Archive for the ‘a la carte’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/13/08

February 17, 2008

Bush asked to use Olympics to push for media freedom

Reporters Without Borders, a global media watchdog, on Wednesday called on US President George W. Bush to use his attendance of the Olympic Games in Beijing to push for press freedom and other democratic reforms in China.  Bush should “push for change and urge the Chinese authorities to release political prisoners and end censorship,” Lucie Morillon, director of Reporters Without Borders USA, told a forum in Washington where the group’s annual report was released.  “This could be an important part of his legacy,” she said, referring to Bush’s last year in office after being first elected in 2000.

The annual report said 2007 was a tough year for the media with 87 journalists killed, the highest since 1994.  Eighty-two journalists, Internet users and bloggers are currently imprisoned in China, according to Reporters Without Borders.  Chinese authorities promised “total press freedom” when awarded the Olympic Games, which will officially open on August 8, “but none of their promises were kept,” Morillon said.  Chinese journalist He Qinglian, author of “How the Chinese government controls the media,” told the forum that even journalists who wrote on health and pollution issues were not spared in her country.  “The government is shameless. China is not a respectable member of the international community,” she said.   —>

Hope may be dimming for public access TV
by Alicia Petska
The News & Advance (VA)

[comments allowed]

The possibility of lending city support to Lynchburg’s public access station is still on the table, although City Council unanimously approved a contract that could have the channel off the air as early as this week.  On Wednesday, Ward II Councilman Ceasor Johnson said he was willing to champion community television’s cause during this year’s budget hearings if there was interest in keeping the programming.  He made no promises of success, though, noting the city was facing a tight financial year.  “Kaine, he’s got a $1 billion loss right now,” Johnson said, referring to the state’s budget deficit. “That trickles down to local government and everyone’s going have to tighten their belts. I don’t know what people will be willing to do for public access.”

City Manager Kimball Payne, who’s finishing his budget proposal now, told council members at Tuesday’s meeting that support for public access will not be included.  At the meeting, City Council unanimously approved a new franchise contract for cable provider Comcast. Under the terms of that deal and in compliance with recent changes to state law, Comcast will no longer be required to support local public access programs, which run on Channel 7.  Hosts still have the right to broadcast their programs, but will now have to pay to produce them – a possibility that could spell the end of Lynchburg’s 30-year public access  tradition.   —>!news!archive

New Lynchburg cable franchise drops public access
by Alicia Petska
The News & Advance (VA)

[comments allowed]

Lynchburg City Council has unanimously approved a new cable franchise contract that drops support for public access programming.  Council, which previously voted against stepping in to save the city’s public TV station, did leave the door open for possible city funding in the future.  Ward II Councilman Ceasor Johnson asked that the issue be brought up again during this year’s budget talks, which kick off next month.

Prior to council’s vote, which was cast Tuesday night, 15 people came forward during a hearing to speak in support of public access. Lynchburg’s had public access TV since 1978.  In the past, its been supported by the city’s cable provider, currently Comcast. Changes to state law approved in 2006 no longer require companies to carry that burden.!news!archive

Mayor leans toward state licensing on cable TV
by Andy Sher
Chatanooga Times Free Press (TN)

[1 comment]

Chattanooga Mayor Ron Littlefield said Monday he is “basically comfortable” with legislation that would create a statewide cable licensing process although he noted he will need to see final language before making a definite commitment.  “I know a lot of maneuvering, a lot of writing and rewriting is going on and so when I see the final bill we’ll decide,” Mr. Littlefield said. “But right now I’m basically comfortable with AT&T’s latest proposal.”  Mr. Littlefield’s comments came as he and mayors from Nashville, Memphis and Knoxville visited with House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, D-Covington, and Gov. Phil Bredesen on a variety of issues.   —>

League of Women Voter Returns – LWV discusses internet issues
by Kara O’Connor
Stamford Times (CT)

The Connecticut League of Women Voters gathered at Ferguson Library Monday to discuss the openness of the Internet.  In June 2007 the LWV began a state-level study on the emerging media issues, their relevance to democracy and the importance to Connecticut residents.  Cheryl Denson, the vice president for public affairs and Carol Young, the vice president for communications put together a presentation on the collected data for the members of the LWV.  “You don’t have to be an Internet wiz to care about this issue,” said Denson. “The media has changed so much in the 21st century, there is a whole array of electronic media that we all depend upon.”

The LWV spoke about three different issues; Internet neutrality, universal Internet access for Connecticut and community access TV and public affairs programming. The LWV asked their members if they agreed or disagreed with these three issues.  There are three levels of the LWV, the local, the state and the national level and all three levels conduct studies, according to Yara Burnett the President of the Connecticut LWV. These particular issues are state-level studies.   —>

Medway officials fuming over Comcast contract
by Aaron Wasserman
Milford Daily News (MA)

Comcast has overcharged its 3,600 cable subscribers in town about $150,000 total in the last 10 years for a station manager who did not exist, said Selectman John Foresto yesterday.  Additionally, negotiations with Comcast on a new 10-year cable contract with the town have stalled, Foresto informed selectmen at their meeting last night, in part because the town wants a settlement for the $150,000. He is leading the talks for the town.

The current contract expires Feb. 22. It will not affect subscribers’ cable service, said Foresto, but will determine how much money the town receives to run its public access channel and studio at the high school.  The main hurdle is how much Comcast contributes for those operations. Verizon, in a 10-year contract negotiated last September, paid about $160,000 for equipment and gives 4 percent of revenue to the town for public access – costs it passes on to consumers, Foresto said. The town wants Comcast to agree to the same conditions, but the cable company wants to tie its payment entirely to revenues, Foresto said.   —>

City Receives $300,000 in Comcast Payment
Decatur Tribune (IL)

The City of Decatur recently received almost $300,000 in payments from the local cable company to help maintain local cable service and provide residents better access to government and the community.  City staff in recent months successfully negotiated a new cable franchise agreement with cable provider Comcast after years of delay from Insight, the city’s former provider.  Terms of the agreement call for Comcast to pay about $750,000 over the next 10 years to fund public programming in addition to its regular access fee. The city on Feb. 4 received a payment of $296,500, which includes a portion of the franchise fee and a payment of $75,000 as part of the settlement agreement with Comcast.

“Staff from day one has realized the importance of television and video in providing useful information to the public in this day and age,” said City Manager Steve Garman. “We fought very hard with Insight to make sure that they would provide funding for this service for our residents, city government and the school district and Comcast has been exceptional to work with as we’ve moved forward with the specifics of this agreement.”   —>

On Radio: Independent Bellevue station turns 35
Variety of music, local news, keeps KBCS-FM going
by Bill Virgin
Seattle Post-Intelligencer (A)


As a radio station manager and programmer, Steve Ramsey knows all about the distractions that “take me away from our signal.” He’s got an iPhone, and through his computer and an Internet connection, he can listen to a friend’s station in California.  So what will motivate listeners to tune in to a small radio station such as KBCS-FM/91.3, out of all the media choices — or distractions — available?  Ramsey believes the answer is a combination of the latest technology and an old-fashioned radio model. “We’ve focused pretty intently on making KBCS the community radio station for Seattle,” he says.

As it marks its 35 birthday this month, KBCS, based at Bellevue Community College, seems to be having some success with that combination. Ramsey, KBCS’ general manager, says the station’s weekly audience has been growing.  Although dwarfed by such noncommercial/public-radio stations in this market as KUOW-FM and KPLU-FM, KBCS-FM still manages to draw enough listeners to show up in the quarterly ratings tables (behind the two NPR stations, KEXP-FM and KNHC-FM in fall quarter, according to the Radio Research Consortium).

KBCS hopes to build on that by rolling out new technology. This year it started an audio archive featuring programs from the previous two weeks that can be streamed an hour at a time, as well as a real-time playlist.  Next up is its digital transmitter, which the station hopes to have operating by the end of this summer. That will enable KBCS to use HD technology’s capabilities to provide three channels of programming — two for KBCS itself, the third a student-run channel tied to a curriculum program to be developed with BCC.

But lots of stations boast the same technology. What will set KBCS apart, Ramsey says, is its community focus, with a rich mixture of specialty music programs (featuring everything from vintage jazz to bluegrass, zydeco and Hawaiian) and public-affairs programming (nationally syndicated as well as local).  The local content is produced by about 200 volunteers who come through the station each month. KBCS has built that army of volunteers with training courses through BCC’s continuing education program to turn almost anyone into a radio producer.  “What I tell my students is, that piece of music you’re in love with, listeners can access from 10 different sources,” Ramsey says. What makes them and KBCS unique is their ability to weave that piece of music together with others, as well as conversation and information, “to tell a story.”   —>

MEDIA-INDIA:  Community Radio Stifled With Red Tape
by Keya Acharya

BANGALORE – Aspiring community radio operators from various parts of the country are complaining of long delays, frustration and bureaucratic red tape in obtaining licenses to run radio stations.  Following a landmark Supreme Court judgment in 1995 that declared airwaves to be public property for public good, members of civil society organisations as well as United Nations agencies such as UNESCO and UNDP held several consultative meetings to expand the eligibility criteria for community radio.

In 2006, the Indian government amended its broadcasting rules to allow independent radio operators set up non-commercial, community-based stations in rural and urban areas.  But the new rules do not allow community radio stations to network with one another and limited broadcast range; no news content is allowed and only five minutes per hour is allowed for advertisements.

“The low 100-watts capacity is fit only for a 10-km distance while urban community radio does not come about because of a lack of frequency,’’ says Stalin K, founder-member of a networking organisation called Community Radio Forum and of the Drishti Media Collective in Gujarat.  The radio frequency allowed by the government in urban areas has to be shared with commercial FM radio, wireless and cell phone operators, leaving community radio with very little frequency bandwidth to operate.

“It is clearly better to have specific frequencies to be allocated for community radio, like other countries such as Thailand or the United States,” says Stalin.  Steve Buckley, Asia-Pacific president of the World Association of Community Radio, (AMACR) says Australia has an active and lively tradition of community-based radio, while Indonesia follows as actively despite political upheavals.  The Philippines too has active community-radio, but with legal constraints, says Buckley.

In India, the Community Radio Forum, a network of NGOs in community radio had been advocating for some years for the Indian government to free the airwaves, still under State control, in spite of the Prasar Bharati Act 1990 which set up an ostensibly independent broadcasting corporation in India.  Though the government had intentions of allowing 4,000 community radio stations by 2008, no operators have yet been given licenses to broadcast. Seven community radio stations have been given a ‘letter of intent’ by the government to operate, pending final approval.   —>

North Carolina Democrats Go After FCC Chair Kevin Martin
by Matt Stoller

[1 comment]

There’s some really interesting news on the open internet front.  First of all, FCC Chair Kevin Martin is now under genuine political attack.  He’s been setting himself up for a political run with his current tenure at the FCC for some time, buttering up powerful industries and acting as a Bush loyalist.  And so this criticism from the North Carolina Democrats is a big deal.  “The North Carolina Democratic Party today filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Office of the Inspector General to obtain a detailed list of Chairman Kevin Martin’s recent travel.”   —>;jsessionid=03D3B5D31C0E661A436F43E3F69DEC25?diaryId=3899

He’s Had Enough of You
FCC’s Copps Wants His Media Smaller, Newsier — and Less Cluttered With Ads
by Mya Frazier


It’s Jan. 12, 2007, in Memphis, Tenn., and Mr. Copps, preaching to the proverbial choir of nearly 3,500 self-described “media-reform activists,” proceeds to tell them what taxpayers get for that half trillion: “Too little news, too much baloney passed off as news. Too little quality entertainment, too many people eating bugs on reality TV. … Too much brain-numbing national playlists. Too little of America, too much of Wall Street and Madison Avenue.”

It’s not the kind of fiery rhetoric you’d expect from a 38-year Washington insider with a job title that can basically be summed up in one word — bureaucrat. Is this the same guy who dons a suit and tie each day and heads to a rather boring and morose building that wouldn’t look out of place in the middle of an office complex in, say, suburban Iowa?

Worthy adversary

Yes, but it’s also likely that few things keep Rupert Murdoch and Sam Zell up at night more than the prospect of Michael Copps becoming FCC chairman. Unlike Chairman Kevin Martin, Mr. Copps surely would not be a friend to Big Media.  So far, as one of only two Democratic commissioners — outvoted at practically every turn by three Republicans — he’s had little ability to actually push his vision of “media democracy” and has instead been limited to writing scathing dissents and firing up activists outside the Beltway. But it’s been an effective strategy nonetheless.

“He has been, by far, the most effective FCC commissioner in a minority role that I have seen in 37 years of working with the FCC,” said Andrew Schwartzman, president-CEO of the Media Access Project, which has fought media consolidation via the courts. “I have never seen anyone play a bad hand as well as he has.” He added: “I would hate to be in a poker game with him.”

Come 2009, the new president will appoint his or her own FCC chairman. And a Copps appointment would give him power to set the agenda, block media mergers with some help from Congress and overhaul the license-renewal process for broadcasters, a process he has called “slipshod.” (He proposed shortening the eight-year cycle to three in a New York Times editorial last year.) In other words, every three years the likes of Messrs. Murdoch and Zell would be asked if they were serving the public interest and should keep their broadcast licenses.   —>

ACA: A La Carte Would Be Status Quo
Group Says Many Content Providers Already Offer This Option
by Ted Hearn
Multichannel News

[comments allowed]

Big cable programmers shouldn’t have a worry if the Federal Communications Commission adopts so-called wholesale a la carte rules because many content owners claim they make their channels available in that manner today, the American Cable Association said Tuesday.  “Many programmers say they already offer channels on a stand-alone basis. ACA’s proposals would simply codify this practice, and give a remedy in case stand-alone channels were not offered on reasonable terms,” ACA told the FCC in a filing. “As programmers and broadcasters claim they already do this, they should have no legitimate objection to the [FCC’s] incorporating this into its regulations.”

ACA – which represents 1,100 cable companies with 8 million customers – has been battling Viacom, The Walt Disney Co. and other big programmers for many years on the wholesale distribution of cable programming. Small MSOs complain that the bundling of channels, also called tying, forces them to buy more programming than they want and pass along unwanted costs to unhappy consumers.   —>

Academic Community Takes a Long Look at Archival Project
by Avi Webb News

For an academic body studying the nexus between religion and the media, a Chabad-Lubavitch archive and production outfit have become something of a test case of how a Chasidic Jewish community has embraced modern technology to document and preserve its modern legacy.

At their regular gathering in late December, 20 members of New York University’s Working Group on Jews, Media and Religion examined Jewish Educational Media, which controls an archive of 4,000 hours of audiotapes and video footage of the Sixth Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory, and the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, dating back to the 1920s.

In its research, the working group – part of the university’s Center for Religion and Media – struggles with a conspicuous gap in available resources. Chasidic communities tend to hold out against technological advances, making it difficult to find documentation of their early growth in America. Until recently, the consensus was that, save for a burst of activity in the 1990s among young Jewish artists who took up various mediums to explore several Chasidic communities from the outside looking in, documentary evidence of such group’s early development in the United States was lacking.

Then Jewish Educational Media embarked on a preservation effort called “The Living Archive,” which over the past two years has attracted the interest of academics and such bodies as the National Endowment for the Humanities.  “There is absolutely nothing to compare with the video and audio documentation of a religious Jewish community that [JEM] has collected,” said Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, a professor of performance studies at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and a co-convener of the religion and media working group at NYU.   —>

Brookline Access TV show mixes current events with hometown humor
by Neal Simpson
Brookline Tab (MA)

[comments allowed]

You can call him the Jon Stewart of public access television.  For more than a decade, Mike Sallen has bought his own brand of political humor to the Brookline airwaves. Although the production has gotten smaller over the years, Sallen and two friends still meet every Monday night to poke fun at politicians and tease celebrities on “The Fun Show.”  “We’re having a good time,” said Sallen, a Thorndike Street resident. “We’re trying to get people to sit back and have some fun.”

A former public school superintendent, Sallen launched his TV career in 1997 with a black-comedy skit show called “Shorties” that involved props, costumes and a rotating cast of actors. The show was scrapped when the station changed studios.   “The Fun Show,” which airs live every Monday at 7 p.m., is a much simpler production. Sallen rarely leaves his chair, and his two co-hosts, actor Archer O’Reilly and radio journalist Kevin McNicholas, read from paper scripts in their lap.

The highlight of the show is Sallen’s scripts, which O’Reilly introduces each week as a production of the “BATV Unrehearsed Thespian Society.” O’Reilly and McNicholas rarely see the script before Sallen hands it to them minutes before the show.  “What Mike loves to do is put words in my mouth that I would never on earth have said,” said O’Reilly, Sallen’s neighbor on Thorndike Street.  “The Fun Show” starts each week with playful banter between the three men. Then, when Sallen signals, they begin to read, taunting each other and trading snappy responses that are never more than a few words long.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media


Community Media: Selected Clippings – 01/26/08

January 27, 2008

Live Blogging during PEG Congressional Hearing
Free Press Action Network

On Tuesday, Jan. 29 [at 1:00 PM], the Free Press Action Network will hold a live-blogging session during the congressional hearing, “Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) Services in the Digital TV Age”.

Activists and community leaders will be discussing the hearing as it unfolds.  Listen to the Audio Webcast and add your comments below.   —>

City to ask Legislature to revisit Sunday alcohol sales, annexation expansion
by Robert DeWitt
Tuscaloosa News (AL)

Issues ranging from Sunday alcohol sales to extra-territorial zoning will be topics for discussion Monday when the Tuscaloosa City Council meets with members of the Tuscaloosa County legislative delegation.  City Council members will sit down with 10 legislators who represent portions of Tuscaloosa County to discuss its legislative agenda over breakfast at the Jemison Mansion. The city will ask legislators to tackle issues it lacks the power to address…

…The city opposes any blanket statewide franchising for video delivery systems. The law currently requires cable television companies to obtain franchises from cities. Now telephone companies and others are developing alternative delivery systems.  City officials want these companies subject to the same franchising regulations, Maddox said.  “If the telephone companies can provide cable service, they should have to enter into a franchise agreement like the cable companies,” he said.   —>

If you value public access TV, speak up
Bainbridge Island Review (WA)

Do you watch Bainbridge Island Television?  More precisely, do you watch it for programming besides the City Council meetings?  It’s neither a flippant question nor an idle one. BITV’s  regular viewership is surely amongst the questions in play as the station management and the city wrangle over revenue from a cable franchise agreement and other sources.

As reported Wednesday, station manager Scott Schmidt wants BITV to get a bigger slice – actually, the whole pie – of the approximately $190,000 in franchise fees paid by Comcast to the city for the right to do business on Bainbridge Island. BITV presently gets about $120,000 of that revenue, and half of the $54,000 generated by a dollar-per-month surcharge to subscribers to support public access programming. The balance disappears into the city’s general fund, although some of the money is earmarked for better lighting, cameras and other improvements to the chambers from which public meetings are broadcast.

Schmidt says the station needs more money to pay for services either requested by the city itself (adding a second channel; providing online “streaming” of council meetings) or the community at large. Some of the planned programming is Schmidt’s own inspiration, like the weekly news program BITV hopes to roll out in April. While it’s ambitious, it’s not unprecedented; back in the early 1990s when Texas-based Northland Cable still held the island franchise, news was actually integral to the programming. At one point the station boasted a three-person news team and showed footage from local events almost daily. The presentation could be somewhat clunky; we remember a rash of broadcasts in which colors swirled around like a light show at Bill Graham’s Fillmore. But despite the technical limitations, “Northland Cable News” showed the possibilities of local access television and laid the groundwork for today’s programming. Schmidt believes a new, more professional news show would attract both viewers and – at least as important – underwriting dollars from local businesses.

Thinking back 15 years, it is remarkable how far what was then known as “Bainbridge Island Broadcasting” has come. Modern equipment and a dedicated studio on High School Road mean new opportunities to learn videography. Volunteers contribute countless hours to support daylong programming. City Council coverage has grown into the station’s bread and butter, the point at which the interests of station, city and community most clearly intersect.

Yet in some ways, its profile is unchanged. Schmidt says some people still come into the office thinking they can pay their cable bill. (You can’t; BITV and Comcast are separate entities.) It’s also no easier to gauge what the viewership really is. Schmidt approached the Nielsen folks about tracking the ratings but found costs were prohibitive. With no way to precisely measure just who’s watching, and how often, now’s the time for Bainbridge Island Television viewers to speak up on behalf of the station.

Do you like what you see on our local access station? Do you even watch? What’s the value to you? We’d like to hear from viewers on that point. As their contract negotiations roll on, we suspect BITV and the city would, too.

The Winds of Change
Potential Reform of FCC Could Go in Many Directions
by Ted Hearn
Multichannel News

The House Energy and Commerce Committee is shining a spotlight on FCC chairman Kevin Martin’s management of the agency. (See “Watching the Martin Watch,” page 18, Jan. 21, 2008).  But it hasn’t been made clear to him precisely why.

The basis of the investigation has been stated only in vague terms. And there could be something of a public payback involved: Committee chairman John Dingell (D-Mich.) is evidently upset that Martin gave the public just 28 days to review the FCC plan to relax the newspaper-TV station cross-ownership ban.

But there is always more than meets the public eye when the winds of change blow in. Privately, Dingell has heard repeatedly from regulated industries — including cable operators and programmers — that Martin has failed to state proposed rules in clear terms, producing a process that lacks transparency and due process.

“I think time is overdue for a serious look at the reform of how the FCC conducts itself,” National Cable & Telecommunications Association president Kyle McSlarrow told reporters in December. “I think everybody recognizes that there is something different about how the [Martin] FCC conducts its business.”

In 2007, an annus horribilis for cable at the FCC, Martin at least twice demonstrated his fondness for hide-the-ball tactics. He gave no indication in June that he planned to slash rates that programmers pay cable operators to lease time, and he gave no indication that he supported allowing the NFL Network and other independent programmers to haul cable operators before an FCC-authorized arbitrator to settle their disputes without even a finding of discrimination by cable operators.

Now, Martin is trying to impose wholesale a la carte regulations on cable programmers, forcing The Walt Disney Co. and Viacom to sell their channels at individual prices. That could mean price regulation by the FCC, if Heritage Foundation analyst James Gattuso is right that wholesale a la carte mandates can’t work without government price controls. Since that’s the case, programmers are wondering if Martin plans to regulate wholesale a la carte prices but, as he’s done in the past, hasn’t told anybody.

Cable’s frustration with Martin has made an issue of how the agency is run. From Dingell to Sen. John D. (Jay) Rockefeller (W.Va.) on the Democratic side to Rep. Joe Barton of Texas on the Republican side, attention is now focused on how much power does and should accrue to an FCC chairman, an unelected bureaucrat with the ability to inflict pain on selected opponents, almost with impunity.

NCTA’s McSlarrow goes so far as to call for the FCC to be turned into a forum that adjudicates complaints, with its rulemaking authority taken away in five years.  Rockefeller has indicated support for structural reform, perhaps reducing the five-year terms of commissioners and refocusing its mission toward consumer protection.  But, as the following examples illustrate, reforming the FCC is not a simple task.   —>

The Other India and Media
Mainstream Weekly
by Suhas Borker

—>   We know about BPL—Below Poverty Line—but let us also know about Below Media Line—BML. The poor, oppressed, marginalised millions in this country are Below Media Line. If the media does not look at 840 million Indians who do not have more than Rs 20 a day or is not concerned about their future, it is abetting a “Second Partition”,4 which will burst forth like a tsunami of agony and pain, engulfing the whole country. It will be more dehumanising than the one 60 years ago.

Many see it as a wake-up call to the so-called present National Media to connect with the voiceless. To rise above the glitz and razzmatazz of film stars, fashion shows and elitist gizmos that unwrap on advertising which mocks the poor for their poverty, is a choice now. The people’s movements and grassroots organisations which represent the Other India are anyway going to move on regardless. And with them will be a new emerging media—an inclusive media empowered by new technologies encompassing community press, radio, TV and web. It may take some time to link up. Mainstream media or alternative media? It will be the media of the Other India of 840 million Indians.   —>

Decision to Shut Down AZN Television a Huge Loss to Asian American Community

The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) today expressed disappointment at the decision by Comcast to shut down AZN Television in April this year, calling it a big loss of yet another important venue through which the American public can learn more about Asians and Pacific Islanders through community-specific news and entertainment.

While understanding that this was primarily a business decision, AAJA lamented the fact that the demise of AZN is the second big blow to the AAPI community in less than six months. In October last year, KQED in San Francisco discontinued its nationally syndicated public radio program, “Pacific Time,” developed to provide news about Asia, Asian American communities and connections across the Pacific Ocean. Like “Pacific Time,” AZN offered broad education through broadcast and online media.

In many ways, “AZN is to the Asian American community just like Univision is to the Latino and BET is to the African American communities, respectively,” said Rene Astudillo, AAJA executive director. He added that AAJA “has partnered with AZN in many ways to ensure that more Asian Americans are given the opportunity to use their journalism and new media skills to enhance the delivery of news and information to the American public.” AAJA’s most recent partnership with AZN involved internship opportunities for students to post journalism-style news and editorial commentary on the network’s Web site.  Astudillo said that AAJA is happy and ready to offer its resources to Comcast and other broadcast networks to develop major programming specifically addressing issues and stories of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.    —>

University of Miami: February 26-68
We Media Forum to Explore and Celebrate Innovation in a Connected Society

More than two hundred thought leaders, social entrepreneurs and media pioneers are expected to gather next month in Miami, Fla., for the fourth-annual We Media Forum and Festival from February 26 to 28. The two-day event, organized and produced by iFOCOS, the Reston, Va.-based media think tank, will bring together leaders from across industry sectors to jumpstart innovative thinking and new media ventures.  For more details and to register, go to:

“We Media is not just an industry conference. It’s a knowledge-sharing network. It’s about being inspired,” says Dale Peskin, co-founder of iFOCOS, which also organizes the We Media Community, an online network of companies and individuals.

The University of Miami School of Communication is co-hosting the conference, which kicks off with a reception on Tuesday night. The Associated Press, an iFOCOS global partner, is sponsoring the conference, along with Washington.Post.Newsweek.Interactive, Reuters, NewsGator, Topix, Humana and AARP. Additional media sponsors include BlogHer, the Association for Alternative Newsweeklies, Daily Me, the Institute for Politics, Democracy & the Internet, LatinVision Media,, SourceForge, and the Innovators Network.   —>

French Media Reforms
by Rizwan Ghani
American Chronicle

Reportedly, President Nicolas Sarkozy has decided to reform French media. The media shakeup details include scrapping up of Arabic and English languages services of Channel 24 and restricting the Channel to French language, only. The reports show that French National TV will be disallowed annual advertisements worth 800 million Euros.

Keeping French as the only language on Channel 24 in presence of Arab and handful of other minorities in France will add another item to the minorities discontentment list. In wake of 2007 standoff with minorities Paris could used state media to develop better relations with minorities instead of doing away with programs in other languages on Channel 24.

The independent observers are waiting for details of planned shakeup but there is a consensus that the direction of changes does not bode well for the media independence. It is believed that French media´s coverage of Sarkozy´s Egypt tour may have precipitated the reform plan. Otherwise, also there is a growing perception that it is the start of love-hate relationship between Sarkozy and French media.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/09/07

December 10, 2007

Comcast makes the change a year early
by Tom Gantert
Ann Arbor News (MI)

In what will likely be the first of several confusing changes for television consumers in the upcoming year, Comcast is moving the city of Ann Arbor’s Community Television Network channels from the mid-teens to the 900s. —>

Would buying cable channel-by-channel make sense?
by Charles Slat
Monroe News (MI)

Contrary to what some believe, SpongeBob Squarepants and Hannah Montana are not essential commodities. Unlike shelter, food, water and maybe electricity and ice cream, television programs can’t really be categorized as being among the basic needs of people. Yet there’s growing debate in government circles these days about whether cable television needs greater governmental regulation. The Federal Communications Commission has been hinting that it should have greater control because most of the nation now has access to cable TV.

At issue is a 1984 law that deregulated cable services. One clause in the law is something called the 70/70 rule. It says the FCC could re-regulate cable once 70 percent of U.S. households had access to cable and 70 percent of those households actually subscribed. Right now there’s a lot of dithering about whether those threshold numbers have been reached. Cable operators say they haven’t, that the numbers often change overnight, and that government re-regulation is needless meddling in the free enterprise system.

But FCC Chairman Kevin J. Martin, a Republican, has roundly criticized cable companies, contending that they’re becoming a monopolistic cabal that arbitrarily boosts prices and bundles into programming packages a lot of channels consumers don’t need or want. Local residents and Monroe city officials might be in a mood to agree, given cable giant Comcast’s recent decision to close its Monroe customer service office and move local public access channels to less accessible digital broadcast channels.

With which view do you agree? Free enterprise usually works fine, but here’s what has happened to cable through unfettered free enterprise:

* Cable rates are up about 60 percent since Congress passed the 1996 Telecommunications Act – rising nearly three times faster than inflation.
* About 98 percent of consumers has access to just one cable company.
* About a half-dozen companies own about 75 percent of the channels on every cable system in the country.
* If a consumer wants 20 channels, chances are he’s going to end up paying for 120 or more.

Comcast to close regional TV studio in Easton
by Mike Melanson
Enterprise (MA)

Comcast intends to close its TV studio in Easton — used by Easton, Avon, Raynham, Stoughton and Holbrook — once cable licensing agreements with the communities expire, a number of local officials said. In response, Easton is considering forming a nonprofit public, education and government access corporation and leasing space or using space in a municipal owned building as a TV studio, said Paul DiNicola, chairman of the town’s Cable Advisory Committee.

DiNicola said Easton would form a nonprofit corporation in early 2008, and its directors would be responsible for establishing and operating a studio, possibly in combination with other communities. As negotiations with Comcast proceed, Easton will insist the cable company furnishes the means for Easton for a seamless transition from a company to a community-operated station, said selectmen Chairwoman Colleen Corona. —>

Comcast backs Lower Surcharge
by Calvin Hennick
Boston Globe (MA)

Millis – Representatives from Comcast last week told selectmen they think that a smaller surcharge on customers’ bills will still meet the needs of the local public-access TV station, despite the local cable committee’s arguments to the contrary. Comcast’s contract with the town is up for renewal next month, and the company has proposed decreasing the surcharge, which funds the local station, from 4.5 percent of customers’ bill to 4 percent. Negotiations are continuing this month, Town Administrator Charles Aspinwall said.

Too much, too soon
City’s communications proposal should not pass as written
Huntsville Times (AL)

Call it determination. Call it focus. Call it resolve. Without it, a person can find it hard to get anything done. But resolve exercised in an atmosphere of impossible odds and negative consequences may not be a virtue.

Huntsville’s administrative branch of government, headed by Mayor Loretta Spencer, has proposed – with the help of an outside legal firm working with City Attorney Peter Joffrion – a master communications ordinance. It would deal with any communications company that uses the city’s rights of way. That includes telephone, cable TV and other firms, even those that have only an electrical box on the right of way.

Some of the massive ordinance incorporates what is already the law. Those provisions are not in dispute. But other aspects raise red flags and set the stage for almost certain lawsuits. Cable TV and cell phone companies say they have serious concerns. Even so, the 800-pound gorilla in the room is AT&T. Under the proposed ordinance, it would have to pay the city franchise fees if it added video services to compete with the cable companies.

AT&T, in fact, says it wants to add just such services. But it argues that it is exempt from franchise fees because the state granted it the free use of the right of way in 1870. Make no mistake: AT&T will fight tooth and nail any attempt by the city to impose the franchise fee. It’s involved in similar fights in several states, though Huntsville’s proposed ordinance would go further than anything proposed to date in any city anywhere, according to those familiar with the issues. —>

But AT&T isn’t stupid. It apparently realizes it can’t go to the marketplace (in this case people who want more choices in video and Internet services) and try to use its competitive advantage without facing a backlash. After all, it was, and is again, the Ma Bell of business legend.

So AT&T, under a separate agreement, is willing to pay the city 5 percent on the total fees it would collect from video services. That’s what it would pay if the franchise fee applied. The company simply is unwilling to back off its legal position. AT&T is also concerned about build-out requirements. Those would require it to provide service citywide if the population density was of a certain level. The cable firms also have build-out concerns.

So if the city passes the ordinance – at least the version now on the table, which may change – it faces a multitude of lawsuits, lawsuits that could go on for years. AT&T has deep pockets; it’s not afraid to litigate. Indeed, one might suspect that the Alabama Supreme Court, if it ever got this case, would be reluctant to overturn or alter the 1870 right of way provision.

The city’s ordinance, in short, is too much, too soon. It carries the risk of a very high price at a time when the city is already wading through a deep swamp of litigation on various issues, including the delayed construction of the joint city-county jail. And there’s this: The last time the city waged a court fight with a communications firm, it lost and ended up forfeiting millions. —>

Ministers find Word spreads farther on air
Televangelism is changing as more local churches are broadcasting to reach people.
by Jeff Strickler
Star Tribune (MN)

“Jesus told us to go forth and spread the word to the entire world,” said the Rev. Randy Morrison of Speak the Word Church in Golden Valley. “I can’t physically do that, but my TV signal can.” And it does. Morrison’s sermons are beamed by satellite to every continent except Antarctica. But while his church has one of the most ambitious TV ministries in Minnesota, it is not unique. The days in which a handful of televangelists ruled the airwaves are gone as a growing number of churches here and across the nation take their messages to the masses via cable-access TV and Internet video.

About 200 Minnesota congregations now have their own TV shows, ranging from “talking head” lectures to elaborate, multi-camera church service broadcasts. Zion Lutheran Church in Anoka hopes to have its services on the Metro Cable Network today or next Sunday. The Ethiopian Evangelical Church in Minnesota is offering downloadable sermons and hymns while it readies a cable-access TV show on the St. Paul Neighborhood Network. Light the Way Church in Cottage Grove has a music video show aimed at teens.

“It’s more of a service to our members than an evangelism project,” said Zion’s Rev. Tim Johnson, who believes it’s a way to reach members who can’t reach church, especially in winter weather. “We are a regional church that draws members from five suburbs. And, of course, there’s an increasingly large population of seniors. We conduct communion services in six retirement facilities.” —>

UK refugee radio for Somalis launched
by Dalmar Yusuf
Media Helping Media

Dhalad Radio is a community-owned and controlled radio station which aims to encouraging diversity, creativity and participation from the Somali community in the UK midlands. The station broadcasts in Somali and English and delivers local, national and community news and entertainment. It is for all Somalis to express their needs and desires. It also offers community organisations the opportunity to use Dhalad Radio as a platform for their aims and objectives.

Dhalad radio is run by volunteers and does not have any paid staff. It is part of the UK’s Community Media Associaton , which aims to provide media and information communication technology access, training and employment in local communities. The organisation is particularly focused on freedom of expression as an essential for ensuring human rights. —>

Online video predictions for 2008

Founders of Brightcove, Jeremy Allaire and Adam Berry, have written a “state of the industry” report with some online video predictions for 2008. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Martin’s FCC, 70/70, (a la carte?), & You

November 30, 2007

We’ve received some requests to help explain just what went down at the FCC this week.

Hard on the heels of FCC Chairman Martin’s full-tilt-boogie on relaxing media ownership/cross-ownership restrictions in recent hearings in DC and Seattle, comes his push to invoke Section 612(g) of the 1984 Cable Act – the so-called “70/70” provision. In short, this provision states that at such a time when cable systems (36 channels or more) pass 70% of US homes, and 70% of those homes subscribe, the cable industry shall be deemed to be uncompetitive, allowing the FCC to then adopt additional unspecified regulations in order to increase program diversity.

While Martin’s 70/70 gambit has received a great deal of press and analysis, it is not as straight-forward a matter, nor as urgent an action item, as the media ownership issue. There remain now just 11 more days for comments to be filled on the media ownership matter. If you haven’t yet submitted comments in that proceeding, please visit and do so – a simple online form is there, as well as info on other steps you can take to help.

Before moving on to 70/70, please note these important up-coming meetings:

Dec. 5 – House Oversight Hearing of the FCC: Media Ownership – Subcommittee on Telecommunications & the Internet; 9:30 am.

Dec. 13 – Senate FCC Oversight Hearing – Full Commerce Committee; 10 am
“At this hearing, the Committee Members will hear from the five Federal Communications Commission commissioners on current proceedings involving media and telecommunications policy.”

Dec. 18 – the next public meeting of the FCC.

StopBigMedia suggests you contact your congressional reps. Especially if your reps sit on these committees, it would help IMMENSELY if you contacted them before these hearings, letting them know how important localism in general and PEG access in specific is to your community.

Thanks. Now – on with the show…

I’ve been collecting every story I could find about 70/70, but learned early on that blindly forwarding them could do more harm than good. At this point, I’m going to suggest that the best single piece of info on this is Harold Feld’s Nov. 14 blog post:

Time For Some Hot Bi-Partisan Action on Cable: Or, Why Copps and Adelstein Need to Work With Martin Here Part I” – quoted extensively below. (In fact, since Harold is consistently fair in linking to those with opposing views, I’d say overall his blog is the best single source, certainly on this issue. ACM listserv readers may remember that Lauren-Glenn Davitian pointed to Harold’s blog after the FCC action this week for his take.)

Harold is an attorney with the Media Access Project – an organization that has a long history of being up-close and personal with the various media reform issues before the FCC. His post is fairly lengthy, but well worth reading in full. He gives an excellent whirlwind tour of cable regulation; great context-setting for those of us in the PEG access community.

I’m merely going to quote two extensive passages here, make one comment about where we’re at presently, and leave it at that. I don’t expect this topic to turn into a thread on the ACM’s lists, but this is an item we should all understand and be able to follow as the story develops. Here’s a start.

Harold begins his post by humorously addressing the difficulties some may have in accepting that Kevin Martin may actually be doing something helpful for increasing program diversity. In the second excerpted passage, after having looked at the source data and its sources, he then speculates about what additional regulations 70/70 could trigger – starting with a national PEG set-aside, and moving on to the ‘dreaded’ a la carte!

Time For Some Hot Bi-Partisan Action on Cable: Or, Why Copps and Adelstein Need to Work With Martin Here – Part I
by Harold Feld
Wet Machine

I gotta hand it to the NCTA – they really know how to spin the press. Given the outrageous excesses of market power displayed by incumbent cable operators, you would imagine that activists would leap at the opportunity offered by Kevin Martin to reign in cable market power – regardless of whether one likes Martin personally or thinks he is a Bellhead or industry tool in other respects. But no, over the weekend, the NCTA has done an exemplary job of spinning the upcoming sledgehammer to cable market power as a bad thing.

I am talking primarily about the news that the FCC may invoke the “70/70″ provision of Section 612(g) of the Communications Act (codified at 47 U.S.C. 532(g)). For those not as obsessed with the Communications Act as yr hmbl obdnt, this provision states:

[A]t such time as cable systems with 36 or more activated channels are available to 70 percent of households within the United States and are subscribed to by 70 percent of the households to which such systems are available, the Commission may promulgate any additional rules necessary to provide diversity of information sources. Any rules promulgated by the Commission pursuant to this subsection shall not preempt authority expressly granted to franchising authorities under this subchapter.

Now you would think anyone who opposes media concentration would be jumping for joy here, wouldn’t you? At last, a clear source of authority for the FCC to regulate cable in the name of diversity, and a directive from Congress to do it (without preempting local franchise authorities). And one would certainly expect that the Democratic Commissioners, Copps and Adelstein, who have repeatedly shown themselves stalwart champions of diversity and enemies of consolidation, would rush to seize the moment. But while I hope the later is true, some normally sensible people are buying into the cable spin that this is somehow bad because (choose however many apply):

A) It’s an “archaic leftover” of another time and nowadays cable is “highly competitive.”

B) It’s not really true that the 70/70 test is met anyway so the courts will just reverse it.

C) Kevin Martin is an evil Bellhead who has it in for cable, wants to deregulate broadcast media, and shafted local franchising authorities, so you know this must somehow be evil, even though it is something media reform advocates have fought for over 20 years to achieve.

D) Somehow, this is just an effort to distract us from the fact that Kevin Martin is an evil Bellhead who eats puppies and throws kittens into trees for his amusement.

E) Martin is just slapping the cable guys around because they didn’t do family tier.

G) Somehow this helps Kevin Martin deregulate the broadcast industry.

Having spent the last several years trying to get the FCC to recognize the goddamn truth that 70/70 was met years ago, and trying to get the FCC to address leased access and carriage complaint issues, the 30% cable ownership cap, and a bunch of other reforms to address cable market power, I am just a shade peeved to see folks who should know better eating out of NCTA’s hand. Because public policy is not about whether I like or dislike the current FCC Chair or whether I would rather he focus on reigning in telcos rather than cable cos. It’s about what is the best public policy. And what Martin has put out for a vote: 70/70, reform of leased access and the carriage complaint process, and reaffirming the 30% cable ownership cap, are all things justified by the record and urgently needed.


What does 70/70 Do For Me?

The 70/70 trigger gives the FCC a “power boost” on a number of pending proceedings to reign in cable market power, such as the leased access provisions and the 30% ownership cap. It also potentially gives the FCC new authority. To take a few examples of possible FCC Orders.

1) National PEG set aside. The FCC could decide that, because PEG channels are being eliminated by state franchising rules, it will require all cable operators to set aside capacity for PEG programming regardless of whether the local franchising authority requires it. Hard to say that doesn’t “increase diversity.”

2) Must carry for Low Power TV stations. There are a lot of low power TV (LPTV) stations, many of them providing Spanish-language programming (others provide religious programming, home shopping or just plain local programming). While a small class of these have must carry rights on cable, most don’t. Again, hard to say this doesn’t “increase diversity.”

3) Sometime back, I wrote a piece about a company called VDC:Virtual Video Cable. They are trying to do for video what companies like Vonage did for VOIP — a purely internet-based play that lets you get cable networks via broadband. Unsurprisingly, cable operators refuse to sell them programming, claiming that the rules requiring them to sell programming to rivals do not apply here because VDC is not a “cable service” as defined by statute. Equally unsurprising — given the “craptastic” speed with which FCC Media Bureau staff enforce the law against cable companies (official slogan of staff “If we wait long enough, the complainant will go bankrupt and our cable masters will reward us with doggie treats!”) — VDC’s emergency complaint is still pending. Well, triggering the 70/70 threshold could provide the FCC with authority to resolve the issue in favor of VDC without deciding whether they are a cable service. Similarly, the FCC could prohibit Comcast and other cable companies from making exclusive deals for “must have” video on demand, for “must have” sports programming, or other anticompetitive means by which cable operators prevent programs from appearing in other venues.

Of course, the FCC has none of these things teed up. The MVPD report merely notes that the 70/70 threshold has been met. If the FCC wants to do these things or anything like them, they would need to start a rulemaking and conclude that the new rules were necessary to maintain or increase diversity of views. Which leads us to the great elephant in the room — a la carte.

Isn’t this a sneaky way for Martin to do A La Carte/Isn’t this a great way to finally get a la carte?

“A La Carte” is French for “split the public interest community into bitterly warring factions.”

A La Carte rules would require the cable operators to offer cable channels on a per channel basis. Cable operators could also offer bundles, but would be required to offer individual channels as well.

A number of organizations like Consumers Union, Free Press, and Consumer Federation of America, love a la carte. They believe it will reduce cable rates and will force cable operators to give independent channels a fair chance because cable companies will only make money if they sell programming people actually want. On the other hand, a number of organizations like National Hispanic Media Coalition and Minority Media Telecommunications Council hate a la carte. They believe that minority-oriented programming and news programming will die, and we will be left with a handful of channels that compete for the ever-popular-with-advertisers 18-35 yr old white male eyeballs.

At Media Access Project, we resolve this conflict among our close allies by saying “SO HOW ABOUT THEM RED SOX!” everytime the subject comes up. If pressed, we will spill coffee or some other suitable beverage all over ourselves and flee the building. We have actually all signed a statement affirming that, even if threatened with waterboarding, we will not endorse a position on a la carte. —>


And the outcome for Section 612(g) at the FCC this week? Democrat Copps agreed with Martin and said ‘go for it’, republicans Tate and McDowell said the threshold hadn’t been met, and democrat Adelstein said, essentially, he’d like nothing better, but would like better data. (In fact, he said, “I would have no hesitation to invoke our authority if the evidence clearly justified that the standard had been breached. Many positive initiatives to promote diversity, such as a national baseline PEG requirement, could result.”)

So that’s what they voted for – let’s get that better data in here but fast. Their statements are all online at

Further press and blog accounts you can read will fill in the colors and political ramifications of these people’s actions, and that can be fun to know – but for now, for the PEG access community, our efforts can only be strengthened by the prompt delivery of better data. In the meantime, perhaps we may want to better inform ourselves about this ‘a la carte’ thingy. Seems possible that’s not going to go away. As Harold says, “stay tuned.”

Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 10/31/07

November 1, 2007

Jackson Accuses FCC’s Martin of Promoting ‘Anti-Diversity Agenda’
by Ira Teinowitz
TV Week

The Rev. Jesse Jackson is going on the offensive to blast Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin J. Martin, accusing him of pushing an “anti-diversity agenda..”  On the eve of an FCC local-ownership hearing on Wednesday where the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition founder and president is due to testify, Rev. Jackson, in a letter to Mr. Martin, suggested such an agenda is the only conclusion to be drawn from the chairman’s recent moves. Mr. Martin has been pushing to revise media ownership rules before fully addressing how the changes might reduce minority ownership of stations while also promoting the option of a la carte cable, which could reduce minority channels.   —>

FCC Gets Earful on Media Ownership
Testimony from Across the Industry Urges Federal Communications Commission Action vs. Consolidation
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable

The Federal Communications Commission got an earful on the effects of media consolidation on broadcast localism at a public hearing Wednesday, including from its two Democratic commissioners.   —>

[ Lies, damned, lies, and statistics.  Here’s an excellent examination of one ‘astroturf’ poll – worth reading in its entirety. – rm ]

AT&T’s Wisconsin Network Finds Broad Support for Video “Choice”
by Diane Farsetta

—>   Perhaps more concerning is how the WMF / Mellman poll characterizes opposition to AB 207 / SB 107. This section presents those polled with two statements, one describing why people support the bill and one describing why people oppose the bill. Participants were then asked which of the two statements they agree with.

While the “supporters” statement echoes supporters’ actual arguments, including increased competition and lower costs for consumers, the “opponents” statement is deemed misleading by actual opponents. Mary Cardona, the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Association of PEG Channels, challenged the poll’s “opponents” statement with regard to PEG (short for public, educational and governmental) station funding.

For example, the poll states: “Opponents of this law say that the state legislature should not pass the bill … because community access stations would be required to spend up to $1 million dollars [sic] to upgrade their equipment.” Cardona told PR Watch that this is not what AB 207 / SB 107 would require. Instead, she said, “this bill passes on AT&T costs to PEG stations. In the past, the cable operator has always provided all of the interconnections from our stations to their end. AT&T wants to pass off the price of conversion equipment, which they need to have our normal broadcast signal stream on their systems. … They want us to do that, which is going to be very cost prohibitive, especially for our smaller stations.” Cardona couldn’t say how Mellman might have come up with the $1 million figure used in the poll.

Cardona also listed several major reasons why her group and others oppose AB 207 / SB 107 that are not mentioned in the poll. “We can not add [new PEG] channels. … Local communities will never be able to get a dedicated channel ever again. We can not advertise or do underwriting on PEG channels under AB 207, which means we can’t help ourselves with funding,” she stated. “There’s no enforcement for build-out provisions,” which require video services to be expanded to cover currently unserved, mostly rural communities. “There’s no enforcement for consumer protection that’s at all effective.” Lastly, Cardona said, the bill would establish statewide video “franchises in perpetuity.”

Would most Wisconsin residents support AB 207 / SB 107, after hearing those concerns? It’s impossible to know, just as it’s unclear whether the people who designed the WMF / Mellman Group poll consciously tried to skew its results.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media