Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/07/07

AT&T Misleads Tennessee Citizens on Statewide Video Franchising Bill
Nashville Post (TN)

AT&T has been disseminating inaccurate information about an upcoming statewide video franchising bill in Tennessee, including statements that the bill had been amended to fix its flaws. —>


AT&T, Cable Engage In Tennessee Franchising Tussle
TCTA Leader Briggs Fires Back At State Telco Leader Morton Over Reform Issues
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

Verbal sparring is already heating up in Tennessee over state franchising, even though the legislature won’t return to the issue until January. AT&T Inc.’s Tennessee state president Gregg Morton has been making the rounds of editorial boards and delivering public speeches, such as the one at David Lipscomb University in Nashville Dec. 4. The executive touted franchising reform and made statements now being challenged by incumbent operators. According to published reports, Morton told the college crowd that incumbent providers had created impediments to advocacy advertising by AT&T and its affinity groups.

But Stacey Briggs, the executive director of the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association, said she investigated the allegation and states the charge is “simply untrue.” She detailed her objections in a letter to Morton, which she also distributed to the media… Briggs also challenged statements made by Morton that city-by-city franchising takes 13 months. AT&T has been invited by some Tennessee communities to deploy competitive cable services and those municipalities have promised expedited franchise negotiations, Briggs said, but AT&T has not filed for local franchises in the state, investing its capital instead in a statewide solution. —>

Comcast pushes public access into digital tier
by Chris Knape
The Grand Rapids Press (MI)

GRAND RAPIDS — Some Comcast subscribers may be seeing black next month when a handful of their channels move out of their regular lineup. On Jan. 15, the Grand Rapids area’s largest cable provider will shuttle its public access, education and government broadcasts from analog cable channels 24-28 to its digital system somewhere around channel 900.

It’s a move akin to sending these locally produced channels to “Siberia,” potentially eliminating thousands of viewers, one local media producer said. Most TVs will require a digital cable converter box to receive the channels because they lack built-in tuners capable of converting the digital signal into a picture. Comcast is offering one free converter box per household for the first 12 months to help with the transition. Additional boxes will cost $4.20 per month.

The affected channels in the city of Grand Rapids include GRTV, Livewire, the Grand Rapids Information Network and channels dedicated to K-12 education and higher education. The move took Grand Rapids’ cable administrator and the executive director of the Community Media Center, which produces programming for the channels, by surprise. “I think it’s unconscionable,” said Laurie Cirivello, executive director of the Community Media Center. “It’s a sad situation, and the process that has occurred to inform us and to handle the transition has been done very poorly from Comcast.” Cirivello said the move essentially sends the broadcasts to channel “Siberia.”

The move was made without consulting local officials, she said. Grand Rapids Cable Administrator Jon Koeze said it’s an example of the impact of the recent deregulation of the state’s cable industry. Michigan’s 2006 cable TV deregulation bill essentially stripped the ability of local governments to enforce franchise agreements that typically required cable operators to carry certain channels on their analog — or lowest-cost — tiers. —>

Comcast public channels go digital
by Dave Alexander
Muskegon Chronicle (MI)

Just like George Jefferson of 1970s sitcom fame, Muskegon area public access television channels “are movin’ on up.” But unlike Jefferson, channel operators aren’t smiling all the way to their new “deluxe apartment.” Comcast Cable Communications surprised public access television operators and its own customers by announcing it will move four channels from the analog basic service lineup to higher channels in the digital cable system. Cable customers will need to rent a digital converter box to see the channels. The change is slated for Jan. 15.

It’s a move akin to sending these locally produced channels to “Siberia,” potentially eliminating hundreds of viewers, one West Michigan media producer said. “It’s going to hurt us,” said David Mooney, director of MCC’s television operations. “We are worried that a number of our viewers are not going to go and get a digital converter box. We worry that we will be losing a chunk of our audience.” The move will mean basic customers will have to obtain a digital cable converter box from Comcast to continue viewing the local government, education and religious channels. —>

Council mulls increasing tax on cable service
by Brian Hudson
Wheaton Leader (IL)

Wheaton residents might see an increase on their cable bill if the City Council tries to levy a 1 percent tax on the revenue collected by the city’s cable service providers. The council approved the tax on Monday, Dec. 3, but it’s not clear yet if the city will enforce it. In response to the tax, Comcast and any other cable service provider likely would pass the charge on to customers in the form of a 1 percent rate hike, city leaders said.

Funds recouped from the tax, known as a Public, Education and Governmental Access Support Fee, must go to cable access television. The money ideally would be used to offset the costs of the recent renovation of Wheaton Channel 10’s facilities and equipment.

Whether the city can collect the charge is still up in the air, and Comcast could challenge it in court. Typically, PEG fees have been negotiated in contracts, rather than imposed by a town’s ordinance. Thus far, only a few Illinois municipalities have passed such a measure, said Wheaton city attorney Jim Knippen. “This could lead to litigation if we were the first people to stick our necks in and enforce it,” Councilman Howard Levine said during a council meeting a last month, when the PEG fee was first discussed. Council members had said that even if they ultimately decide not to enforce the tax at this time, it would still be good to put it on the books. If they don’t approve the PEG fee now, they won’t be able to reconsider it for five years. —>

A new home for local cable access
by Gillian Swart
Newburyport Current (MA)

Residents will soon able to learn about video production firsthand through classes at the Newburyport Community Media Center. The Center is getting closer to opening a studio on Graf Road but in the meantime is still operating out of City Hall. It will probably be up and running by the end of February, says the media center’s Executive Director Keri Stokstad.

When operational, the center will have classes for the community at what Stokstad calls “cost efficient as possible” rates. “Members of the community will be able to produce and edit programs and air them on Channel 9,” she says. The Media Center will have video cameras available for check out.

Comcast Channel 9 will continue to broadcast the usual school lunches and not-for-profit announcements while Channel 10 will feature the public, education and government (PEG) programming like the School Committee and City Council meetings. Stokstad is talking about a student video club.

Possibly the most excited by this opportunity is the School Committee, which has been looking for ways to more efficiently communicate with the non-parent community. “We should really have an excellent programming vehicle,” Mayor John Moak, who chairs the board, said on Monday. “I think it’s going to be really good community access TV programming.” —>

The Two Sides of Plastic Surgery
Massachusetts Medical Society

Plastic surgeons performed more than 10 million cosmetic procedures and nearly 5.5 million reconstructive procedures in 2005. Cosmetic procedures jumped 11 percent from the previous year, prompting The American Society of Plastic Surgeons to note that “cosmetic surgery is the new take on ‘growing old gracefully’.” What should patients know about such procedures? How dangerous are they? How are they different from reconstructive procedures? And with the successful completion in France of the world’s first face transplant, how far can medicine go in recreating parts of the human body?… Co-produced with Hopkinton Community Access Television, HCAM-TV, Hopkinton Mass. Listen to the podcast (Length 13:28)

What Do the Moguls Want from the FCC?
by Kate Purdy
United Hollywood

The short answer: more power. The longer answer: a ruling that would allow them to own all the media outlets in a city. Currently, they can’t own the newspaper, the TV stations, and the radio stations all in one town. That makes life complicated for them – they just can’t… own everything. Which must be quite frustrating. —>

Media, judiciary emerged as vibrant forces to contain corruption: Sethi
Daily Times (Pakistan)

LAHORE: Free media and independent judiciary have emerged as the most powerful and vibrant forces in a long struggle against widespread corruption prevalent across the country, said Editor-in-Chief of Daily Times Najam Sethi on Thursday. Addressing a seminar on ‘Eradication of corruption in Pakistan’ organised by the National Accountability Bureau (NAB) on the eve of the International Day of Anti-Corruption, he said media had played an important role to tackle the rampant corruption in Pakistan. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable vs telco, FCC, media ownership, municipal programming, PEG access TV, public access television, video franchising

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