Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/29/08

Public access TV channel may vanish without funding
by Greg Chandler
The Grand Rapids Press (MI)

HOLLAND — Viewers of the public-access channel MacTV outside the Holland city limits could lose coverage later this year unless their local governments step in to assist with funding.  City officials may pull the plug on an interconnect agreement with neighboring municipalities if they are unwilling to contribute to funding for MacTV.  That could take effect July 1, when the new fiscal year starts, officials said Monday.   —>

Cherry Hill public meetings long overdue for T.V. debut
Courier Post (NJ)

Cherry Hill school and municipal officials should wrap up negotiations to share cable channel.  Cherry Hill municipal officials have finally caught up with the 21st century, where residents expect the kind of transparency in government that can be delivered by the unblinking eye of a video camera.  Perhaps coming soon to Cherry Hill’s cable access Channel 19 will be live airings of township meetings — if the township can work out the financial details with the school district.

Although the township has had a cable-access channel for 26 years, it turned over operations to the school district. The district has run the channel with no financial assistance from the township. School board officials appear willing to share the channel, but only if the township also shares the costs. It sounds like a reasonable proposal. We urge township and district officials to move quickly to work out an agreement.

After 163 years, it is time for the township to try new forums for its meetings — something many residents have long requested. It appears Cherry Hill Mayor Bernie Platt and other township officials finally got the message.  Said Platt: “I believe people who work late or cannot make it to town hall for public meetings should not be blacked out of the process.”   —>

Verizon called before board
by Patrick Anderson
Daily News Transcript (MA)

DEDHAM –  Frustrated that as many as half of the town’s cable subscribers do not receive public access programming, selectmen are searching for ways to put pressure on telecommunications giant Verizon to connect to Dedham Public Television.  Last May the town took responsibility for providing cable access programming away from cable company Comcast and handed it over to the independent, non-profit group that created Dedham Public Television.  The new station, which broadcasts three local channels, began programming in September, when its new Eastern Avenue studio was connected to Comcast’s system.

At the time, town officials expected Verizon and the town’s third cable provider, RCN, to follow suit and hook up their subscribers to Dedham Public Television. Each company’s license agreement requires it to provide community programming.  But over four months later Comcast customers are still the only ones in the town who can access all three community cable channels.

Selectman Marie-Louise Kehoe, who has spearheaded negotiations with all three cable companies for the town, yesterday said she has convinced Verizon executives to appear before the board in February to explain the cause of the connection delay.  She said in addition to demanding a firm time commitment from Verizon for connecting to Dedham Public Television, she would ask the company to reimburse local subscribers for the time they have been without the local channels.   —>

More TV Choice and Competition Near for Residents of Norfolk, Mass.
Town Approves Video License for Verizon; 2,700 More Households Soon Can Get FiOS TV
PR Newswire

Residents of Norfolk are a major step closer to having another choice for their cable television services, thanks to a newly approved agreement authorizing Verizon to offer its FiOS TV service via the most advanced all-digital, fiber-optic network straight to customers’ homes.  The Board of Selectmen in Norfolk granted a cable franchise to Verizon Monday (Jan. 28), paving the way for video choice for approximately 2,700 more Massachusetts households…

…The Norfolk franchise agreement contains provisions for the network’s future growth; financial support and capacity for educational and government access channels; cable service to government buildings; and other important benefits to the town, including insurance, indemnification and enforcement protections.   —>

Council discusses appropriations
by Ed Gebert
Times Bulletin (OH)

… Corcoran related to council that he and Ehmer had met earlier in the day with Pat McCauley of Time Warner Cable to discuss the current situation with the city’s cable franchise agreement which runs through 2011. “We discussed three areas of concern,” noted Corcoran. “I think we agreed in principal on all three. We disagreed on the specifics of a couple of them. As we left the meeting, it boiled down to time will tell.”

McCauley stressed to Corcoran and Ehmer that the city will continue to receive the current five percent franchise fee through 2011, although no promise could be made about the fee beyond that time.  According to Corcoran, McCauley was a big help in dealing with the issue of video providers using the city right-of-way, and gave an assurance that the public access channel (VWPATI Channel 6) would continue to be a part of the cable system in Van Wert as long as Time Warner is the city’s video provider.   —>

Cable Competition in Michigan Moving Slowly, Study Says
Only One in 20 Households Receiving Benefit Of Cable Law
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

One year after the passage of a law designed to ease the entry into the cable market of competitive providers in Michigan, only 110 of 2,000 communities in the state have a choice of cable providers, according to a study by the law firm Howard & Howard, which counsels municipal governments.  That translates to about one in 20 households receiving the benefit of Public Law 480, which replaced community-by-community cable regulation with a single state point-of-contact. The law was passed at the urging of AT&T Inc., which said the traditional franchising scheme was a barrier to quick entry to the market.   —>

Cable Competition Index Rates Michigan Situation “Very Poor”
by Jon Kreucher
Blogging Broadband (MI)

Today, the law firm of Howard & Howard Attorneys, P.C. issued its inaugural “Cable Competition Index” for the State of Michigan.  Howard & Howard’s Cable Competition Index considers the status of wireline video competition in the state, the level of customer service provided by cable operators, and the relative pace of cable price increases.

“Our firm has practiced in the area of cable and communications law for nearly three decades,” attorney Jon Kreucher said.  “We knew this was a good time to take a snapshot of cable competition because it’s been a year since our state legislature passed a new cable franchising law.”  That law, regularly referred to as “Public Act 480,” eliminated most regulation of cable systems at the local level of government.  When the statute was passed, many state legislators believed that such deregulation would mean a rapid increase in cable competition, better customer service and lower cable prices for Michigan’s residents.

However, Howard & Howard’s 200+ hour analysis reveals that the anticipated benefits of the new law haven’t yet materialized.  “By our estimate, wireline cable competition exists in fewer than 110 of Michigan’s 2,000 communities.”  When considering Michigan’s households, the numbers get no better:  Just a little more than one out of every twenty Michigan homes appears to have a choice in wireline cable providers.  “AT&T has received video franchises in some of the larger communities in our state,” Kreucher commented, “but in many of those communities, the pace of AT&T’s buildout appears to be moving rather slowly.  That means that the vast majority of our state’s residents will probably be waiting for cable competition for a very long time.”   —>

Congressional Hearing Hears Testimony that Public Access Channels are Under Threat by Cable Firms and AT&T

Today’s Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee Hearing, “Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) services in the Digital TV Age”, was called by Rep. John Dingell (MI) in response to Comcast’s actions in Michigan.

Comcast had unilaterally announced that PEG channels in many municipalities would be bumped from analog cable carriage to obscure digital channels in the 900 range. The move would mean that ‘basic’ cable subscribers would no longer have access to the local PEG channels, in fact they would need to subscribe to more a expensive digital cable service tier and pay for an additional charge for a digital cable set-top box.

There’s much more involved than simply channel slamming of course, but first a little history. It was just two years ago that this very same Congressional Subcommittee laid the tracks for the current the State Cable Franchise train wreck. At that time the Republican Party was in the majority and Chairman Rep. Joe Barton of the AT&T state of Texas introduced legislation that later began known as the COPE ACT. This was actually a bi-partisan Bill, Rep. Bobby Rush of Illinois co-sponsored the bill after AT&T threw a million dollars to his personal foundation (headed by his son). But the telco money flowed liberally in all directions, and the well greased bill passed through committee and slipped through the House as well. It wasn’t until COPE hit the Senate where Senator Stevens got tangled up in tube talk and net neutrality that the federal franchise train derailed for good.

COPE failed, but a legislative template had been put in place, after all the bill was largely written by telephone company interests and they weren’t about to give in. Having failed at the Federal level, the telcos quickly shifted gears aiming their lobby dollars at State Houses around the country. Only 18 months later, a total of 19 State Cable Franchise Bills have been passed (with more in play). Not all are alike, but many simply contain the boilerplate legislative language that AT&T and Verizon previously fashioned for the COPE Act. And that leads to Michigan and the need for Congress to revisit what they helped launch in the first place.

The “uniform video services local franchise act” passed in Michigan in Dec 2006 and quickly went into effect Jan 1st 2007. A new study by Howard and Howard Attorneys revealed that “anticipated benefits of the new law haven’t yet materialized” and it rated cable competition, prices and service as ‘very poor’. While AT&T has been slow to ‘build-out’ new services under the state franchise, the cable companies, in particular Comcast, have been quick to take advantage of the relaxed regulation. This pattern has been repeated around the country as the cable and telephone companies reposition for duopoly control, at the expense of local municipalities and in particular PEG channels and services.

The Alliance for Community Media has documented the impact in detail. The chart below gives an indication of how the state cable franchises have departed from the Federal protections previously in place. This list will grow as more state cable franchises go into effect and new changes become apparent.   —>

Comcast to strike conciliatory tone in congressional hearing
by Ken Thomas (1 comment)
The Associated Press

A Comcast executive is apologizing for the way the cable company handled a proposed shift of community access programming higher up the dial in Michigan.

Rep. John Dingell, D-Dearborn, the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, was summoning Comcast and others before a House subcommittee to answer questions about the company’s interest in moving public, educational and governmental access programming into the 900-level digital channel range in Michigan.  The shift would require subscribers with analog televisions to buy digital, cable-ready TVs or rent or buy a digital converter box for each set. Dingell has raised concerns that it would force consumers to pay additional fees for programming currently guaranteed with basic cable services.

David L. Cohen, Comcast Corp.’s executive vice president, planned to tell the panel that “in retrospect, we failed to communicate adequately our goals and to work cooperatively with our local partners to produce a ‘win’ for everyone.”  “That is not the way we want to do business — in Michigan or in the rest of the country — and I want to apologize for that,” he said in testimony prepared for delivery.

Cohen said Comcast was “now engaged in friendly, and what I am sure ultimately will be fruitful, discussions” with Michigan officials, including Dearborn Mayor John B. O’Reilly Jr., who also was to testify before the committee’s Subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet.   —>

TV time for county commissioners?
Barnstable Patriot (MA)

Steve Baty of All Media Productions, who already videotapes some county meetings for showings on cable TV, has proposed taping the county commissioners’ sessions.  “I know that introducing a TV camera will forever change the ‘feel’ of the meeting but I believe that the public’s need to know might now overshadow the comfort of the status quo,” Baty wrote in a proposal circulating among county officials.

Baty said he’s been assured time would be available on public access channel 17 to show the taped meetings, which would be recorded on a single camera. They could also be uploaded for access via the Internet.

There would be a cost involved, but Baty argued that video of the commissioners’ meetings “would help in the designation of a Cape wide County Cable Channel. A 24/7 cable channel with its ability to have a looping message board system as well as meetings and department service updates would provide the county with an invaluable public information resource.”

TV segment on community channel worth the angst
by Cherie Speller
The Daily Reflector (NC)


I’ve seen several interviews replayed on television with Heath Ledger, the actor who was found dead last week in his home in New York. While listening to Ledger and lamenting the loss of someone so young and talented, one of his comments struck a nerve. When one interviewer asked Ledger how he felt about watching himself perform, he said it made him uncomfortable, almost to the point of wanting to vomit.

I could identify with that reaction after taping a segment of “City Scene,” a show hosted by Greenville public information officer Steve Hawley on GTV-9, the government access channel on the Suddenlink Communications cable system.  Even though the topic, the Greenville-Pitt Public Access Television Corporation (GPAT), is worthy of such a program, I was dreading watching my performance and had pretty much decided to ignore the popular city program for the week.

“I saw you on TV!” a friend said in a phone call the very first night it was on. “You did a good job … you talked all over yourself.”  “Thanks,” I said. “That’s just what I was afraid of!”  Then my friend went into a series of questions about GPAT and how the channel works, convincing me that my moment in front of the camera was worth the apprehension.   —>

Exploring The Perceptions of Public Access Television
by Colin Rhinesmith
Community Media in Transition (MA)

In beginning my thesis this semester to investigate the role of Public Access Television in the Age of YouTube, I’m beginning to shift my approach, once again. Previously, I explored the role of the community media center in the process of public access television. I realized that this is just one of the many roles that community television can play in providing a counter-claim to those who believe that public access television is no longer necessary in a YouTube age.

More recently, as I have noted several times before, I realized that the YouTube v. Public Access TV debate is one of the most profound and consistent themes of my research here to date. A Google search for Public Access Television + YouTube yields quite a range of results, discussions and debates around both media. Therefore, I’ve decided to move this research towards an approach that seeks to better understand mass perceptions of public access television and how both the mainstream media and individuals online frame “the need” for community television in, what has been called, the YouTube age.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

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

One Comment on “Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/29/08”

  1. […] McCausland wrote: Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/29/08     [ ] Public access TV channel may vanish without funding by Greg Chandler The Grand Rapids Press […]

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