Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/03/08

AT&T’s stand against franchising rules is potentially discriminatory
by Bishop George Price
The Tennessean

Almost a half-century ago, the battle for civil rights and equal opportunity raged throughout the communities of Tennessee.  Leaders like Maxine Smith, Z. Alexander Looby and NAACP counsel Thurgood Marshall fought to level the legal playing field so that the minority children of the north Nashville neighborhood had merely the chance to compete with the wealthier children of Belle Meade.

Fifty years later, the challenges to fairness and equality in Tennessee have taken on a new light. For young boys and girls of all groups, having the skills necessary to compete in the 21st-century information age and its rapidly changing economy is today’s greatest challenge. Every day, those skills are being delivered through information technology and high-speed Internet.

It is all the more critical that we do everything in our power to ensure that deployment of new broadband technologies is carried out in a fair, equitable and expeditious manner, so that the boys and girls of north Nashville get a chance to compete alongside other young Tennesseans, and the rest of the world, in the ever-expanding global marketplace.

As we speak, the legislature is set to take up a bill aimed at rewriting how new broadband and video technologies offered by cable and telephone companies are deployed.  AT&T and its army of well-paid lobbyists want to eviscerate the local franchising rules that authorize cities and towns to require that, when new video and broadband providers come into town, they commit to offering service to all residents and every neighborhood, without discrimination and within a reasonable and enforceable amount of time.   —>

Cable, AT&T debate revs up
Many fear new franchise deal would weaken school TV aid
by Kevin McKenzie
Commercial Appeal (TN)

As executive director of Germantown Community Television and a teacher at Germantown High School, E. Frank Bluestein keeps repeating a question that’s vexed him for a year.

AT&T, the Texas-based telecommunications giant, in 2007 began pushing legislation in Nashville that would smooth the way for a new video service that would compete with cable television. AT&T’s proposal is aimed at the local government control that has nurtured high school television stations in Germantown and Collierville since the dawn of cable TV.  The company, which absorbed BellSouth a year ago, is pushing for legislative change again this year. That prompts Bluestein’s question:

“In this country, does the public not realize that AT&T is writing the legislation to benefit themselves?” Bluestein asked.  “There is something wrong with this picture, that big business has control over the state legislature to the point they are writing the bills.”

Meanwhile, for the past three Wednesdays, representatives of AT&T, the cable television industry, Tennessee legislators who would sponsor a bill and others have gathered to mull the very legislation that concerns Bluestein.  In Nashville, House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, called the stakeholders together and said he would like them to seek a solution, said Bill Ray, assistant vice president, external affairs for AT&T in Memphis.  “It’s not entirely written by AT&T” Ray said.

Civics lessons aren’t usually what Bluestein teaches, but he’s a potent voice for “PEG” stations — those providing programming for cable channels set aside for public, educational or governmental access.  Local cable franchises, which allow cities to levy fees and regulate cable companies as the price of using public rights of way, provide the foundation for PEG stations.

In Germantown, city hall’s insistence through the years for strong cable company support for the Shelby County School’s GHS-TV Channel 17 has helped produce stellar results training students and winning awards.  Collierville High also operates a cable television station, Channel 19, supported by the local franchise agreement between town hall and Comcast.   —>

San Jose prepares to shift public-access channel to non-profit
Non-Profit to Run Public-Access TV
by Stephen Baxter
San Jose Mercury News (CA)

San Jose’s public-access TV channel is preparing for a surge of new participants, facilities and a fresh multimedia approach.  The San Jose City Council last week approved channeling hundreds of thousands of dollars from Comcast to San Jose Media Access, a non-profit group that will manage Channel 15 beginning July 1. The group also plans to open a new TV studio at a location to be decided and try to bring in new volunteers to improve its programs.

A Comcast studio at 1900 S. 10th St. has been the main production center for Channel 15 for at least 15 years. In December 2006, Comcast agreed to get the non-profit group on its feet with more than $3 million, and Comcast pledged to continue with annual payments of roughly $1.2 million – or about 1 percent of its quarterly gross revenue.  To run Comcast’s studio, the city collected money from franchise fees tacked to Comcast subscribers’ bills each month. With the city council’s approval Tuesday, that money will be directed to the non-profit group.

Participants say the Comcast studio provided little training for budding TV producers, and only about 100 people consistently participate in making shows.  Comcast spokesman Andrew Johnson indicated that a non-profit group dedicated to public TV would be more focused on producing community television and providing training.  “We certainly value the important part that public access plays in the community, but we feel that it’s best handled by a non-profit group,” he said.

Similar non-profit groups have been set up in San Francisco, Petaluma and other cities, and leaders of the new public-access TV non-profit plan to hold fundraisers and seek private donors. None of its money comes from San Jose’s general fund.  Some cities have had success with the non-profit model, while others, such as Petaluma and the Tri-Valley area of San Ramon, Dublin and Pleasanton, have struggled with funding.   —>

Unsung Heroes Heralded
Media Center airs series on 7 Bay Area residents
by Jason Greene and Jamie Casini
San Mateo Daily News (CA)

They operate under the radar, assisting the families of the mentally ill, organizing peace marches, setting up scholarships for immigrant high school students.  They promote socially conscious educational products, help the homeless get back on their feet and beat the odds doctors said they couldn’t overcome.

And though these individuals might prefer to remain out of the limelight, they are being recognized for their achievements and contributions to society. Beginning today, the Midpeninsula Community Media Center of Palo Alto will air its second “Faces of Local Heroes,” a series that focuses on extraordinary people who don’t make headlines day-in and day-out, creator Louise Pencavel said.   —>

Your alt media experiences await
by Professor T
Media for All –  University of Regina School of Journalism

List of mini-internships. The sign-up book is on Shelley’s desk.

Access 7

Be a part of community television and you’ll discover the most interesting news is close to home. The type of work you do will depend on your interests and schedule – Access 7’s volunteer coordinator will meet with you to develop a workplan. You will have opportunity to do both studio and remote work, with full training offered. Interns may also undertake documentary projects with community agencies. The main thing asked is that you follow through with commitments to be in a certain place at a certain time: no no-shows. Special note: you will enjoy the luxury of not having to pack your stories into 30 seconds or less. This is a good opportunity to dig deeper and learn more about the world just outside your door.

Media Justice: Community Media
by brownfemipower
La Chola

From an interview with Amy Goodman about progressive community media…

“We just did an hour with Lou Dobbs, who could probably be compared to Father Coughlin, though he denied that. I did the interview with my co-host Juan Gonzalez, who writes for the New York Daily News, a great journalist. We tried to stick to the facts.

“We asked Dobbs about assertions he continually repeats, like a third of our prisoners are illegal aliens. Well, it’s just not true: 6 percent of prisoners in the state and federal systems are immigrants. And that’s divided between legal and undocumented, well below their representation in the population. If you keep hammering away that a third of the prisoners in this country are illegal aliens, then people are going to feel that they shouldn’t be here.

“It’s the litany of misinformation, of lies, that really makes people afraid and turns fear into full-blown hate. I think that has to be exposed.

“The beauty of community media is that we break the sound barriers, that we open up the microphones for people to speak for themselves. And then it’s harder to call people labels. I think it’s an epithet to talk about illegal aliens. They don’t sound human. You can set any kind of policy on a population when you don’t talk to them as human beings.   —>

From Imagining the (Un)thinkable
by Colin Rhinesmith
Community Media in Transition (MA)

In 2007, the Funding Exchange Media Justice Fund published a journal, entitled “Imagining the (Un)thinkable” which as the website explains:

“This collection of essays pushes the boundaries of current research on media policy and provides critical information on the potential power of the internet, radio, and community-access TV to enhance social justice movements. Written from perspectives of people of color, low-income people, women and other marginalized communities, the report offers useful tools and strategies for media justice advocates.”

In their chapter on “Owning the Airwaves through Community-Access TV,” authors Lyell Davies and Betty Yu write about how community access TV centers can support social justice organizations through “effective outreach and assistance” to ensure that marginalized communities, such as “LGBTQ, low-income, immigrant, youth, differently-abled, or communities of color,” are not excluded from the “first-come-first-serve” model of community access television.

Through this process, community access TV centers – as “community media centers” – can help connect social justice organizations to the “media multi-purposing” possibilities that Internet distribution tools, like blogs and podcasts, provide in helping them reach “multiple audiences in multiple ways” about their work in the community:

“To meet the needs of this expanding communications arena, community-access TV centers need to reinvent themselves as ‘community media centers’ and provide services supporting the varied media platforms now in use. This may mean engaging in conventional cable-access TV production, but it may also mean assisting in the production of a short video for web vlogging or in the creation of an interactive website . . .

Also, local community-access TV centers have a role to play in building a ‘physical’ community; while the Internet has led to the creation of new ‘virtual’ communities, the kind of intimate networks fostered by local TV making and viewing—and the presence of a ‘bricks-and-mortar’ meeting center like an access TV station—are still central to many political struggles, community empowerment efforts, and campaigns for social justice.”

To download the full report, visit the Funding Exchange Media Justice Fund

Challenging Corporate Media
by ShiftShapers
Wild Resistance

Independent media has a rich, long history. Linchpin is following in and updating a tradition known for dissent, diversity, and the creation, cultivation and communication of new and challenging ideas, writes Greg Macdougall.
From Linchpin #2 (Canada)

While there may be longstanding problems with the way mainstream media works, what doesn’t have such a long and storied history is the rise of ‘mega-media’, the mass corporate media institutions that put control of ever more of our society’s means of communication into the hands of fewer and fewer for-profit companies. It is only in the past decade or two that this problem has reached critical levels, yet it’s been ushered in as if this is ‘business as usual.’

But it isn’t business as usual. Laws regulating media have been changed, media companies have been bought up and/or merged at an alarming rate, and the media landscape is vastly different now than it was a generation ago.

Not only does this result in a distracting ‘if it bleeds it leads’ monoculture that delivers a worldview encouraging non-action and the acceptance of an insane status quo, but there is the continuing problem of an inherent conflict of interest between what is good for society and what makes money. We need to seriously consider the fundamental purpose of our society’s communication tools and structure.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable franchising, cable vs telco, high school television, media consolidation, media justice, media ownership, media reform, PEG access TV, public access television, video franchising

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