Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/26/07

Public access TV to be a tough find
Comcast taking it digital, into 900s
by Christy Arboscello and Emilia Askari
Detroit Free Press (MI)

Don Thomas of Bloomfield Township is like a lot of cable viewers. When a familiar face or a local place on television catches his attention, he stops to watch — and chances are it’s the public access station.  Starting Jan. 15, it’s unlikely he will happen upon the local stations simply by flipping through channels on the low end of the dial.

On Comcast, hundreds of local access cable stations that broadcast municipal meetings, school concerts and sports, parades and other community events are moving to channels in the 900s. It’s unclear what programming will be shown on the lower channels, but Comcast said the local access move is driven by customers’ desire for digital service. Local access shows are to be broadcast digitally.

All 1.3 million Comcast subscribers in Michigan are to be affected. And many metro Detroit community leaders and residents, like Thomas, are unhappy about the change.  “I’m not flipping through hundreds of channels,” Thomas said Wednesday. “They might as well close down the whole operation. … I’m going to be less well informed.”   —>

Comcast changes concern local officials
by Julia Zaher
The Grand Blanc News (MI)

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Concern about Comcast’s decision to close its public access television studio in Flint and move public access programming to the 900 channel spectrum has program producers, residents and local officials concerned.  “Genesee County has lost too much already,” Ernestine Tune of E.M. Tune Productions told the Grand Blanc Township board at its Dec. 13 meeting.

Tune volunteers to videotape the township board meetings, which have been shown on public access Channel 17. She asked the board to take action to save the channel from being relocated to the 900s.  Channel 17 volunteer Scott DeMaria of Swartz Creek echoed that request. Comcast closed its Flint public access production studio this month cutting off access to both the studio and equipment many long-time public access producers have used.  “We need your help to save community access,” DeMaria told the board.   —>

Students produce cable program
The Daily News Journal (TN)

MTSU students enrolled in an entry-level journalism class recently wrote, videotaped and produced the entire January edition of Middle Tennessee Record, a 30-minute cable-TV program about the people, places and events of this region.  The completion of the January program, which is broadcast throughout the month on local cable channels, including at 5 p.m. daily on Murfreesboro’s cable Channel 9 and at 1:30 p.m. Sundays on News5+ in Nashville, marks the first time that MTR has been an entirely student-created production.

John Lynch, the show’s creator and producer said, “This project was beneficial in a number of ways. First of all, the students brought a fresh perspective to the stories. Second, it gave them a chance to get involved in a hands-on project in which they had to meet several critical deadlines, and it was inspiring for us to work closely with students and see our video production process through fresh eyes. This really was a student-centered project.”

The 18 students who created the broadcast were enrolled in a fall 2007 course taught by Lisa L. Rollins, adjunct professor in the School of Journalism and director of special media projects for the Office of News and Public Affairs at MTSU. Rollins divided the class into six broadcast teams of three students, and each team created its own segment for the January program.   —>

Council tables public-access proposal
by Lewis Delavan
Saline County Voice (AR)

A proposal to return public-access television station Channel 12 to city control was tabled by Benton City Council recently.  In 2005, the council gave administrative control of Channel 12 to the Benton Community Access Association for one year.  Alderman Doug Stracener, who sponsored the ordinance, said Benton needs to set standards and operate Channel 12.   —>

Forum to discuss public art
by Gordon Weixel
Bismarck Tribune (ND)

A Jan. 24 Public Art Forum likely will be more than just a discussion about Bismarck Parks and Recreation District properties and consider public art in the Capital City overall.  This is what district director Steve Neu told the Bismarck Park Board at its meeting last week as he outlined the upcoming forum, which was requested by the board.  The forum will be held in the City/County Building’s Tom Baker room, where it will be broadcast by local Cable Access Television from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Hopes are that a public art policy for the district’s properties will come out of the forum.   —>

Cross-ownership and new media
by Dan Kennedy
Media Nation

Ten years from now — maybe a little sooner, maybe a little later — we’ll receive what we currently refer to as “television” through a thick Internet cable. As with today’s Internet, we will theoretically have an infinite number of choices. Rupert Murdoch (and, yes, I am convinced the man is going to live forever) may own nine of the 10 most-viewed video sites. But anyone will be free to start his or her own video operation, whether it’s the major metropolitan news site in your region (we may still be calling them “newspapers,” but strictly for nostalgia purposes) or the sort of community-minded folks who today volunteer at local-access cable television outlets.

As long as we can preserve net neutrality, such a mediascape is almost certain to come into being. And, at that point, there will no longer be a rationale for regulating the media. For some 80 years now, the FCC has regulated the content and ownership of over-the-air television and radio stations because of a very simple principle of physics: there is only so much broadcast spectrum available, and therefore it makes some sense to make sure that spectrum is used in the public interest.

Since the Reagan years, though, the FCC, with an occasional assist from Congress, has been moving away from its regulatory mission. The Fairness Doctrine and the equal-time provisions no longer exist, and corporations are allowed to own many more properties, both locally and nationally. Most famously, this led to the situation in Minot, N.D., a few years ago, when a train accident led to a deadly outbreak of poisonous gas — and there was no one at the local Clear Channel station to get the word out. (I should note that the story is at least partly apocryphal.)

Last week FCC chairman Kevin Martin led an effort to loosen ownership rules still further, allowing one company to own both a newspaper and a television station in the same city, an arrangement known in the trade as “cross-ownership.” The reaction to this has been remarkably low-key. Maybe it’s because Martin’s proposal is cautious and complicated: it would only apply to the 20 largest cities in the country, and it would pertain only to one of the smaller TV stations in a given market. Maybe it’s because he simultaneously proposed new limits on cable companies. Or maybe it’s because the news business is in such a diminished state that critics are accepting of, or at least apathetic toward, what they once would have railed against. I might fall into this category; and I find myself half-agreeing with Martin that allowing television and newspaper operations to combine might result in more and better journalism.

To be sure, some are vehemently opposed to this. Media-reform advocate Robert McChesney’s group, Free Press, is unleashing a campaign to overturn the loosening of the cross-ownership ban. A group of journalism-school deans, represented locally by Alex Jones, director of the Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy, at Harvard’s Kennedy School, wrote an op-ed piece for the New York Times arguing that “we do not believe that the market can be absolutely trusted to provide the local news gathering that the American system needs to function at its best.”

New-media cheerleader Jeff Jarvis wrote a post for his Buzz Machine blog claiming that the j-school folks just don’t get it. Now, I agree with Jarvis in part. I don’t like either Martin’s or the deans’ suggestion that the news content of broadcast operations should somehow be monitored and regulated. I do not lament the demise of the Fairness Doctrine or of equal time, and would prefer that the FCC limit itself to breaking up monopoly ownership. By ensuring local, diverse ownership, you don’t need to regulate content.

But Jarvis bases his argument on the belief that local television news is essentially worthless, which simply isn’t true. Yes, it could be infinitely better. But, certainly on breaking news, local newscasts keep newspapers on their toes. Let a media company that already owns a newspaper in a given city to add a TV station to its holdings, and you might have better, deeper journalism in both the paper and on television. Or you might just get more cost-cutting.   —>

TV group sees dark time if white space opened up
by Jon Van
Chicago Tribune

When a Dallas TV station started transmitting digital signals a decade ago, five dozen wireless heart monitors at Baylor University quit working.  Baylor got different monitors, and no patients were harmed, but it’s a story that Dennis Wharton, executive vice president of the National Association of Broadcasters, still tells to argue against allowing electronic devices to operate on vacant TV channels.  “That was an unforeseen circumstance,” Wharton said. “It shows how predictions of the way things will work don’t always come true in the real world.”

The nation’s TV broadcasters are fighting Google, Microsoft and other high-tech firms that want to use vacant TV channels to carry high-speed data for a new generation of gadgets. Called “white space,” over-the-air channels like 6 and 8 in Chicago are left vacant to prevent signals broadcast on Channels 5, 7 and 9 from interfering with one another.

But new digital technology and smart radios that sense whether broadcast channels are being used should enable low-power devices to use vacant channels without hurting TV reception, Internet-oriented executives argue.  Utilizing white-space channels will provide consumers with more affordable ways to access the Internet and encourage innovators to make nifty new wireless gizmos, said Brian Peters, director of government relations for the Information Technology Industry Council. This would be especially useful in rural areas where high-speed Internet connections are scarce and vacant TV channels plentiful, he said.   —>,1,1712266.story?ctrack=2&cset=true

Community Project: Roundtable on Social Media Measurement
by Joseph Thornley
Pro PR

How do we measure the value of social media to an organization? What should we be measuring? What are the metrics that accurately capture the things we want to measure?

Over the past year, people like Jeremiah Owyang, Kami Huyse, Scott Karp, Christopher Carfi, Mike Manuel, the Research Fellows at the Society for New Communications Research, John Bell, Flemming Madsen, Geoff Livingston, Katie Paine, David Brain, Brendan Cooper, Brian Solis and Jeff Jarvis have made valuable contributions to our emerging understanding of social media measurement and metrics.

The online discussion is great. But sometimes, it’s even better to sit down face to face and talk things through.  This is what I’d like to do. Let’s bring together a group of experts for a roundtable discussion of social media measurement and metrics.   —>

POLITICS-KENYA:  NGOs Bolster Women Candidates’ Media and Voter Savvy
by Kwamboka Oyaro
Inter-Press service

A number of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) have come to the assistance of female candidates ahead of Kenya’s general elections, scheduled for Thursday, in the hope of giving them a fair shot at the polls — this in a country where lack of funds, resistance to women in leadership positions and various other factors tend to undermine women’s electoral performance.

Just 18 of the 222 legislators in the country’s last parliament were women, and only nine of these won their seats: the others were nominated to parliament. This put Kenya in an unfavourable light with regard to its neighbours in East Africa. Against the 8.1 percent of seats that were held by women in Kenya, 30.4 percent of seats in Tanzania and 29.8 percent of seats in Uganda are in female hands.

The NGOs include the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), which has itself received support from the Gender and Governance Programme in Kenya: an initiative funded by the United Nations Development Fund for Women and other donors that aims — in part — to strengthen women’s leadership at community and national level.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable franchising, cable vs telco, channel slamming, cross-ownership, educational access, FCC, localism, media ownership, municipal programming, PEG access TV, public access television, social media, video franchising, white space, white spaces

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