Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/04/08

Editorial: County sells out to cable provider
St. Petersburg Times (FL)

State Rep. Trey Traviesa, R-Tampa, was the force behind a predatory law last year that enables the pay-TV industry to wring even more from its customers while giving back less in return. Local government and consumer groups opposed the legislation. The cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg are fighting the fallout in court. Hillsborough County Commissioners, though, are more interested in exploiting the law for their own self-promotion than in defending the public interest. Once again, the county distinguishes itself by siding with big business instead of average citizens.

St. Petersburg and Tampa sued Bright House Networks when the cable company pushed government television from basic service to a more expensive tier. Bright House’s move followed a change in state law last year that moved regulatory control from cities and counties to more relaxed oversight by the state. St. Petersburg and Tampa question whether federal regulations protecting public access to government programming bar moving it to a more expensive tier. Rather than join the fight, Hillsborough commissioners cut a deal Thursday. They accepted $150,000 in free advertising, equipment and other support from Bright House to boost the county’s in-house propaganda efforts, with the goal, officials said, of “increasing our customers’ perception of the value of county services.”   —>

Area city officials oppose AT&T push for video, TV service
by Hank Hayes
Kingsport Times-News (TN)

BRISTOL — Officials with Tri-Cities municipal governments expressed opposition to AT&T’s legislative push for a statewide video services franchise while handing out their 2008 policy marching orders to Northeast Tennessee lawmakers Friday.  The policy document given to lawmakers during a Bristol Motor Speedway meeting stressed that Tri-Cities governments support “a level playing field and fair competition” for cable TV and video services but said the legislation AT&T wants would give the telecommunications giant an unfair competitive advantage.   —>

Cable giant holds reins
Comcast’s shift on local access reflects the times
by Tim Skubick
Lansing State Journal (MI)

Admittedly picking on the cable TV industry is easy. What other industry can routinely tell its customers to wait at home for a month for the repair guy to show up?  Now comes the decision to hijack local access shows from the easy to find lower tiers of the cable box to the 900 range, the Siberia of cable programming. This is a violation of principle.   —>

Columbia Access Television: Is the show over?
The public access station is at a crossroads
by Emilie Rusch
Columbia Missourian

A canopy of studio lights from years gone by — still bearing the stenciled letters of the KTVI television station in St. Louis — hangs from the rafters of Studio A at the Stephens College Helis Communication Center.  This was supposed to be the home of Columbia Access Television, or CAT, which had hoped to outfit the basement studio with equipment able to withstand a constant stream of Stephens students and public access producers eager to get their work on TV for all to see.

But the studio is far from the hub of activity CAT volunteers dreamed about.  In fact, the door is usually locked. CAT instead has set up shop in the much smaller Studio B.  For three years, CAT treasurer Stephen Hudnell has cobbled together meager budgets unable to fund big-ticket studio equipment or even a single full-time employee. Operating a public access channel on $30,000 a year was a challenge, but CAT was getting by in what Hudnell called “budgeted crisis mode.”  “We’d settled into a routine, but at the same time, we (were) not growing.”

Beth Pike, a CAT volunteer and a member of the city’s Cable Task Force, said it wasn’t easy.  “The only way we did it was because we had volunteers that have been running the station, keeping the doors open,” Pike said. “No one wants to do that continuously.”

Last spring, CAT found itself in a situation beyond its budgeting control after Gov. Matt Blunt signed a new cable law that caused the city’s negotiations for a new franchise agreement with Mediacom to crumble. That agreement was supposed to have included assurances that Mediacom would provide adequate funding for CAT.

When the talks fell through, CAT took a hit. An anticipated $10,000 check from Mediacom never arrived. And with less than $600 in the bank, CAT had to go to the City Council for help. Then, in late September, days before CAT received the first half of $15,000 in bridge funding the council promised, something happened that never had happened before: CAT bounced a $100 check.  “We were literally, for the first time in all these years, completely out of money,” Hudnell said. “This is nowhere near what we expected.”

What carried CAT through three years of chronic underfunding was a federally recognized standard that’s been successfully realized in coastal and Midwestern communities alike. In today’s media world, advocates say, it’s important for everyone — the public, the schools and the government — to have access to the airwaves.  “It’s people. It’s their lives in Columbia, what they experience, what they care about, and a way to communicate that to their community,” Hudnell said. “That’s as important to me as roads and sewers and everything else.”

But now CAT has reached a tipping point: either it receives stable, adequate funding, or it goes off the air. Permanently.  CAT volunteers hope that money will come in the form of a five-year contract through which the city would funnel much of its new franchise fee revenue to the station. That contract could be up for a vote by the council as soon as Jan. 22.  “If we don’t get proper funding, we’re not going to continue the effort,” Pike said. “It’s just going to die.”   —>

Cable Panel Chairman likes current PEG operator
by Paul Tucker
The Union News (PA)

The Chairman of the Scranton Cable Consumer Advisory Panel, a organization established under the terms and conditions of the Franchise Agreement between the City of Scranton and the cable television operator, told the newspaper he thinks Scranton Today, the current operator of the Public Educational and Government (PEG) access channel’s does a wonderful job operating them.  Charlie Spano, the Chairman of the panel, established under Section 32 of the agreement, believes the recent discussion of replacing Scranton Today as the PEG channel’s operator has more to do with control of the content of information than wanting to improve the programming.

“There no doubt in my mind. Some programming, especially the council meetings, have caused discomfort for some and they want it stopped,” said Mr. Spano.  He compared the live and taped broadcasts of government meetings by Scranton Today as the same as C-Span television. “Government is not always pretty. But people have the right to see it, warts and all,” added Mr. Spano.   —>

City to hold hearings for cable watchers
by Frank Lombardi
New York Daily News

The city is giving cable television viewers a rare opportunity to make some static about the service they get from providers.  Viewers will be able to sound off in person at a series of public hearings in coming weeks being held by the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications.  The pulse-taking of cable viewers is a prelude to DoITT’s renegotiation of its nine outstanding cable television franchises, which all expire this fall, some on Sept. 16 and the others Oct. 8. They are up for a 10-year renewals.

Seven of the franchises are controlled by Time Warner Cable. They service a combined 1.1 million subscribers in Manhattan, Staten Island, Queens and part of Brooklyn. The other two franchises are controlled by Cablevision, with 600,000 subscribers in the Bronx and a part of Brooklyn.   —>

City access TV programming mainstay in line for ‘facelift’
by Cindy Barks
Daily Courier (AZ)

PRESCOTT – A format change is in the works for the “Prescott Today” show, the mainstay of the City of Prescott’s offerings on the local public access television station.  For more than 10 years, the local “Today” show has showcased members of the Prescott City Council interviewing various community officials and residents on a range of topics.  The half-hour show regularly airs on Access 13, the local public access channel.

Beginning early this year, “Prescott Today” will undergo changes that will involve not only its presentation, but the filming location as well.  “The ‘Prescott Today’ show needs a facelift,” said Kim Kapin, marketing coordinator for the city. Rather than the strict interview segment, he envisions using a “news wheel,” involving a more fast-paced format that combines a number of features.  Kapin, who took on the marketing job with the city just over a year ago, has years of experience in television as a writer and producer. Prior to moving to Prescott, he worked in Los Angeles for the E! Entertainment network and the Dick Clark Company.   —>

China clamps down on Internet
Sunday Times

Beijing – China has announced tough new rules to crack down on the explosion of audio-visual content on the Internet, reiterating that sex and politically sensitive material will not be tolerated.  Only state-controlled entities will have the right to operate websites that post audio-visual content, according to the rules, placing into doubt whether Chinese will have access to foreign video sharing sites such as YouTube.  It was not immediately clear how the new rules will foreign-based Internet video sharing sites, such as YouTube, or Western companies already operating in China, such as Yahoo and Google.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable franchising, cable vs telco, channel slamming, government access, internet censorship, municipal programming, PEG access TV, public access television, video franchising

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