Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/25/08

Comcast fight joins federal case (MI)
by Deanna Rose

A Macomb County court case against Comcast has been combined with a federal lawsuit, with several communities attempting to permanently halt the cable company’s movement of local access channels to higher-numbered digital channels.  Macomb County Circuit Judge David Viviano, in response to a lawsuit filed by the city of Warren, granted a motion for a temporary restraining order Jan. 14 that prohibited Comcast from relocating public, educational and government, or PEG, channels. The move, slated to occur Jan. 15, was to place PEG programming on digital channels in the 900s.

A hearing for a preliminary injunction on whether or not to make Viviano’s decision permanent was scheduled to take place Jan. 22, but the case has since been moved to the U.S. District Court in Detroit and combined with another case citing similar issues.

U.S. District Judge Victoria A. Roberts, of the Eastern District of Michigan, issued the same action Jan. 14 as Viviano did. The federal decision was made on behalf of a motion filed Jan. 11 by Meridian Township and Dearborn against Comcast, which stated the move would no longer keep PEG channels on the lowest service plan, limiting access to senior citizens and low-income subscribers. With the channel switch, non-digital customers would have to purchase a converter box to watch PEG programming after Comcast’s promotional offer of a free converter box expired after one year.   —>

Court won’t block bids for cable TV PEG contract
Maui News (HI)

WAILUKU – Second Circuit Judge Joel August said Thursday that the state could continue with a competitive procurement process for public-access television services.  Akaku: Maui Community Television, which holds the Maui contract for public-access TV, had asked August to stop the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs from using a competitive bidding process, saying it was illegal and inappropriate given the station’s role in protecting free speech.

But August said that while he wasn’t sure the state is required to use competitive procurement, it has “wide discretion” in awarding the contracts. “They’re free to use any reasonable form of designation they wish to,” he said.

State law requires cable TV companies to provide money and channels for public, education and government access on cable. The DCCA has contracted with nonprofit organizations like Akaku to manage the public-access services.  After years of awarding no-bid contracts to Akaku and three sister operations in other counties, the DCCA was told by procurement officials the contracts had to be awarded in a competitive process.

The agency issued requests for proposals in 2006. But the procurement notice has been on hold while the state addresses protests filed by Akaku and the Oahu operator, Olelo, and while the DCCA writes rules for the procurement process.  The department is currently seeking approval to hold a public hearing on the draft rules.  The state Procurement Office last month granted an extension of the current contracts to July 15 while the DCCA completes the rules and renews its request-for-proposals.

August said Thursday he was “rather pleased” the state had listened to his recommendation that it create procurement rules.  He suggested that in addition to other factors, the DCCA make a “commitment in writing” to looking at preservation of free speech as one of its selection criteria for the contracts.   —>

Raymond’s RCTV paves the way for public access excellence
by Sean Bourbeau
Rockingham News (NH)

People that were trapped in their homes during the floods last year had power and cable TV, but they didn’t have land-line phone service and cell phone service was spotty at best.  Sure, there were images on the floods on Channel 7 and Channel 9, but they weren’t able to give people the type of information they needed if they wanted to venture out of their house.

That’s where Channel 22 stepped in, also known as Raymond Community Television (RCTV), providing roads that were open and closed throughout Raymond.  Marc Vadeboncoeur, member of the cable committee, went out to various roads and checked with the police and fire chiefs to find out information regarding road closings, safety measures, and other flood related coverage.

They were then able to post this information on Channel 22, giving people who had little or no information a wealth of it.  Their flood coverage is one example of how far RCTV has come in a decade since it started.  Vadeboncoeur said this coverage made the channel relevant.  “That was probably one of the best uses of local access,” he said. “The town (viewed) Channel 22 as a viable resource for them to get information out when needed.”   —>

Letter: City public TV channel needs some attention
by Bernie del Llano (4 comments)
Nashua Telegraph (NH)

As I began typing this letter, it has become more to create awareness and relay concerns about our public, education and government channels here in Nashua.  Well, first of all, we do not have a public channel. We live in one of the biggest cities in New Hampshire, and we do not have a public channel. We are too big of a city not to have one.

I have done many “public” shows for Lowell, Revere and Malden, Mass., as well as in our own state. I co-hosted a flood-relief telethon for Merrimack, and now every Monday morning I co-host a live talk show in Manchester for MCAM on Channel 23.  But as a resident of Nashua, I cannot have a public access show in my “hometown” because there isn’t a public access channel to begin with.  Cable television advisory board, what is the status of the public channel? Do you need help with this? —>

City’s special session to focus on Suddenlink franchise agreement
Enid News (OK)

Enid City Commission will meet in special session 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for a public hearing on Suddenlink Communications and extension of its franchise agreement with the city.  During the hearing, commissioners will review Suddenlink’s compliance with its existing license, review results of a satisfaction survey and identify future cable-related community needs and interests.   —>

‘Humble Farmer’ makes TV return
by Ray Routhier (1 comment)
Kennebec Journal (ME)

Seven months after he lost his public radio show because he wouldn’t agree to restrictions on what he could say on the air, the man known as “The Humble Farmer” is bringing his humor and commentary back to Mainers via public access television.  Robert Skoglund sent new versions of “The Humble Farmer” on DVD to public and community access TV stations around the state this month, hoping to get them on. In an e-mail to fans, Skoglund wrote that 28 stations have agreed to show the program or consider it. Skoglund declined to comment on his TV efforts for this story.

Stations that have scheduled “The Humble Farmer” include Harpswell Community Television, South Portland Community Television and Saco River Community Television, which appears in Buxton, Hollis, Limerick, Limington, Standish and Waterboro.

Skoglund had done his weekly show on the radio stations of the Maine Public Broadcasting Network for 28 years before he was dismissed in June. MPBN officials said Skoglund had refused to sign a letter indicating he would follow commentary guidelines that apply to the network’s non-news staff.   —>

Bismarck public art policy discussed
by Gordon Weixel (7 comments)
Bismarck Tribune (ND)

Questions from the community were as wide-ranging and diverse as the subject matter itself during the course of Thursday evening’s Public Arts Forum sponsored by the Bismarck Parks and Recreation District.  Originally intended as a four-person panel with a moderator, an unexpected fifth panelist appeared in the form of park district director Steve Neu, who found many of the questions directed his way. Other panelists included Bismarck State College instructor and artist Michelle Lindblom; local art dealer Ondine Baird; public art consultant Jack Becker; and Doug Kane, who started the process by questioning the park district’s policy on public art display…

…Neu said there will be further discussion with the community and that the information will be brought to the park board for their consideration. The forum was broadcast live on Community Access Television and will be repeated several times.   —>

FAQ: Inside the High-Stakes 700-MHz Spectrum Auction
by Bryan Gardiner

The FCC’s 700-MHz-spectrum auction officially began on January 24 and stands to be one of the most significant airwave auctions in U.S. history, potentially affecting everything from the cost of your wireless service to the competitive landscape among U.S. mobile providers for years to come.  With 214 qualified bidders expected to compete for various 700-MHz band licenses — including Verizon, AT&T and Google — some industry insiders say the government could rake in as much $30 billion in the auction. That money will be used to help transition to all digital TV signals by 2009.

Although bidding gets underway on Jan. 24, 2008, the public won’t know who the winners and losers are until the auction officially concludes. Per FCC rules, the entire bidding process for Auction 73 will be anonymous, and the government agency has warned participants not to disclose anything about the auction (or their bids) until after it’s over. That said, interested parties can track the auction’s progress by visiting the FCC’s auction homepage.

Over the next week, industry insiders will be watching Google in particular. If the company does win the highly coveted “C Block” of spectrum, the portion that has been deemed “open to any devices and services,” the resulting network could usher in much-needed innovation, improve services, and even a “third broadband pipe” (after DSL and cable) into the home — one that wouldn’t be controlled by any one company.

The “C Block” carriers a minimum bidding price of $4.6 billion, and the general consensus is that if Google does win this portion of spectrum, the company will have someone else build the network. Total build-out costs could be as high as $15 billion, according to industry analysts.  Of course, there are already enough loopholes attached to the “C Block” to render all of the open access stipulations obsolete if the FCC doesn’t get its asking price for the spectrum. Unquestionably, there’s a lot at stake.  Here’s a FAQ on how the FCC’s 700-MHz auction will work — and why you should be interested in its outcome.   —>

[  In the last few months I’ve been keeping an eye out for the term ‘ communitarian.’   That word comes freighted with tons of baggage, but yesterday this interesting reflection turned up – not unrelated to access television’s practices and effects.  – rm ]

The new commonwealth
by Deric Bownds (4 comments)
Deric Bownds’ Mindblog (WI)

Some interesting comments by Kevin Kelly on possible political consequences of the Wikipedia phenomenon, excerpted from his brief essay. He changed his initial assumption that an encyclopedia editable by anyone would be an impossibility. This commentary has a rather different spirit than yesterday’s post on the internet phenomenon.

“It has always been clear that collectives amplify power — that is what cities and civilizations are — but what’s been the big surprise for me is how minimal the tools and oversight are needed. The bureaucracy of Wikipedia is relatively so small as to be invisible. It’s the Wiki’s embedded code-based governance, versus manager-based governance that is the real news. Yet the greatest surprise brought by the Wikipedia is that we still don’t know how far this power can go. We haven’t seen the limits of wiki-ized intelligence. Can it make textbooks, music and movies? What about law and political governance?

“The reality of a working Wikipedia has made a type of communitarian socialism not only thinkable, but desirable. Along with other tools such as open-source software and open-source everything, this communtarian bias runs deep in the online world…In other words it runs deep in this young next generation. It may take several decades for this shifting world perspective to show its full colors. When you grow up knowing rather than admitting that such a thing as the Wikipedia works; when it is obvious to you that open source software is better; when you are certain that sharing your photos and other data yields more than safeguarding them — then these assumptions will become a platform for a yet more radical embrace of the commonwealth. I hate to say it but there is a new type of communism or socialism loose in the world, although neither of these outdated and tinged terms can accurately capture what is new about it.

“The Wikipedia has changed my mind, a fairly steady individualist, and lead me toward this new social sphere. I am now much more interested in both the new power of the collective, and the new obligations stemming from individuals toward the collective. In addition to expanding civil rights, I want to expand civil duties. I am convinced that the full impact of the Wikipedia is still subterranean, and that its mind-changing power is working subconsciously on the global millennial generation, providing them with an existence proof of a beneficial hive mind, and an appreciation for believing in the impossible.”

[ Kevin Kelly is Editor-At-Large for Wired, and author of “New Rules for the New Economy.”  There’s more of his essay at Edge’s World Question Center website.  Interesting place – the question for 2008 is “What Have You Changed Your Mind About?” – rm ]

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable franchising, cable vs telco, channel slamming, communitarian, Emergency communications, FCC, open source software, oss, participatory culture, PEG access TV, public access television, social media, spectrum auction, user-generated content, video franchising

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