Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/29/08

Rowley lobbies for local access channels
by Lynne Hendricks
Newburyport Daily News (MA)

Negotiations have begun for a new cable license with Comcast Cable Co., and town leaders are letting the cable giant know that programming geared specifically toward their local audience will be a high priority moving forward.  In a series of three public meetings that kicked off two weeks ago, selectmen have been collecting testimony from officials and local residents who support the vital role Public, Educational and Governmental access programming plays in small communities.  The last of the three public hearings will take place Monday, March 3, at 7:30 p.m. and will primarily address the public component of PEG access, which enables anyone from the public with a creative idea to produce and air content on available local channels.

In neighboring towns like Newburyport and Salisbury, that access includes the airing of local governmental and school board meetings, emergency data related to road closures and extreme weather events, and unique programming locally produced by student and resident film enthusiasts.  Rowley had access to those channels until last summer when Comcast — the only cable licensee in town at the time — sold its Newburyport studio and discontinued PEG access to Newbury and Rowley. The town has since fought unsuccessfully to get Comcast to reinstate PEG access, and it’s likely the matter will end up in court depending on how Comcast responds to the town’s latest legal filing.

In the meantime, Verizon is a new cable player on the scene, having been issued a license in December 2007 to compete with Comcast in Rowley. They’ve launched an aggressive marketing campaign and sent company representatives out across town to garner a share of the local market. They sweetened their deal by offering the town a generous $85,000 grant toward Rowley’s own future PEG access studio, and an additional 5 percent of future revenues to the same end.   —>

Special fund proposed  for cable access
by Tamara Le (NH)

NORTH HAMPTON —>   The BOS held a public hearing on the special revenue fund warrant article for the town’s Cable Access Channel. If approved by voters, the establishment of the PEG Access Television fund will allow for the hiring of a staffer for Channel 22 by way of money accumulated through Comcast subscriber fees returned to the town. Further, the board approved a payment of $18,149.45 from the current fund for cameras, microphones and other production equipment.   —>

Londonderry access channel request gets poor reception
by Trent Spiner
Union Leader (NH)


A proposed sixth channel for Londonderry’s public access television center has been denied by the town’s cable provider, prompting officials to take action.  Local public access television officials looking to expand their station’s lineup said they cannot air all their programming in a timely fashion with the five channels they currently have. Representatives from Comcast, the town’s sole cable provider, said another channel is unreasonable and would limit other features in higher demand among their customers.  The disagreement is expected to come to a head on March 3 when the town council holds a public hearing on the matter.

“Comcast owes us a sixth channel,” said Dottie Grover, director of cable services for the town. “The sixth channel would be a second public access channel. It is not unusual for us to have 50 to 70 programs waiting to have a turn to get on the air.”  She said a contract with Comcast enables her department to broadcast on a sixth channel by simply asking for it. But their request for the channel — dating back almost four months — has been denied. Town councilors must now hold a public hearing to determine whether Comcast is in breach of contract.   —>

Community group hopes to save WBTN
by John Waller
Bennington Banner (VT)

[ comments allowed ]

A day after Southern Vermont College announced that it was searching for interested parties to take over and operate the radio station WBTN-AM as a community outlet, a group of community leaders has stepped forward to answer the call.  Although still in its early stages, the group made up of town officials, organization directors and media owners and experts met Wednesday to discuss ways to keep WBTN-AM open as a community news source, group spokeswoman and executive director of the Bennington Area Chamber of Commerce Joann Erenhouse said Thursday.

She said the group formed after locals voiced their concerns over the future of the radio station, urging the college to maintain Bennington’s local AM station as a community asset. “It’s really important for us to keep WBTN-AM locally focused, locally controlled and locally operated,” she said.  “When you listen to other radio stations, you get nice music and national and international news,” she continued, “but there is a huge appreciation in this community from people across the board for being able to turn on the radio and getting to hear people we know talk about local issues, issues we care about and have some influence over. You can’t get that on any other station.”

In early February, the college’s trustees directed President Karen Gross to end the station’s losses by May 15. The station has lost about $450,000 since it was donated by trustee Robert Howe in North Bennington in 2002, college spokesman David Scribner said.  He said he thought it was great that a local group has organized and is interested in saving the station. He said the group is one of many that has been in contact with the college, especially after it gave a March 21 deadline for proposals.   —>

Community media center plans expand and change
by Mark Anderson
Kiowa County Signal (KS)

While work on development of the Kiowa County Community Media Center has continued in recent months, its shape and scope has also evolved to the point of now including three other pre-tornado entities in a two-tiered facility tentatively named the Kiowa County Commons, tentatively set to be built on South Main in Greensburg.  The components of the media center have been detailed before on this page, including a WiMAX-based wireless access point atop the grain elevator and free WiMAX-enabled laptops and other portable, handheld WiMAX-enabled devices to help citizens create and receive the web-portal based audio and video programming.  The center is to provide both the technical support and state-of-the-art resources to support both community journalism and creative expression…

Other locals participating are County Extension Agents Carmen Stauth and Pam Muntz, and GHS faculty member Marshall Ballard, who is organizing a group of high school students who will be involved in television and radio production activities through the media center.  Likewise involved are Ray Stegman and Kendal Lothman of the county’s Long Term Recovery Team and Debra Allison, director of county libraries.

Community Media and Community-Based Planning
by Tom Lowenhaupt
The Campaign for Community-Based Planning (NY)

[ comments allowed ]

Over my 14 years as a community board member it became ever more apparent that local communication in New York City sucks, sorry, is inadequate. In making the case for the .nyc TLD, I frequently make reference to the quantity of local media in Terre Haute Indiana, where I attended college for a couple of years, and Queens Community District 3, where I served on the community board. Here’s a little chart comparing the dedicated local media serving the two communities:

Also, we do have a few weakly newspapers that cover portions of the district. And should there be a catastrophe in the area (LaGuardia Airport is in our district), we will be inundated with far more media than one reasonably needs. But on a daily basis, to look into why the potholes aren’t filled, to the needs of the homeless guy, to examine the quality of our local schools, etc., local media doesn’t exist. Perhaps I should say “local media is inadequate.”

This is all preliminary to my directing you to a presentation that will be given this Sunday at the Grassroots Media Conference at Hunter College entitled “A Platform for Community Media.” The presenter (that would be me) will explore how the .nyc TLD (other TLDs are .com, .org, .edu…) will facilitate the development of participatory local media – media that we all contribute to and that helps us make decisions. Perhaps it might be thought of as community-based or bottom-up media. Not sure what I’ll call it yet. Come Sunday and find out.

Get a preview of my presentation here and info about the Grassroots Conference and it 40 other sessions, and film screenings, here.

Interview about alternative media
by Paul O’Connor
Undercurrents Alternative News (UK)

[ comments allowed ]

—>   > Do you think that ethnic minorities, victims of violence or corruption and other social groups feel that the media is falling to give them a voice?

I assume you mean the mainstream media? The alternative media has grown strong over the last 10 years and now campaigners, or any minorities can spread their message wide and coherently. A decade ago Undercurrents videos of a protest against a roadbuilding scheme would gain an audience of around 10,000 by distributing VHS video tapes, now with the internet we reach 160,000 with DVD quality downloads. The videos are then shown to various communities. Very exciting stuff. Many people are (slowly in some cases) that the mainstream media is losing much of it’s power. Following narrow corporate agendas has alienated the public who are seeking real news and stories. Campaigners have a voice within the growing alternative media such as undercurrents video, indymedia,schnews and other outlets.

> Is the public interested in development stories and that of human suffering? Why?

Yes they are but usually only if presented in a way that the public feel they can make a difference. Usually the angle the mainstream media portrays is of victims. The mainstream may say that Homeless people deserve our sympathy and persuade us to give them some money but rarely challenges the reasons why so many people are on the streets in the first place. Alternative media tends to highlight the people actively out there changing the system. Setting up social centres in disused buildings, community cafes, cheap quality food coops etc. When the public sees the issue framed through this lens, people become interested in development stories.   —>

Blind Alleys
by Bunny Riedel
Telecommunications Consultant

There are people who have contributed greatly to your personal welfare that you will never hear about. One of those is Marston Bates. He studied mosquitoes in South America and his work improved the understanding of yellow fever. You gotta like a guy like that, somebody who does original and actual research. Bates didn’t take himself too seriously either. He is attributed with saying “Research is the process of going up alleys to see if they are blind.”

It seems that more people just take things as gospel without ever digging any deeper to get to the facts. I do know the more something is repeated, the truer that something becomes. And if you throw a bit of academia on that something you pretty much got yourself a coup.

Take the recent Ball State University white paper put out by the Digital Policy Institute called “An Interim Report on the Economic Impact of Telecommunications Reform in Indiana.” Luckily the report came out just in time for the opening of state legislative sessions because according to that report Indiana is now leading the nation in terms of innovative and creative telecommunications law.

Did you know that there have been over 2,200 jobs created in Indiana as a direct result of the March 2006 statewide video franchising? That’s what the report says alright, over 2,200 jobs created! Of course the citations to support that claim are from AT&T, Verizon and Comcast press releases and a newspaper report regarding other telecom companies. The largest number of these jobs are attributed to AT&T at 1,650. However, even if you take AT&T at their word and believe their press release, the real story is that at least 600 of those jobs have nothing to do with statewide video franchising, they are call center jobs for wireless business customers.


If we presuppose that the remaining 1,050 AT&T jobs were strictly created as a result of statewide video franchising and their rollout of U-Verse, we would then have to hypothesize that AT&T ain’t so great at workforce management. As of August, AT&T reported offering U-Verse to five cities in Indiana: Kokomo, Indianapolis, Anderson, Bloomington and Muncie. If we assume that AT&T now has 10% of all subscribers in those cities, or over 30,000 subscribers in Indiana, we have to conclude that AT&T has hired one new employee for roughly every 28.5 subscribers. Ergo we can now say with confidence that AT&T ain’t so great at workforce management.

See how I do that? And all without the added benefit of a professorship or an institute.

Nothing can be empirically proven when all one does is rely on press releases from the very companies one is supposedly researching or multiple citations from the very groups that lobbied for the legislation in the first place. What groups? The very same groups that have traveled from state house to state house, coast to coast, across this nation pretending they have conducted nonbiased, consumer interest research. Folks like: The American Enterprise Institute; Telecommunications Research and Action Center (TRAC); FreedomWorks; Heartland Institute; Phoenix Center; and the Reason Foundation. Throw into the mix the National Conference of State Legislators, whose policy platform is pro-statewide franchising, and you’ve got yourself quite a bucket-load of data regarding how fabulously terrific statewide video franchising is and how Indiana is such a leader in broadband deployment.

What’s true is that almost two years after the law passed, fifteen of the Certificates of Authority applicants were incumbent cable operators hoping to relieve themselves of various obligations in existing franchise agreements. Pesky stuff like capital payments for PEG or PEG channels or PEG operations. Somebody ask South Bend, Hammond, Merrillville, Mishawaka, Plymouth, Goshen and Portage about what happened to their production studios and playback facilities. Somebody ask the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission (IURC) what the penalty should be for Comcast not making their quarterly capital payments to Fort Wayne even though the law clearly says support is supposed to remain the same.   —>

Hopes fading for public-safety broadband network
by William Jackson
Government Computer News

The Federal Communications Commission’s auction of the 700-MHz portion of the spectrum, now occupied by TV broadcasters, has been a financial success, with total bids of more than $19.5 billion for all five bands, far outstripping the $10 billion reserve set by the FCC.

But the one loser in the ongoing auction, now entering its second month, has been the D block, which includes the chunks of spectrum set aside for a nationwide public safety network.  “It is now becoming clear that the reserve price will not be met,” said Roberta Wiggins, a research fellow at the Yankee Group.

Bidding on that block stalled early in the auction, with one bid at $472 million — far below the minimum price of $1.3 billion set for it. Bidders apparently have been scared off by what Wiggins called the “horrendous cost” and “Herculean task” of building out a single network, a large part of which would be used exclusively by first responders in state, local and public safety agencies around the country. During emergencies, public safety agencies would receive priority on all segments of the D block network.

What the stalled bidding means for the future of the public safety network is not clear.  “We still don’t know what happens if D block doesn’t meet its reserve and what they plan to do with it,” said Berge Ayvazian, chief strategy officer at Yankee Group.

That is just one of many unknowns discussed in a telebriefing Thursday by Yankee Group analysts who summed up the current status of the auction. The open-ended auction could continue for as long as four more months, and for the first time the bidding is anonymous.  “We not only don’t know who the winners are yet, we don’t even know who is bidding,” Ayvazian said.   —>

Nonline community: freedom, education, the net
by Dougald Hine

[ comments allowed ]

Both governments and zealous cyber-enthusiasts champion the internet’s educational and political potential. The danger that results is a policy of techno-compulsion that undermines citizens’ autonomy. There is a better way, says Dougald Hine.

There is frequent and widespread criticism of the way that governments around the world attempt to manage or control the internet. The imprint of the global network’s origins in the United States’s cold-war era military-research programmes seems ever present in the tensions between states and citizens that appear in so many of the net’s “civic” contexts – from the Chinese government’s massive monitoring and blocking operations to western authorities’ moral censorship and European Union legislation requiring service providers to retain details of customers’ internet use.

In such cases, those who speak out for the civil liberties of internet users often tend towards a techno-libertarian position: their commitment to individual freedom being matched only by a belief in the “transformative potential” (a key couplet) of the internet…

There is always a danger that the frenetic embrace of new freedom disguises an updated form of old conformity. The benefits facilitated by the internet can be acknowledged, and the threats to online freedoms by states and governments challenged, while other important freedoms that its spread may infringes are neglected. One of these in particular increasingly requires defence: the freedom to remain disconnected, to refuse citizenship of cyberspace, to keep both feet firmly in First Life.

The limits of the possible

This is no longer an academic question. In England, the government announced in January 2008 that it is considering making it compulsory for parents to provide broadband access at home for their school-age children. The initiative is motivated by an honourable desire to ensure that technology is not out of reach of families on low incomes. Ministers hope to reach deals with major IT firms to provide affordable access. However, this would be reinforced by the requirement that parents subscribe to the service – presumably accompanied by some kind of sanction for those who wilfully fail to comply.

The government’s schools minister, Jim Knight, argues that this is no different to the expectation that families provide pupils with a school-uniform, pencil-case and gym-kit. Yet such comparisons serve only to highlight the unprecedented nature of the proposed requirement. When governments begin to oblige people to instal a communications technology in their own homes, this raises serious questions about the role of the state and the rights of citizens.

The now routine references to pupils and students as “consumers of education” highlight what underlies the effort to get every family in England online: that is, a model of the way that new products spread through society, used for decades by marketers in their quest for customers, and increasingly taken up by policy-makers. Everett M Rogers’s “diffusion of innovations” curve plots the take-up of a product over time, mapping consumers into five categories, according to the stage at which they buy in. These range from “innovators” (who make up 2.5% of the overall market) and “early adopters” (13.5%), through the “early / late majorities” (34% each), to the 16% of “laggards” at the back.

The model – first developed by researchers who wanted to know why some farmers were slower than others to adopt agribusiness practices – wears its value judgements on its sleeve (who would prefer to be labelled a laggard than an innovator?) The basic assumption is that the product or technology in question is an uncontested good; that everyone ought to have it; and that its universal spread is only a matter of time.

In the case of a business promoting its product in the marketplace where “customer choice” is meaningful and not just another mantra, this leaves a space for free decision (Coca-Cola may believe that it is “the real thing”, but, if I disagree, it cannot force its authenticity upon me). But governments – even ones claiming democratic authority – are not subject to constant competition; they are granted a temporary monopoly on power, and, where persuasion fails, they may resort to compulsion. This makes it important – in this area as in others – for citizens to demand that politicians’ power is both limited and accountable. There are few things which are so overwhelmingly good that everyone should be forced to adopt them; and, to put the same point from a different angle, people often turn out to have surprisingly good reasons for refusing an innovation that others have decided is without drawbacks.    —>

Junta continues to quash Burma’s media
by Zin Linn
UPI Asia Online

[ comments allowed ]

BANGKOK, Thailand,  The latest attack on Burma’s media took place Feb. 15, when the military junta raided offices of the Myanmar Nation weekly journal in Rangoon. Editor Thet Zin and manager Sein Win Maung were arrested after officials confiscated a human rights report by U.N. Special Rapporteur Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, a contribution on the Panglong Agreement by a veteran Shan politician, videos of anti-government protests during the Saffron Revolution and handwritten poems. The police also seized hard disks from the computers which stored news reports and photos to be used in the weekly journal.

Reporters Without Borders and the Burma Media Association condemned the arrest of the two men. The Honolulu Community-Media Council of the United States also joined the BMA, international journalist and human rights organizations in condemning the continued crackdown on the Burmese media by the military regime.

Burma is trapped in a murky era where freedom of expression has been completely lost. The more control the junta has over the media and the Internet, the higher the menace for the civilized exchange of ideas. The junta is abusing the media as its tool to close peoples’ eyes and ears by giving them false news and ideas.

It is sad that this country sees no sign of freedom even in this Global Information Age. The junta controls all media access now. Since the monk-led protests known as the Saffron Revolution of last September, all news media in Burma is strictly censored and tightly controlled by the military junta. All daily newspapers, radio and television stations are under the regime’s supervision.

During the brief Saffron Revolution, people in the former capital of Rangoon and all other provincial cities received up-to-date news footage through Al-Jazeera, the BBC, CNN and DVB TV. Besides, some IT activists put footage of the dissent on compact discs and delivered them to people with no access to satellite dishes. Such actions allowed many Burmese citizens to see news footage of the mass anti-government demonstrations, and the brutal crackdown that ensued.

The military regime has constantly mistreated journalists since Sept. 27. On that day Japanese video reporter Kenji Nagai was killed by a soldier in downtown Rangoon, at the height of the demonstrations. Japanese officials have constantly said that Nagai, 50, was evidently shot at close range, not hit by stray bullets as the SPDC officials explained. The Japanese government has demanded the return of the journalist’s video camera and tapes, which are believed to have captured the shooting, and is investigating his death.

The military censorship branch, known as the Press Scrutiny and Registration Division, is now harassing editors to publish propaganda produced by the junta in their journals and magazines. Scores of writers and journalists suspected of sympathizing with the Saffron Revolution have been banned from contributing to publications.

Members of the Union Solidarity and Development Association, a junta-backed militia, have kept up their attacks on journalists. Photographers were beaten by USDA thugs while taking photos during the monks’ protests. Numerous civilians holding cameras or mobile phones were temporarily arrested and tortured. More than a dozen journalists were beaten or treated badly during the demonstrations. In addition, several young amateur journalists or civilian journalists were also detained and their cameras and mobile phones were confiscated by the militia.

Burma’s military exercises tight controls over the Internet, banning access to news websites such as Yahoo or Hotmail. The regime was frustrated by bloggers and civilian journalists during the anti-junta protests, as they provided detailed consecutive accounts of the bloodshed and helped spread the news. The junta disconnected the nation’s Internet links at the height of the violence to cut off the information flow about the crackdown.

A popular Myanmar blogger, Nay Phone Latt, was arrested on Jan. 29. His blog was written in Burmese and in a creative writing style. He used it as a forum to discuss the difficulties of daily life, such as the electricity shortages and the swelling cost of living.

In the 1950s, Burma was at the forefront of press freedom in Southeast Asia. The country enjoyed a free press without censorship. As many as three dozen newspapers, including English and Chinese dailies, existed between 1948 and 1962 under the civilian government. Even the prime minister’s office was never closed to journalists in those days. They were also free to set up relations with international news agencies.

The situation changed in 1962, when the military seized power. All newspapers were nationalized by the junta led by Gen. Ne Win. The junta established a Press Scrutiny Board to enforce strict censorship on all forms of printed matter, including advertisements and obituaries. Since then, the military junta’s censorship and self-censorship are commonplace, and have severely restricted political rights and civil liberties.

The Press Scrutiny and Registration Division is a major oppressive tool of the incumbent military regime. Not surprisingly, Burma stands downgraded from a free state to a prison state. No printed matter can be published without the PSRD’s permission. Photos, cassette tapes, movies and video footage also need the censor’s stamp before reaching the people. At the same time, the military concentrates to stop the flow of uncensored radio news in Burmese available from international broadcasting stations.

Moreover, the junta has come to dominate the media industry through publication companies owned by generals and their cronies. The radio, television and other media outlets are monopolized for propaganda warfare by the military regime and opposition views are never allowed. The regime does not even allow religious discourse.

The media is a special tool for the military regime with no space for the opposition party. Political debates are always inhibited, even at the National Convention, which has completely lost its credibility and is regarded as a sham.

Foreign periodicals have not been seen on newsstands since October as the junta has been blocking reports on Burma. The owners of Internet cafes have been forced to sign an agreement to follow restrictions by the authorities, and dare not allow users to breach the regime’s filters. Moreover, the owners have to report details of their customers to military intelligence.

Currently, the situation of the press in Burma is getting worse and worse. Media-related people are feeling defenseless, and the voices of the people are constantly blocked.

The press is the fourth estate of democracy after the executive, the legislature and the judiciary. But in Burma the Parliament has been debarred by the military. The judiciary is automatically defunct under military supremacy. In that case, it is clear that the fourth estate cannot escape from the grip of the military dictatorship.

The lifeblood of democracy is the free flow of information. Burma needs regional cooperation to attain press freedom. Journalists in Burma are hoping for more assistance, morally and practically, from international media groups. Without press freedom a nation cannot enjoy the taste of social equality.

(Zin Linn is a freelance Burmese journalist in exile. He spent nine years in a Burmese prison as a prisoner of conscience. He now serves as information director of the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma, and is vice-president of the Burma Media Association. ©Copyright Zin Linn.)

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: astroturf, cable franchising, cable vs telco, community radio, freedom of the press, human rights, internet use, localism, media theory, media use, PEG access TV, press censorship, press freedom, public access television, spectrum auction, U-Verse, video franchising

One Comment on “Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/29/08”

  1. […] of space. The undervalued intelligence and the decency of the elder Hickam, …dailycamera.comCommunity Media: Selected Clippings – 02/29/08 Rowley lobbies for local access channels by Lynne Hendricks Newburyport Daily News MA 02/29/08 […]

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