deaf community.”

After the Cedar fires in 2003, Deaf Community Services director Bonnie Sherwood wanted to make sure deaf people (who are not always capable of reading the rapid-moving news captions on TV) would have access to information in the event of another disaster. But such a service was rare, perhaps nonexistent, during 9/11 or Hurricane Katrina and Cosentino’s presence at the news conference was met with some skepticism.   —>

Community TV Showcases the Sleeping Ban
by Robert Norse
Santa Cruz IMC (CA)

Host and Free Radio Santa Cruz broadcaster Louis La Fortune advised me yesterday in a phone message that the call-in show Voices from the Village Live! will be featuring the Sleeping Ban, including Wells, Zimmerman, and Coonerty, as mentioned in the summary above.   —>

Irondequoit pastor’s TV Connection
by Erica Bryant
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle (NY)

The Rev. Kevin McKenna laughs heartily when asked if he ever envisioned himself as the host of a television talk show.  “Not in my wildest imagination,” says McKenna, who is the pastor at St. Cecilia’s Church on Culver Road.  Since July of last year, the church has broadcast a series of shows on cable access television. Each features McKenna interviewing an interesting parishioner or figure in the community.

“I like the idea of having people in the pew talk about their faith,” said McKenna. “It’s a way of reaching out to those who aren’t coming to church on a regular basis.”  Earlier this month, he taped an interview with St. Cecilia’s Parish Council Secretary Diane Hamilton, who is trying to gather support for a mother-child medical clinic the parish would like to help build in Arusha, Tanzania.   —>

AT&T seeks state bill
Legislation would create franchising agreement
by Ned Hunter
Jackson Sun (TN)

Proponents of a state bill that would create a single franchising agreement with AT&T and all local communities will attempt to get the legislation passed when the General Assembly reconvenes in January.  Known as the Competitive Cable and Video Services Act, (HB 1421), the legislation would create a single statewide franchise that would allow AT&T to provide video services to local municipalities via the Internet without contracting with each of the state’s local governments individually.   —>

Battle brewing as AT&T looks to move into video services market in Tenn.
by Hank Hayes
Kingsport Times News (TN)

Another clash of the telecommunications titans — with AT&T facing off against members of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association (TCTA) — appears to be headed toward the Tennessee General Assembly next year.  Both sides are working to increase or protect their market share in a state that earlier this year ranked 37th in the United States in broadband availability.

At issue is AT&T’s efforts to pass legislation to allow the technology giant to obtain a statewide video services franchise. Such a bill failed to get out of Senate and House commerce committees in the last legislative session because AT&T ultimately pulled the plug on it, said state Rep. Jon Lundberg, R-Bristol, a House Commerce Committee member.  “It took away local control, and that was very important,” Lundberg said of one reason why the bill couldn’t get the support of lawmakers.

Still, TCTA Executive Director Stacey Briggs was on the road in Northeast Tennessee recently talking to association members and getting ready for another legislative battle.  “We know AT&T plans to come back (with another bill),” she said. “They’re out meeting people. … We decided after the last session that we need to do a better job of getting out more into the state and visiting.”

… Dueling Web sites spin the positions staked out by both sides. TCTA’s is at AT&T’s is at  While AT&T and TCTA continue engaging consumers and lawmakers, Tennessee appears to be moving slowing toward closing a digital divide between technology haves and have-nots.  A first portion of a survey examining technology use among Tennessee residents found that, on average, 43 percent of Tennesseans have a broadband connection in their home. But only 19 of the state’s 95 counties currently meet or surpass that average.

The survey, done by the public-private “Connected Tennessee” partnership, suggested that rural areas of the state tend to fall dramatically short of the state average of broadband adoption, with only 27 percent of residents having a high-speed Internet connection. Rural lawmakers have compared expanding broadband availability in their areas to the impact electricity had in the last century.

A second part of the survey also showed that businesses with a high-speed connection, and selling goods or services online, have higher revenues than other businesses not using those technologies.   —>

Seattle Editor Blasts FCC Drive To End Cross-Ownership Rules
Editor & Publisher

In an open letter to Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Kevin Martin published in Sunday’s Seattle Times, Editor at Large Michael R. Fancher argued that the elimination of rules against same-market common ownership of newspaper and broadcast would have “catastrophic consequences” for journalism and democracy itself.  The letter follows the FCC’s final public hearing on ownership rules that took place in Seattle on Friday. According to published reports, a large majority of the speakers and audience opposed lifting the 1975 cross-ownership ban.

“What surprises me is how clearly the people get it,” Fancher wrote. “On the left and on the right, they know that bigger media aren’t in their best interest. That’s what people from all walks of life told you Friday night.”    Fancher’s boss, Seattle Times Co. Chairman Frank Blethen has been an outspoken — and rare — newspaper publisher who opposes lifting the restrictions.   —>

People understand threat of big media; so should FCC chairman
by Michael R. Fancher, editor at large
The Seattle Times (WA)

An open letter to Kevin Martin, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission:

I hadn’t planned to write about the FCC hearing in Seattle on Friday night, but something you said surprised and troubled me. Your comment was in response to remarks about my boss, Frank Blethen, publisher of The Seattle Times. Frank’s name was invoked by two of your fellow commissioners and several other speakers who oppose your desire to relax restrictions on how many media outlets a single company can own in a market.

“Frank Blethen — what can I say — he’s got the public interest in his bones and no one — and I mean no one — has done more than Frank to spread the word and to right the wrongs inflicted by the media consolidation frenzy of the past decade,” said Commissioner Michael Copps.

Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein invoked Frank’s name to rouse the crowd, almost all of whom want more regulation of big media, not less. “For those who say media ownership does not matter, I say look at one man from Seattle: Frank Blethen …  “If we let local voices like Frank Blethen’s get bought up by voracious media giants looking to swallow up even more local outlets, voices like his will be snuffed out forever.”  Then he really got the 800 or more people going.   —>

FCC is of two minds on limits
Regulations would free big media, rein in cable
by William Triplett

The Federal Communications Commission is set to loosen some restrictions on Big Media while apparently planning to rein in one big medium — the multibillion-dollar cable television industry.  Congress hopes to stop the first move as cablers are protesting the second, but it’s too soon to tell who will prevail.

FCC chairman Kevin J. Martin said recently he would like to have the commission vote by Dec. 18 on whether to loosen media ownership restrictions. But two key lawmakers, arguing that Martin is moving too quickly on the issue, announced late last week they would introduce legislation to delay that vote.  Over the weekend, the New York Times reported Martin is preparing to issue regulations on cable TV, which Congress largely deregulated in 1996.   —>

Regulator to challenge US cable TV sector
Overview: Risk aversion hits markets
by Stephanie Kirchgaessner
Financial Times

The US cable television industry is set to come under unprecedented pressure in Washington after the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, who has been a relentless critic of the sector, said he wished to expand his authority over the industry.  Kevin Martin, the Republican chairman of the media and telecommunications regulator, has long sought the power to force US cable companies such as Comcast and Time Warner, to unbundle their channel offerings and offer independent programmers greater access to the cable television market.

However, in a move that represents a radical departure from the broadly deregulatory agenda of George W. Bush, US president, Mr Martin has indicated he will take advantage of a rule established in 1984 – the so-called 70-70 rule – that allows the FCC to take measures that would challenge the cable TV providers’ approach once cable is available to 70 per cent of US households and 70 per cent of those households take out a subscription.   —>

Net gains
How technology could save presidential debates
by Dan Gillmor
The Boston Globe (MA)

ON THURSDAY NIGHT, most of the Democratic presidential candidates will travel to Las Vegas for the latest in this election cycle’s “debates.” The quotes around that word are deliberate, because political debates are stuck in a world of television sound bites, after-the-fact spin, and almost blatant contempt for voters.

Mass media, the communications technology that became supreme in the 20th century, has ruined debates. The Lincoln-Douglas confrontations in 1858 and other verbal contests were once among the deepest and most revelatory of conversations. They revealed intellect and passion, and illuminated the issues of their day. Today’s mass media, reflecting a cultural short attention span, elevates shallowness.

This year’s endless series of events, with so many candidates aiming for the nominations, have been especially puerile, little more than mini-press conferences and spin sessions. Even when the questions are serious, the time limitations on answers puts a premium on regurgitating canned, semi-clever lines that entertain instead of illuminate. These things are to real debating what motel room art is to Picasso.

But technology can also help restore the debate. The Internet and digital tools – search, blogging, online video, wikis, interactive games, and virtual worlds – are made to order for serious conversations. The collision of technology with media offers an unparalleled chance to hold debates that would illuminate our problems and opportunities and give us true insight into the people who want us to elect them.   —>

Blogging to Get Poor Communities Talking
by Damaria Senne (South Africa)
Fine Art of Blogging

I recently suggested to the CEO of the Universal Service and Access Agency of South Africa (USAASA) that he start a blog for his organisation. My explanation to him was much shorter, but I decided to elaborate on this blog post why universal service agencies in developing countries need to use web technologies to expand their communications reach.

USAASA was formed through the Electronic Communications Act, so it’s a government entity. It’s responsible for making sure that people living in remote regions of the country, and those who are poor, gain access to telephones, the Internet, TV and radio.  The agency has also built over two 230 multipurpose centres and over 150 telecentres across the country, and will build more over time. Poor communities use these centres to access phones, computers and the Internet at minimal cost.

So why did I think this agency should start blogging?

1. Connecting to partners- I think a blog is a perfect way for the agency to talk to its stakeholders. The agency does send out media statements and hold press and stakeholder briefings.  But there is no guarantee that the media will pick up the story, especially because the issues raised are not necessarily breaking news.Through the blog, the agency will be able to communicate its news quickly and efficiently.

2. Enabling dialogue and learning among key players – Managers from all the multi-purpose centres and tele-centres can connect to share experiences and learn from each other through the comments section and guest blogging.

3. Raising awareness of communication technologies and their benefits – One of unique challenges South Africa faces is that there are two distinct communities – a sophisticated first world community that uses communication tools effectively, including Web 2.0 tools, and a third world community that has yet to understand the Internet and its benefits.

A blog will help the agency communicate its objectives and issues to the public more clearly, allowing them to raise their concerns. It also provides access for citizens to debate issues.

4. Understand community needs –Blog discussions don’t necessarily drive the agency’s work, because its duties are very specifically defined by law.  But they do help the agency understand the communities it serves. They also help the agency raise citizens’ awareness on technology use – something that is part of their mandate.

5. Introduce communities to Web 2.0 – We are living in an age where content consumers are also content creators in developed countries.  However, most South Africans have not yet mastered the art of using the Internet to access content, never mind Web 2.0.

The agency’s blog will also introduce the communities it serves to these technologies, so they can begin developing their own content get their voices heard.

P.S. The CEO was convinced, and the agency is currently setting up a blog on My Digital Life, which enables PC-based and mobile phone-based Internet access (South Africa has 89% mobile phone penetration).  My hope is that USAASA’s blog will get more communities talking, so South Africans’ voices are heard more loudly in the blogosphere.

Damaria Senne is a journalist, author and blogger based in SA. Read her blog about the impact of mobile phones on the way South Africans work, learn, play and communications. Read about her adventures as parent and children’s book writer here and her business articles here.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: 70-70, broadband policy, cable vs telco, cross-ownership, election programming, FCC, media ownership, PEG access TV, public access television, rural broadband, video franchising, Web 2.0

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