Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/27/08

Verizon’s Seidenberg calls for less red tape
by Carolyn Y. Johnson
Boston Globe (MA)

Verizon Communications Inc. chief executive Ivan G. Seidenberg called for a streamlined cable franchising process and cautioned politicians to be careful when considering new taxes or regulations.  Speaking at the Boston College Chief Executives’ Club of Boston, Seidenberg jokingly referred to Mayor Thomas M. Menino several times during his speech. The mayor supports a recent Appellate Tax Board decision that Verizon should pay taxes on telephone poles and wires over public ways, but the company has said it will appeal the ruling.   —>

Hooksett to consider sewer plant expansion
by Jenn McDowell
Hooksett Banner (NH)

[ comments invited ]

—>   At the public hearing, the Budget Committee also heard from resident David Pearl on a petitioned warrant article to bring public access television to Hooksett.  The program would be paid for through franchise fees the town currently collects from Comcast customers, which is currently about three percent of the total bill.  Right now, the money collected from those fees goes into the town’s general fund, and it would more than cover the estimated start-up costs for the station.  The total amount needed for the first year could approach $100,000, which would pay for a typical set up for the station and fiber optic cables.   —>

City council votes for deregulation of cable contract
The Norman Transcript (OK)

[ comments invited ]

Norman city councilmembers split their vote 5-4 in favor of deregulating the contract with Cox Communications at its Tuesday evening regular meeting.  The vote came after a 35-minute rant by Ward 2 councilmember Richard Stawicki, in which he objected in great detail to every element of the changes in the contract. Other councilmembers fidgeted, whispered to each other and rolled their eyes during Stawicki’s statements.  “What this ordinance does is deregulate,” Stawicki said, railing against the City giving away elements of the contract.  He named off each section of the new ordinance and noted that the items were “struck — wrongfully so.”   —>

CTC applies for Rice Lake cable franchise
by Gene Prigge
Chronotype  (WI)

CTC Telcom has been issued an interim video franchise for the City of Rice Lake and other areas. The Cameron-based company plans to begin offering cable television here by May, said CTC chief executive officer Rick Vergin.  CTC applied for a franchise under a new state law that shifts the authority to grant video franchises from local municipalities to the state. The new law, which makes the state the exclusive franchise-granting authority, took effect Jan. 9…

Under the new law, CTC will pay a 5% franchise fee to the city, with that fee based on gross revenues from video income. Charter also pays a 5% franchise fee to the city, with those funds used primarily to support Rice Lake’s public access channel, Channel 14.  Charter also pays a capital grants payment to the city’s public access channel. Under the new law, however, that payment will be phased out over the next 3 years.  Budgeted income from the Charter franchise fee to Rice Lake in 2008 is $91,000. The capital grant income is $13,884.

Mick Givens, the director of the local public access channel, said overall the state legislation is “a positive thing,” but he said it also creates challenges for public access channels and could result in the end of those channels. Losses to the local public access channel include lower franchise revenues because of new revenue accounting methods, and the loss of capital grants.

Givens noted that while the bill enabling the state franchise system was passed by state legislators by a 2-1 margin, local representatives Bob Jauch and Mary Hubler voted against the measure.  Givens said that under the new law, cable providers will still be required to pay up to 5% of revenues as a franchise fee, but the new accounting of gross revenues will result in a net loss of income for public access channels.  Under the current Charter franchise, Charter revenues include charges for video service, including events and pay-per-view, rental of set-top boxes, service charges such as activation and maintenance, and revenue received from home shopping and similar programming.

The law provides for public access channels to solicit sponsorships, or advertising, which would help make up for lost revenues, but Givens also notes that the Rice Lake cable system has only one full-time employee and a slot for a half- time employee.  “Where do we find the time to perform our functions and go out and sell ads?” he asked.

The new system mandates that new entries into a market must carry existing public access channels, and Vergin indicated that CTC will do that.  Givens, who has served on the board of the Wisconsin Cable Communications Assn. and on the board of the Wisconsin Association of Public, Educational and Government Channels, said AT&T, and probably other providers, plan to move public access channels to “the hinterlands” of Channel 99. He said the lower channel numbers are the most desirable, that Rice Lake public access has been on Channel 14 for years and that “It’s going to be tough to find a channel that has no publicity.”

Adding to that problem, he said, is that it may take considerably longer for a public access channel to feed into a system when the viewer selects that channel, perhaps as much as 30 seconds or more, which will prompt most viewers to make another choice.  —>

Grant to pay for TV technology
by Holly Angelo
The Republican (MA)

CHICOPEE – The city has received the last of two $500,000 capital grants from Charter Communications for the School Department’s telecommunications center, which is scheduled to be fully operational by the fall.  The $1 million in grant payments are part of the city’s 10-year contract with Charter that expires in 2014. The telecommunications center on James Street will be relocated to new headquarters at the new Chicopee Comprehensive High School. Bids for equipment for the center are expected to go out in early May.

“It was definitely a good thing for the School Department and the city,” Rose Y. Blais, assistant superintendent for telecommunications technology services for the School Department, said yesterday. “We’re looking at a high-definition television studio.”

The $1 million didn’t come without a price. Public access programming used to be handled by Charter, but the School Department has taken over those duties for the city. In addition, Mayor Michael D. Bissonnette said the city lost two of its four local cable access channels when it signed the 10-year pact.  “There was a substantial trade-off,” Bissonnette said.

Of the $1 million, $750,000 will buy studio equipment and $250,000 will outfit a new remote television van, Blais said.  Blais said the School Department is changing its telecommunications department from the James Street site to Chicopee Comprehensive. The telecommunications department also teaches television production to both Chicopee Comprehensive and Chicopee High School students, along with managing all the computers and servers in the School Department. The telecommunications department also oversees local cable access Channels 5 and 19.   —>

WSKI continuing community broadcasts
by Ann Bryant
Sun Journal (ME)


CARRABASSETT VALLEY – With a long history of providing unique television to the community, WSKI-TV 17 plans to continue despite the challenges of this past year.  “We think we do community television in the best possible way to serve our community,” said owner Nadine McLeod Wednesday.

Recent questions raised about the station’s legal right to use channel 17 by Scott Hogg led McLeod to seek the advice of Tony Vigue, a board member of the Community Television Association of Maine, she said.  “Federal statutes do not expressly prohibit commercial advertising and programming on public access television. It’s not typical, but is not prohibited,” he said he told both McLeod and Hogg when they asked about general guidelines for public access stations.

The history of the station included ad placement on channel 17 before public access channels were started, she said.  SKI-TV originated this way: An antenna was placed atop Sugarloaf so that condominiums could receive three Bangor stations. That led to the decision to put up its own station and McLeod became the station supervisor in 1979, she said.

When Larry Warren started Longfellow Cable, he asked Sugarloaf to let WSKI be added to his cable menu. The station offered a unique product with weather and trail conditions for skiers, she said. It was a big service not available on satellite that each cable company after Longfellow’s has kept in their lineup, she added.

“When the mountain faced bankruptcy in 1986, the station was shut down and we came back and offered to keep it running,” she said.  Because they offered a local community channel, at some point it was assumed they were Carrabassett’s public channel, she said.

“In terms of whether or not they did anything illegal, I don’t think so because there was no precise agreement between the town and WSKI over channel 17. No one else has construed the historical relation between the town and WSKI as being illegal. No law has been broken. Regardless, the issue is gone,” said John McCatherin, who leads a new committee organized to research whether the town wants to run a public access channel and what that would entail.

Basically, the contract or franchise agreement between the town and the cable company spells out what can be done with the public channel assigned to the town, Vigue said.  The town’s franchise agreement with Time Warner states that the cable company will provide a channel for public access, said Town Manager Dave Cota on Wednesday. The town has never run a public channel itself, he has said previously.  Time Warner offered the town the option to take channel 22 for a public access channel.   —>

Port to address underage drinking at televised ‘Town Hall Meeting’
by M. Renee Buckley
Newburyport Current (MA)

[ comments invited ]

Newburyport – The arrests of a group of local teens over February vacation for underage drinking wasn’t an isolated incident in Newburyport, but rather serves as a close-to-home example of what the Surgeon General calls a leading public health problem across the United States.  Last year the acting Surgeon General made a call to action “to prevent and reduce underage drinking,” and the campaign to educate the nation on the dangers of underage drinking is under way.

In answer to that call — and in support of its own mission to decrease underage use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in Newburyport — the city’s Beacon Coalition will participate in a nationwide Town Hall Meeting next Wednesday to educate the community about the problem and to encourage addressing it…

Dispelling those misconceptions and brining to light the realities about underage drinking is the aim of next week’s live televised Town Hall Meeting — to be held Wednesday, April 2 at 7 p.m. on public access Channel 9. Hayden said they set up the event to make it as easy as possible for parents and other community members to participate. Viewers can call in or e-mail questions during the program — or e-mail anytime leading up to it — all from the comfort of their own homes.  While guests are welcome to participate by being a part of the live audience, those who’d like to must arrive at the Newburyport Community Media Center, 3 Graf Road, before doors close at 6:45 p.m. to begin filming.   —>

RCTV-15 to screen series of public interest programs
Democrat and Chronicle (NY)

[ comments invited ]

RCTV-15, the city of Rochester’s public access television station, is hosting a series as it shows films all month from INPUT, an international conference that picks the best in public interest programs from around the world.  Carvin Eison, general manager of RCTV, has been on the INPUT selection committee since 2006.

Since only Rochester residents will see the programming, the station at 21 Gorham St. will host The Best of INPUT screenings at 7:30 p.m. on four consecutive Fridays starting this week, followed by a discussion. Admission is free.  “These wonderful programs demonstrate how independent producers from Mexico, South Africa, Iran and the Netherlands are using television to examine the most pressing issues in their communities,” Eison says.   —>

Akaku board appoints Jay April president, CEO
Maui News (HI)


WAILUKU — Jay April has received a two-year contract to continue as president and CEO of Akaku: Maui Community Television.  The station’s board of directors voted Friday to appoint April to the position he has held in an interim capacity for more than a year. Board members praised April for leading the organization through difficult times and “breathing life” into an ailing program.

“Since the board appointed Jay April as interim president in January 2007, Akaku has experienced renewed activity with its producers and viewers, restored relationships with decision makers in the community, and has developed strong internals support to take the organization to new heights,” Chairman John Bruce said in a statement.  April said he was pleased to receive the appointment.  “I think we have a bright future, and if I could be a small part of that, I’m really honored,” April said in a statement.

April took the helm of Akaku in the wake of a bitter dispute over the use of funds for public-access, educational and government television programming that divided the board. The dispute was later resolved through mediation, but Akaku has since filed lawsuits over moves by the state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs to put out for competitive bids the contracts for managing the public-access channels.   —>

Community Media Matters in Kirklees
by Colin Harrison
Yorkshire & Humber ICT Champion (UK)

[ comments invited ]

Community Media Matters is an exciting new project offering voluntary and community groups free training and support to gain skills in using media effectively to raise the profile of their organisation.  Attached is a leaflet explaining the project, an application form for support and a flyer with the introductory programme of courses listed.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Explore posts in the same categories: cable franchising, cable vs telco, community media, educational access, PEG access TV, public access television, video franchising

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