Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/18/08

Texas Community Media Summit: March 1, Austin


Pulling the plug on public access
by Darrell Laurant
News & Advance (VA)

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When it comes to the issue of whether or not the Lynchburg city government should continue to fund public access television, I no longer have a dog in that fight. I did once, but it was a very small dog (a public access show called “Cable Column”), and it died years ago. Nor do I recall hearing any howls of protest at its demise.

Still, that was the closest I’ve ever come to being Edward R. Murrow or Dan Rather, and it was quite invigorating. Even better, there was no censorship involved, and I was pretty much free to say what I wanted (minus anything defamatory or R-rated).

Now, as you may know, the colorful and eclectic garden of local public access programming may be allowed to wither on the vine. Until last year, the city’s cable provider was required to fund public access as a sort of tradeoff for enjoying a monopoly. Apparently, competition has since been opened up (or that’s what I think happened – understanding communications legislation gives me a headache), and it is now up to local government to fund “free” TV.

But only if it wants to. Lynchburg apparently doesn’t, new franchise holder Comcast doesn’t have to, and that’s the bottom line.

It would be unfair to compare Lynchburg’s city fathers (and mothers) to repressive regimes in other countries who shut down the opposition media so they can replace it with government-run programming (“Welcome to another edition of ‘Your Government Loves You.’”) The people who direct our city are, by and large, nice folks who are concerned about not burdening the taxpayers.

And they aren’t shutting anyone down, per se – the local policy makers are just turning off the money tap that keeps the public access shows alive. It’s the difference between unplugging a terminally ill patient or shooting him in the head. “I’d rather put that money into schools, police and parks,” said City Council member Mike Gillette.

The thing is, all cities have schools, police and parks. Not all have public access TV, and the ones that do project a personality that sets them apart. It would be hard to replicate Wally Roach, a Christian conservative who owned a guitar store and looks a bit like Ozzie Osbourne. Or Keith Lee of the Dance Theater of Central Virginia, who hosts “Dance Journey.” Or Dina Wiggins, who dispenses the gospel with an attitude.

On the other hand, of course, Gov. Timothy M. Kaine has just had the sort of chat with Virginians that your spouse has with you after doing the bills. According to city officials, it would cost $86,000 to bankroll another year of “The Wally Show,” “The Simple Truth,” “The True Vine,” and the rest. The city has already set aside $166,000 to staff and run the TV studio and another $100,000 for the purchase of new equipment, plus hiring Steve Smallshaw away from WDBJ to run things.

This, to me, somewhat undermines Mike Gillette’s “schools, police and parks” argument. Couldn’t the money for these “public information” shows have been used to buy a swing set or a cruiser or two? Moreover, a lot of what was paid to the city by Adelphia under the previous agreement was deposited into the general fund. —>

Let the cable wars begin: AT&T takes on Comcast
by Tom Gantert
Ann Arbor News (MI)


For 17 years, Annisa Bowden of Ann Arbor watched cable television on Comcast. She never thought it was that good of a deal, but shied away from satellite because of reception concerns during inclement weather. So Comcast ruled. “It was the only thing you can have that was guaranteed even in storms,” Bowden said. But not anymore. Last month, Bowden made the switch to the new AT&T U-verse, a service via the Internet. —>

Cable competition heating up
by Mark Brooky
Grand Haven Tribune (MI)

A change is coming down the line to how cable TV service is offered to northwest Ottawa County and who is offering it. Charter Communications, the main provider of cable TV in the Tri-Cities area; and Comcast, which serves Ferrysburg and the majority of Michigan, have been competing with satellite “dish” service providers for years. But the traditional cable companies’ market shares are now being threatened by the biggest telecommunications company in the world.

AT&T is beefing up its U-verse network, which will offer an all-digital, cable-like TV service over its own fiber optic lines. “AT&T will probably be the first wire line competition that a lot of cable operators will have — not just in Michigan but across the country,” said Tim Ransberger, vice president of government affairs for Charter Communications in Lansing. —>

Public access TV programming
Post Bulletin (MN)

[ comments allowed ]

On the Belau Report this week, the topic is the economic impact of amateur sports. Guests include Paul Erickson, executive director of the Minnesota State Amateur Sports Commission; Ben Boldt, general operations manager of the Rochester Amateur Sports Commission; and Chub Stewart, a member of both commissions and a longtime advocate of the National Volleyball Center in Rochester. Cable Charter channel 10, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at 7 p.m. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable franchising, cable vs telco, PEG access TV, public access television, U-Verse, Uncategorized, video franchising

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