Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/16/07

Editorial: Open channels
The Daily Journal (IL)

It’s a staple of community life in other towns. Here we’ve always struggled with it.  We’re talking about public access programming on cable television.

In years gone past, the spoof of low-budget cable shows, “Wayne’s World” on Saturday Night Live, brought the concept to millions. Actually, until recent years, Kankakee, Bradley and Bourbonnais had public access programming. The legendary Kankakee Valley Prime Time Live brought us “Shakespearean Speakout,” “Hunting with the Alderman” and other skits. There were also tapes from the YMCA Living and Learning series, most notably the 2001 debates for mayor in all three communities.

Then, as local management moved out of town for Comcast, it just became easier to say “no” to programming, or “why bother.”    Now, the possibility exists of bringing back local access. We think that would be an immense creative plus for the community and stir local pride.  Kankakee County government is debating the issue right now. The critical decision will be to set up public access, educational access or government access.

The agreement being set up now will charge consumers 50 cents a month to fund local programming. No doubt, some people will present the 50 cents as the “bogeyman.” The reality is that five percent of your gross cable bill in the unincorporated areas will go directly to county government. Over the years, this has piled up hundreds of thousands of dollars. Keep the fifty cents in perspecitve.

The other concern is what people and agencies would do with public access. There was no abuse in the past. There’s no reason to think there will be abuse in the future.

We suggest the county convene a meeting to stimulate local agencies to create programming: The Kankakee County Convention and Visitors Bureau could film parades; the YMCA and local libraries could send in recordings of speakers; Kankakee Community College and Olivet Nazarene University could copy meaningful lectures.  In short, the county government should be doing its best to stimulate creativity.

Public access TV to add channel
North Lake Tahoe Bonanza (CA)

TRUCKEE – Coverage of Truckee-Tahoe government meetings has overwhelmed the public-access programming of the region’s cable provider broadcasts to its viewers in the Truckee-North Tahoe area.  To stay true to its mandate of providing the public its own broadcast outlet, Truckee Tahoe Community Television will add a second public-access channel to improve coverage.   —>

Wisconsin Residents Have Concerns About U-Verse
State assembly changes franchise rules and plans move forward
by KathrynV
Broadband Reports

Earlier this week, the Wisconsin State Assembly agreed to change cable franchise rules and make them statewide. This means that AT&T’s U-Verse can move forward in the state. However, many people in small cities throughout Wisconsin have expressed concerns that they aren’t going to be part of the deployment. Of greater concern to many citizens in the state is the fear that U-Verse won’t serve poorer areas even in major cities like Milwaukee. A report on the issue found that only 15 out of 240 planned U-Verse locations in the area serve families living below the poverty line. AT&T insists that it wants to get its services to as many people as possible and says its build-out does include low-income areas.   —>

FCC wrapping a big package for media conglomerates
Proposal could lessen a diversity of voices
by Joanne Ostrow
Denver Post (CO)

On the docket at the FCC this week is a rule that would allow newspapers and TV stations to buy each other, at least in larger markets.  The rule would apply to the country’s top 20 markets (including Denver, No. 18). A proviso would prevent newspapers from buying any of the top four TV or radio stations, based on audience size.  The FCC has been attempting to lift the restrictions on media consolidation for years and now is in a hurry to get it done Tuesday.   —>

Community voices stifled by an accommodating FCC
by Bill Wippel
Seattle Times (WA)

Auburn, Bremerton, Burien, Eatonville, Sumner and Renton. At one time residents of these cities could hear about their communities on their own radio station. School-lunch menus, local news, public-service announcements about local charity activities were aired daily. Even lost cats and dogs were announced on the air. No more.

Those community voices have been silenced. And it is not illegal, even though the very fabric of the community has disappeared. The stations are still on the air, but the studios have moved to Seattle or Tacoma. The owners have moved to make more money in a metro location. The local stations certainly did not gross what they do now. It is all about selling spots and not about service. Suburban towns have been disenfranchised by the moves. Even though the broadcast equipment remains near, only a radio tower and transmitter are reminders of past service. And it is repeated all across America.

Which Seattle stations have left the surrounding cities? Just listen to a station identification at the top of the hour. They must include the city of license first. You can hear the station call letters followed by “Bremerton-Seattle” or “Eatonville-Tacoma” or “Sumner-Seattle” or “Mercer Island-Seattle.” Federal law requires the city be included in their call letters, but no longer requires the lost city’s news or local coverage.

When the licenses were first granted by the Federal Communications Commission, the owners had to promise local public service. In fact, broadcast owners could have their license revoked if they did not have a certain percentage of news and public service devoted locally. And during license renewal — once every three years — they had to prove the numbers in a report. That report was several pages. The broadcaster then had to itemize the station’s service to the community. Today, all the owner does is send in a postcard. The renewals are now eight years apart.

Has it helped democracy? Certainly not!

The FCC, in deregulating radio, has allowed this to happen. And if FCC Chairman Kevin Martin gets his way, it will go even further. Seattle shouted a resounding “no” last month to his efforts to allow cross-ownership of broadcast outlets and newspapers in the same city.   —>

Journalism 2025: Mainstream media must change their ways
by David Domke and Elizabeth Blanks Hindman
Seattle Times (WA)

Journalism in the United States has a serious identity crisis. It’s not the first time this has occurred, but it might just be the last.

Over the past few decades, the news organizations that many of us read or watch have lost enormous credibility among the U.S. public. This is due to high-profile mistakes such as taking a pass on the Bush administration’s claims about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq — a journalistic debacle for which The New York Times and The Washington Post publicly apologized — and for everyday errors of emphasizing entertainment that masquerades as news. Enough Britney, Paris and O.J. already.

That’s not only our view. The Pew Research Center has tracked perceptions of the press among U.S. adults for more than two decades, asking the same questions over time. Some trends speak volumes:

• In 1985, when asked whether news organizations “get the facts straight” or are “often inaccurate,” 55 percent chose the former option and 34 percent the latter. This past July, when Pew asked this question, the responses were almost exactly reversed: 39 percent said news media get facts straight and 53 percent said they often don’t.

• In 1985, when asked whether news organizations were “moral” or “immoral” in their practices, 54 percent indicated the former, 13 percent the latter, and 33 percent said neither or that they weren’t sure. This past July, 46 percent said news media were moral while nearly a third, 32 percent, said immoral.

• In 1985, when asked whether news organizations “are pretty independent” or are “often influenced by powerful people and organizations,” 37 percent chose the former option and 53 percent the latter. That wasn’t good for the press then. It’s even worse now: In July, 69 percent said news media are often influenced by powerful actors and institutions.

• Finally, in 1985, when asked whether news organizations “protect democracy” or “hurt democracy,” 54 percent chose the former option and 23 percent the latter. In July, only 44 percent said news media protect democracy, while more than a third, 36 percent, said news media hurt democracy.

These trends (and there are more data, none of which shows improving perceptions of the press) are unsustainable for any industry that depends on public support, both philosophically and economically. In decades past, journalism as practiced by newspapers, network and local TV news, and newsmagazines might have been able to turn around these views. But today, with Internet blogs and the loud voices of cable television gaining audiences, what we know as mainstream journalism might simply fade away, seen as increasingly unnecessary.

That would be disastrous.

Let us be clear: We write as former journalists and now professors of mass communication and society. We believe deeply in the importance of news media in the American experiment in democracy. In fact, we believe that if journalism goes, democracy almost certainly goes with it. That’s why today we have grave concerns about the state of journalism — both in the United States generally and in the Northwest.

For this essay, we talked with several community leaders and activists in Washington, most but not all from west of the mountains. They differed in ethnicity, age, gender, religious and political outlook, and profession. What they shared were two beliefs: that the press is vital in democratic debate and decision-making, and that news organizations are failing, miserably, to provide the kinds of coverage that Americans need. Today, journalists (and journalism educators) can no longer fail to change their ways. Drawing upon these conversations, we offer four ways in which the press must fundamentally improve its news coverage. We might call this a model for Journalism 2025.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cross-ownership, FCC, media criticism, media ownership, municipal programming, PEG access TV, public access television, U-Verse, video franchising

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