EAS: Act locally, think regionally
by Thomas G. Robinson
As cable communications systems have evolved from solo headends to master headend and hub configurations and then to regional super headends, the concept of the local emergency override seems to have gotten lost in the complexity of it all.
The original local emergency overrides go back to the glory days of cable franchising when cable operators touted them as being a critical component of an emergency notification system that would set their system’s capabilities apart from others desiring to cable unwired areas, thus being part of the reason for choosing them over another franchisee. A number of these promises were kept, and emergency override systems were put into place to either override the audio, or audio and video, and allow the emergency operations directors of local franchising authorities to take over the cable system for a brief period of time and notify subscribers of local alerts. This could include hazardous materials spills on a highway within the franchise area or ruptured gas lines in a specific subdivision. As government access channels came on line, subs could then be directed to turn to those for more information.
Over time, a number of things happened to alter the way in which these systems were able to be utilized. First, digital cable channels were developed and added to the lineup. The way that they were encoded and distributed presented new challenges for modifying systems which had been developed for overriding analog channels. —>
The cancellation of Channel 36
Policy debates and high school sports could soon fade to black.
by Patt Morrison
Los Angeles Times (CA)
It’s the channel you probably channel-surf right past on your way from Discovery to CNN. Its production values can look a little … lean. “Desperate Housewives” no doubt spends more on its backstage buffet line than it costs to operate this little local channel for a whole year.
Tonight, other cable channels will air something called “Britney’s Secret Childhood” and reruns of “Law & Order” and “Family Feud.” Cable access Channel 36 will explore the future of Broadway downtown, and what Proposition 98 means. On Friday, as you’re flipping through the lineup looking for a pro baseball game, Channel 36 will broadcast the local high school slugger-fest between Cleveland and Chatsworth. Fox lets you decide whether to vote for Syesha or Brooke on “American Idol”; Channel 36 shows the debate between Bernard Parks and Mark Ridley-Thomas, so you can decide who to vote for for L.A. County supervisor, a post that represents more people than do the senators from 14 U.S. states.
Whoops — we interrupt this programming announcement for a de-programming announcement. Los Angeles is pulling the money plug. Unless the City Council overrules the mayor’s budget choices, come July 1, Channel 36 as we know it will go dark. Not that there’s much budget to cut. The 16 hours of programming a day, seven days a week — school sports, public policy talks, long-distance for-credit college classes and a lot of repeats if you missed anything the first time — cost the city $555,000. (Channel 36 raises another $320,000 itself, mostly from hiring out its production services.)
That $555,000 comes from cable TV companies, not taxpayers. Back in 1984, the city boldly demanded funding for public access channels as a condition of handing out those rich, rich cable franchises. That show of nerve now generates $25 million a year. About $3 million goes to Channel 36’s more production-intense sister station, Channel 35. If some of the faces on 35 look familiar, it’s because they’re often the mayor’s or council members’, in public meetings and on chatty shows about the work they’re doing. They’re on so often that their political opponents have complained that Channel 35 is like one big, free campaign commercial.
The Monday morning that the mayor released his budget, Carla Carlini, the general manager of Channel 36, was nervous. The city nearly whacked Channel 36 four years ago, and the city’s red ink is a lot more crimson now. “I looked at it online,” she told me, “and literally froze.” Her budget was zero. “I printed it out, I looked at it again — at that point I picked up the phone and called [the agency that supervises the channel] and said, ‘Am I reading this correctly?’ and they said, ‘Yes.’ ” —>
AT&T will start offering public access TV on U-verse system
by Luther Turmelle
New Haven Register (CT)
An AT&T Inc. executive indicated Wednesday that the debut of local public access television channels on the company’s U-verse system is imminent. “It will occur sooner, rather than later,” said John Emra, AT&T’s regional vice president of external and legislative affairs. Emra said that at least one provider will appear on the system in the initial launch, with others to appear in coming weeks and months.
Emra declined to identify which public access provider would be first to launch on the system, which has been operating in the state for 17 months without offering any such programming. “We are working closely with a number of providers to bring them on board,” he said. “Some of those providers serve a number of towns.”
Speculation among those who work in the public access community is that the first provider to launch on U-verse will be Sound View Community Media of Bridgeport. The company provides public access programming for cable television customers in Bridgeport, Fairfield, Milford, Orange, Stratford and Woodbridge. But while company President Thomas Castelot acknowledged that Sound View is negotiating with AT&T to be carried on U-verse, any suggestion that an agreement is imminent is “premature,” he said.
Contrast Sound View’s experience with that of Wallingford’s Government Access Television. Scott Hanley, who manages the government access channel, said AT&T hasn’t had any contact with Wallingford since Mayor William Dickinson Jr. made an initial overture to the company. “We know that Wallingford has a fair number of (U-verse) customers, but at this point, we’ve heard nothing,” Hanley said.
U-verse is AT&T’s Internet-based challenge to cable television in the state and is operating in parts of 40 communities and 135,000 households. Local public access channel advocates in some of those communities have criticized AT&T, saying that a portal, or “PEG platform,” that U-verse subscribers will use to view community-based programming will be substandard compared to what’s available from cable providers in terms of picture quality and accessibility. —>
Cable Companies Fight For Franchise
by Ben Hogwood
Queens Tribune (NY)
Cable franchises are up for renewal this year, and one Queens councilman wants to make sure customers receive better service before the City signs any new contracts.
“With the cable franchises for Cablevision and Time Warner up for renewal for the first time in 10 years, we must wisely use this opportunity to protect consumers and hold Big Cable to higher standards,” said Tony Avella (D-Bayside), the chair of zoning and franchises for the City.
In addition, the City is seeking bids from all possible companies that can offer services to every residence, and already it appears consumers may have another option. The Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) reached an agreement with Verizon Tuesday for a citywide cable television contract. The proposed agreement must still be approved by the City’s Franchise and Concession Review Committee, which is scheduled to hold a public hearing on the topic May 20. —>
Column: School board meetings — where and what time?
by Bob Fasbender
Tomah Journal (WI)
[ comments invited ]
The Tomah Area School District Board of Education is seeking your input on where and when you feel board meetings should be held. Currently all Tomah School Board regular monthly meetings are held on the third Thursday of the month beginning at 7:30 p.m. at various schools throughout the year. The board is investigating the possibility of making some changes to the regular monthly board meeting schedule.
The first change they are considering is moving the starting time to 7 p.m. instead of 7:30 p.m. Secondly, they are considering discontinuing the “traveling” board meeting schedule. For many years the board has rotated the location of their monthly meeting so that they get into all of the schools at least once a year. They are considering the possibility of holding all regular board meetings at the former WTC building to be renamed the Robert Kupper Learning Center (RKLC), located at 1310 Townline Road in Tomah. They would continue to hold the May meeting in the Tomah High School library because this is the meeting where the retirees are recognized and usually attracts a large number of people.
Part of the reason for looking at a change in meeting location is because the board feels that more people watch the board meetings on cable (the PEG Channel and the Hagen Sports Network) than those who appear at the meetings. Secondly, anyone who has attended the meetings knows that the acoustics in the gymnasiums is marginal and makes it very difficult to hear and record. It affects the quality of the videotape that is being broadcast on cable. By holding the meetings in the former WTC building, the district can address the sound problems with the acoustical ceiling tiles and speakers in the ceilings. This will result in better sound for those who watch the meetings on cable and for those who are in attendance. —>
Public Forum on Philly WiFi
Philly Future (PA)
Media Mobilizing Project, Temple School of Communications and Theatre and a bunch of co-sponsors are hosting a public forum on the future of Philly WiFi on June 3rd at Temple. The forum will host a diverse panel of speakers, while including an open space for participants to speak about the future of the wireless Internet initiative. —>
How community TV spends its night of nights
by Daniel Ziffer
The Antenna Awards are community television’s Logies and last week they were celebrated with just as much passion and style. A crowd of several hundred tramped another red carpet, clinked champagne flutes and crammed into a Federation Square theatre to discover the winners of television’s other night of nights. Nominees for best program included The MS Show, a series about multiple sclerosis, The Goin Ballistyx Snow Board Show, animated children’s program Play Kool and Let’s Go Bird Watching.
The winner was sustainable-lifestyle show Making The Switch, which also took out best lifestyle program and the award for best editing. Presenter of the show’s 26 half-hour episodes, Lisa Corduff, says the community sector has room for anyone with a message. “I had never really made TV before and I was given the opportunity to research and present and produce. —>
Time Warner to shed stake in cable operation
by Thomas Mulligan
Los Angeles Times
Answering Wall Street’s calls for a slimmer and more focused company, Time Warner Inc.’s chief executive said Wednesday that the cable system operator in which it holds a majority stake would become a completely separate entity. Jeffrey L. Bewkes did not spell out how and when the split-off of Time Warner Cable Inc. would be accomplished. Bewkes said that he was “very optimistic” about the prospects for the cable business but that “we just believe that the two entities would ultimately be more valuable if separated.” Time Warner owns 84percent of Time Warner Cable, a portion of which was spun off into a separate public company that began trading last year.
Time Warner has long been talked about as a possible deep-pockets buyer of Bethpage-based Cablevision Systems Corp. But there has never been a formal offer and stock analysts yesterday said it was too soon to know if the Time Warner spinoff would affect possible acquisitions, including one involving Cablevision. —>
What’s Next for Time Warner Cable?
by David Lee Smith
The Motley Fool
It was a busy day for Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC), the second-biggest player in the cable industry. And the major event for the company wasn’t, as you might expect, its quarterly results, but rather the fact that we now know that it’s about to leave its parental nest. So, let’s look quickly at the company’s results for the quarter before discussing its future. —>