Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/14/08

AT&T’s TV plans don’t click, advocates say
Changes to public channels worry Media Center, city
by Becky Trout
Palo Alto Online (CA)

[ comments allowed ]

Within months, AT&T Inc. plans to begin offering television service in Palo Alto over phone lines, introducing a new format for local programming that has the cable experts at the Midpeninsula Community Media Center and City of Palo Alto concerned.

When AT&T introduces its television service — called U-verse — public, educational and government (PEG) channels will have a lower resolution and be harder to find than its commercial channels, Community Media Center Executive Director Annie Folger said.  “They don’t want to spend the money,” Folger said…  Among the problems, Folger said, the programs are hard to get to and the shows only fill one-quarter of the screen. It can be blown up to fill the entire television, but then appears blurry, she said.

All PEG channels are available on AT&T’s Channel 99, Peterson explained.  Viewers click “OK,” which triggers a list of cities to appear, according to AT&T documents. After scrolling through the cities, and selecting one, viewers than select which PEG channel they wish to watch.

Folger said the Channel 99 menu takes 45 to 90 seconds to load and burdens viewers with scrolling through dozens of city names.  “You’ll have to be very, very motivated and extremely patient to actually find the channel you are looking for,” Folger said…

Comcast also doesn’t approve of AT&T’s PEG format.  Vice President of Communications Andrew Johnson said AT&T’s Channel 99 plan violates PEG regulations.  “We certainly hope the new competitor will be forced to operate under the same rules and regulations,” Johnson said Monday.  He said Comcast has no plans to change its delivery of PEG channels.   —>

Editorial: Comcast Cable changes channels again
The Journal Newspapers (MI)

[ comments allowed ]

After apologizing for a widely criticized attempt to move PEG (Public Education and Government) channels out of range of most viewers, officials from Comcast Cable tried another approach on Friday.  They told members of the Conference of Western Wayne that they were trying to do them a favor.

The criticized change was to move PEG channels to the 900 range, where they would be seen in digital high definition. Everything would look better, according to Comcast officials, and it preceded a mandated change that would happen in a year or so anyway. Plus, it would allow the company to remain competitive with satellite dish services, which already provide more digital programming than most cable providers.

The problem with it was that it would leave some 400,000 customers unable to view the channels, since most televisions are not capable of accessing the channel—without a digital converter box, anyway. That box, which initially would be provided for free, would ultimately cost customers an additional $4 a month.

Not surprisingly, the members of the Conference of Western Wayne were unconvinced by this new line.

Representatives from other video franchises were on hand, too.  Throughout this public relations debacle, they have taken the right approach. They’ve sat back and watched the reaction to the Comcast move, probably to see if they should give it a shot or not. The answer? Not yet.

Competition will remain an important part of this emerging industry. In theory, that was the goal of the state wide video franchise legislation when it was introduced and approved last year. It just hasn’t worked out to the benefit of residents, yet, and that’s been our concern all along.   —>

Bill provides for cable channel compromise
by Scott Spielman
The Journal Newspapers (MI)

[ comments allowed ]

Legislation has been introduced that will keep Public, Educational and Government (PEG) channels available to all cable viewers—for now.  House Bills 5693 and 5667 would address a recent proposal from the Comcast Cable company to move those channels up into the 900 range—and out of easy access to hundreds of thousands of cable subscribers….

House Bill 5693 would amend the act to dictate that cable providers must keep their government channels available to subscribers without requiring them to need additional equipment.  —>

[ There is a very serious confusion taking place here and elsewhere, no doubt being promoted by the cable industry.  The story goes on to say, “HB 5667 would make the stipulation that it is only until February, 2009, when federal mandates require all cable to be digital, anyway.”

However, there is *no* federal mandate requiring cable to be digital in February 2009.  It is *broadcast* television that is facing this DTV transition deadline.  Cable operators’ plans to convert to digital are driven entirely by economics, and have nothing to do with any federal requirements.  – rm ]

Is Public TV In Peril?
by Todd Morehead
Columbia City Paper (SC)

[ comments allowed ]

—>   Lost in the fray, so far, have been the implications for public television. Some large cable companies are using the digital transition as a means to remove public television channels from their basic cable packages and are lobbying for legislation that may remove license fee funding for those channels.

Late last month, John Dingell (D-Mich.) went before the congressional Commerce Telecommunications Subcommittee in response to cable giant Comcast’s actions in his home state. The hearing centered around the public, educational and governmental (PEG) channels in Michigan that were slated to be removed from basic cable packages, since the company switched to an all digital format.   PEG channels consist of public access programming, cover local government and schools—like the Columbia city council meetings that Time Warner Cable airs locally on channel 2 and the Richland school district information aired on channel 12.

In Michigan, Comcast planned to bump the PEG channels—still broadcasting in analog until next year—up near the 900 channel range thus making them no longer accessible to the general public and only available to subscribers of the more expensive digital cable service tier, an action that would have effected an estimated 1.3 million viewers…

Nancy Horne, president of the S.C. Cable TV Association, says PEG channels in South Carolina should continue to be available to all cable subscribers, both basic and high end.  “Our state law requires that PEG channels be carried on the lowest tier [or subscriber package] available to the consumer,” she says. “So, you might get a PEG channel with a high number, but it would still be carried through the basic tier.”

According to Horne, under the state law there is no requirement for PEG support. Before the law was passed, individual PEG channels may or may not have made agreements with the cable company and the local or municipal franchising authorities. If those deals included support for PEG channels prior to the 2006 bill, those contracts should be honored until they expire, according to the new legislation.

Editorial: County Board meetings on TV
by Terry Davis
Hutchinson Leader (MN)

[ comments allowed ]

Showing public meetings on TV is good for democracy. McLeod County has an opportunity to make sure taxpayers never miss a single meeting.  The Hutchinson Community Video Network will begin taping and showing McLeod County Board meetings starting next week. That’s good news for taxpayers who want to see how county decisions are made.

The tapings are a generous gesture by HCVN, which has agreed to do the tapings on a trial basis for six months. It will cost a good deal of money for Hutchinson’s local public access channel to send an employee to each board meeting.

We believe the county should pay HCVN for its costs. And we believe the tapings should continue indefinitely beyond the initial six months.  That should not surprise anyone who has read this page for the past several years. Repeatedly, we have asked the County Board to set aside money for the taping to its meetings. Repeatedly, the board has chosen to ignore our recommendation…

— Almost every other major public body in our region is already demonstrating its transparency to taxpayers. Almost every county surrounding McLeod County — Stearns, Kandiyohi, Renville, Sibley and Carver — videotape their meetings for taxpaying viewers at home. The Hutchinson City Council and District 423 School Board wouldn’t think of conducting a regular meeting without having the public access television cameras there.   —>

Town of Ulster Steps Up to the Plate
by Richard Cahill
Cahill on Kingston (NY)


Blaber News and Commentary has broken a huge story concerning Public Access Television. Nick Woerner, the Supervisor for the Town of Ulster, announced earlier this evening that he is proposing to the Town of Ulster Board that $5,000.00 be given to save public access!!!  This is wonderful news. Kudos to Nick Woerner and the Town of Ulster for their generosity and sense of public duty.

Jim Sottile and the Common Council did not step up, but the Town of Ulster did. Perhaps now Kingston will recognize its part and do the right thing.   —>

Augusta: Cable costs rankle clients
by Keith Edwards
Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel (ME)

City councilors grilled the “cable guy” recently over Time Warner’s rate increase and other concerns… Through the franchise agreement, Time Warner pays the city about $200,000 a year, half of which funds a multimedia program at Capital Area Technical Center. The remainder helps cover the cost of broadcasting City Council and other meetings, and some goes into the city’s general fund, according to City Manager William Bridgeo.   —>

Cable access group reports latest findings
East Oregonian

[ comments allowed ]

Pendelton – The local cable access task force will discuss its latest findings on creating a public access television channel for Pendleton at 3 p.m. Thursday in the administrative Conference Room at city hall, 500 S.W. Dorion Ave.  The city council approved the task force in November last year to examine how a public access channel would function for Pendleton.    —>

BITV Says Budget Dispute Will Suspend Programming
by Tristan Baurick
The Kitsap Sun (WA)


Coverage of local government may soon disappear from TV screens across Bainbridge Island.  The public access station Bainbridge Island Television announced on Thursday it may suspend its cable and Internet coverage of city meetings. BITV and the city are deadlocked over the conditions for renewing a service contract that ended Dec. 31. BITV wants a larger share of cable fees to fund expanded and basic services. The city says it’s cash strapped and plans to reduce its financial support for the station by 10 percent.   —>

Eshoo Takes Martin to Task Over Cable Policies
Federal Communications Commission Chairman Defends His Treatment of Industry at House Hearing
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin defended his cable-regulation policies in a House hearing Wednesday after Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) peppered him with a list of what appeared to her to be anti-cable efforts.  She said she did not know what cable had done to enrage Martin but they needed to have a conversation about it, sounding like a schoolteacher telling a student he did not get along well with others.   —>

Cox Communications Can Put Leased-Access Channels on Digital Tier
Leased Access Programmers Association President Charlie Stogner Disagrees with FCC Order
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable


The Federal Communications Commission concluded that Cox Communications can place the content of leased-access programmer RETV (Real Estate TV) on its digital tier.  That’s according to Charlie Stogner, president of the Leased Access Programmers Association, who said he received an e-mail to that effect from the FCC Thursday.

Stogner had been pushing the FCC for a response to the complaint, which was filed in March of last year, but it was not the response he was looking for. He said he wants the commission to reconsider the decision.  According to a copy of the order Stogner supplied to B&C, the FCC concluded that because Cox’s New Orleans system has more than 50% digital subscribership, it does not violate the leased-access rules.   —>

Fans of open access not optimistic on 700MHz auction results
by Thomas Wilburn
Ars Technica


Meeting in a panel for journalists and Senate staffers in Washington DC, open network advocates expressed their apprehension in the days leading up to the completion of the FCC’s broadcast spectrum auction. That auction, which covers 62MHz of broadcast frequency in the 700MHz band, comes as television broadcasters are vacating their analog channels for the federally-mandated transition to digital, which must occur by 2009. Two of the channel “blocks,” labeled the C and D blocks, will be licensed on a national basis—Block C with open access requirements—making them very interesting to companies looking to build or expand high-speed wireless broadband services.

“We feel like the 700MHz auction was probably the most significant event at the FCC in the decade, and certainly the most significant spectrum auction in history,” said Ben Scott, Policy Director for Free Press, “and yet most citizens are clearly unaware that it happened at all. In fact many citizens are unaware that the public owns the airwaves.”

Attempting to summarize the argument for open-access regulations in the auction, Michael Calabrese, Vice President for the New America Foundation, reiterated the markers of an open network, as originally stated by FCC Commissioner Michael Copps: pricing that does not include connection charges and which is cheaper for non-subsidized devices; fast, cheap, and independent equipment and software certification; no lock-in; the ability to use third-party applications and access any legal Internet content; and no prioritization or degradation of traffic, as Comcast sometimes does with P2P traffic.

Gigi Sohn, President of Public Knowledge, took a slightly more optimistic view of the upcoming auction results. She noted indications that a larger array of diverse bidders have likely been involved, thanks to the anonymous bidding that prevents collusion and back-room dealing. However, Sohn was also critical of events that had taken place during the auction of the smaller D block of frequencies, and drew attention to allegations of misconduct and conflict-of-interest. Congress and the FCC must investigate, she said, and pointed out that since the reserve price for that auction was not met, the opportunity exists to do so before it is put up for sale again.   —>

Media watchdog sends appeal to Samak
Bangkok Post

The Europe-based Committee to Protect Journalists has written to new Prime Ministeer Samak Sundaravej, urging him to “right the wrongs of your predecessors” by protecting freedom of the press.  The CPJ note said it was apprehensive that the Samak administration was getting off on the wrong foot.  The letter said:

“We were alarmed to learn that earlier this month your office announced plans to establish a task force charged with monitoring the ‘news balance’ of the broadcast media. CPJ is concerned that the task force’s creation could presage a return to the previous government’s order to broadcasters to report only positively about its administration and threats to censor any news reports it deemed critical or seen as a threat to national unity or security.”

But Robert Dietz, the Asia Programme Director, wrote that it hopes that Mr Samak and his administration will protect the media, including the 3,000 community radio stations across the country.  “In light of the damage successive administrations have wrought upon Thailand’s tradition of press freedom, your government has a unique opportunity to right the wrongs of your predecessors and, in the process, firmly re-establish the country’s credentials as a proudly democratic nation,” it concluded.  The full text of the CPJ letter is here.

Even Without Technology Youth Media Thrives
by Sharese Bullock and Rhea Mokund
Youth Media Reporter

[ comments allowed ]

In May of 2006, while presenting at a conference hosted by what some consider the top university (Harvard) in the country, the question that makes the list of “most dreaded in youth media” was asked to virtual audience of mostly graduate students and young people.

“Why would youth media organizations be necessary in this age of technology? Young people now have access to the means of production at home—doesn’t this make youth media organizations redundant?”

It was not the last time the question has been asked about the relationship between youth media and developing technologies. To begin to address this question as a field, we must first examine the precise concept of what youth media is. In the growing pantheon of youth media scholarship fine distinctions exist, but at its core, youth media is a process of engaging young people in an artistic enterprise that is based in young people’s experience and exploration of the world. Young people endeavor to carve a space for real participation in the public sphere, and forge more balanced meaningful relationships with the larger community—skills necessary for successful participation in civil society.

No young person exists in isolation. Regardless of the means of transmission, youth media practitioners create an infrastructure of support, bringing layered expertise and insight to the practice of educating youth media producers…

[ lengthy report follows, leading to this conclusion – rm ]

When asked to justify our existence, “Why would youth media organizations be necessary in this age of technology?” we can simply and confidently reply, “Well, Yes.” Youth leading peers through the multi-leveled process of creating media—from premise to post production and ultimately exhibition and distribution—integrates each aspect of interactive modeling. Youth media processes extend far beyond the technology tool itself—determining the need for youth media organizations to preserve and facilitate these cultural practices. Indeed, technology is not the end goal, but rather the means of greater expression for young people defining next decade of collective learning.   —>

Interview: Salome Chasnoff | Beyondmedia
by Ingrid Hu Dahl
Youth Media Reporter

[ comments allowed ]

Beyondmedia Education is a Chicago-based 501c3 nonprofit organization whose mission is to collaborate with under-served and under-represented women, youth and communities to tell their stories, connect their stories to the world around us, and organize for social justice through the creation and distribution of media arts.

Recently, Chicago Public Television station WTTW’s Image Union refused to air Beyondmedia Education’s award-winning documentary Turning a Corner, claiming that the content is inappropriate. As part of the award, Turning a Corner was to be screened on WTTW’s Image Union program. Created in a media activism workshop with members of Prostitution Alternatives Round Table (PART)—15 women who had been street-level sex workers in Chicago—the film recounts their battles with homelessness, violence and discrimination and provides insight into Chicago’s sex industry. Beyondmedia Education recently won the Chicago Reporter’s John A. McDermott Documentary (short) Film Competition for Turning a Corner. WTTW’s refusal to air the program cites the sensitive subject matter—sex workers in Chicago—as the reason for their decision.

In response, and due to other recent events that have challenged access to free press in Chicago (including Loyola’s takeover of WLUW and the buyout of the Chicago Reader and the firing of key writers) on January 17th Beyondmedia Education organized a meeting at Columbia College for community and independent media makers to come together to build a media justice plan for action addressing issues of censorship, inequality in media access, and the increasing corporate control of media in Chicago.

In January, YMR interviewed Salome Chasnoff, Executive Director of Beyondmedia.

YMR: In your own words, please discuss the important issue of community access to public media as it relates to the youth media field.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: 700MHz, cable franchising, cable rates, cable regulation, cable vs telco, channel slamming, FCC, freedom of the press, government access, IPTV, Kevin Martin, leased access, municipal programming, new media, PEG access TV, press freedom, public access television, spectrum auction, U-Verse, video franchising, youth media

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