Cable Franchise Hearing is this Thursday !
by Zenaida Mendez
Manhattan Neighborhood Network (NY)
On Thursday, February 7, 2008 all those who support Free Speech, the First Amendment and alternative media need to attend a hearing from 3pm-7pm at the Borough of Manhattan Community College.
As part of the Franchise renewal process between the City of New York and TimeWarner Cable, a public hearing will be held to allow NYC residents an opportunity to voice their views and concerns regarding the cable franchise we will all be living with for the next 10 to 15 years. It is extremely important that our public officials hear loud and clear that Public Access provisions are critically important to our community and that continued and expanded support for the needs and interests of Manhattan residents must be included in any franchise agreement that is reached. —>
Cable Hearing Reveal Strong Support for BRONXNET
by Osjua Newton
Lehman College Meridian (NY)
A panel from the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications (DoITT) assembled at Hostos Community College on January 17. They sought public testimony regarding Cablevision, the current cable company in The Bronx, for the first of several hearings throughout the city to discuss cable television franchise renewals.
As Cablevision nears the end of their 10-year agreement with the city to provide service in the borough, the 5-hour hearing was aimed at gathering feedback on four key subjects: first, whether Cablevision has been operating within the terms of its contract; second, whether their signal quality and billing were adequate; third, whether they could meet the community’s future cable-related needs; and last, whether they are fiscally and technologically capable of providing services for future projects.
However, the topic most echoed at the podium was a call to increase funding and support for The Bronx based public access television network, BRONXNET. “Certainly it was helpful for us to see how the community feels about BRONXNET,” said DoITT panel member Radhika Karmarkar. She added that the topics discussed during this, and future hearings, will be considered during the negotiations. —>
Naifeh rebuts Bredesen’s AT&T/Cable comments
by John Rodgers (3 comments)
Nashville City Paper (TN)
House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh today appeared to refute comments from Gov. Phil Bredesen that the speaker’s approach to finding a compromise between AT&T and the cable industry over television franchising wouldn’t work. “I respectfully disagree,” Naifeh (D-Covington) said after being read Bredesen’s comments during a hastily called news conference this afternoon. —>
New laws aim to help TV customers get good service
Providers face competition, fines
by Laura Girresch (9 comments)
Under two state laws passed last summer, companies can get a statewide license to provide television service — creating competition for local cable companies — and metro-east communities now can use the threat of fines to ensure customers are treated right. Hoping to make protecting television customers easy, Belleville passed an ordinance last month that gave the city direct power to enforce good customer service, in accordance with the state laws.
One state law, the Cable and Video Customer Protection Law, says local governments and the Illinois attorney general can fine television companies for not telling customers how their rates will change after a promotion, disconnecting service for repairs for more than 24 hours, and only providing service where they can make the most money. “It gives us an extra avenue to enforce or review or have some leverage to get customers the service they deserve,” Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said. —>
The picture gets blurry for public access television.
by Josh Goodman
Every Monday evening for more than a decade in Portage, Indiana, Gordon Bloyer stirred up trouble. The middle-aged, mustachioed Bloyer used his 6:30 p.m. television talk show to lambast elected officials in the city of 35,000 on the shore of Lake Michigan. Not only were Portage politicians powerless to cancel the Gordon Bloyer Show — although at times they tried — they also were, in a sense, subsidizing Bloyer’s attacks on them: His show appeared on public access television. “People would get all upset,” Bloyer says, sounding satisfied. “So I figured that’s good.”
Now, Bloyer is up against a foe he can’t beat. AT&T, looking for a fast track into the TV business, recently persuaded the Indiana legislature to move most aspects of cable regulation from the local level to the state level. A little-noticed byproduct of the new law is that independent local voices such as Bloyer’s are being squeezed off the air. In fact, late last year many public access channels in northwest Indiana went dark.
Public access TV now faces a more uncertain future than at any time since its inception in the 1970s. In the past three years, some 20 states have, like Indiana, switched to statewide franchises for cable TV. In the process, public, educational and governmental channels — the so-called “PEGs” — are getting hammered. Many are losing funding or studio space, and in a few places PEGs are being shut down altogether. The wild sandbox that gave political gadflies, aerobics instructors, sex therapists and many others a place to hone their video skills, while entertaining those who dared to watch, may never be the same. —>
Leaving Localism Behind
In the January 7th issue of Broadcasting and Cable, Gene McHugh, general manager of Fox TV station WAGA in Atlanta, is quoted as saying, “We’ve determined that localism is the future for TV stations.” The article reported that WAGA and other Fox TV stations are adding an extra half hour of late night news to their schedules in 2008. More local news, however, may mean little if it is just more of the same sensational journalism and celebrity gossip that dominates both national and local news.
Yet, McHugh’s statement does represent a rare admission that stations could be doing more to serve the local public. Not only could they do more, but people are hungry for it. The statement strikes at the heart of the myth that the junk news that is so prevalent is just “giving people what they want.” McHugh recognizes that the citizens of Atlanta and people across the country are desperate not only for more local news, but also for better local news that addresses the critical issues like health care, the economy, safety, and the environment.
Just two weeks after this article appeared, the Federal Communications Commission took action on a long- overdue localism debate that dates back to the previous chairman, Michael Powell. Unfortunately, the FCC did not come to the same conclusion as Gene McHugh and WAGA. It seems the FCC, whose mission is in part to foster localism, thinks stations are doing just fine. The report, released on January 24th, concludes a proceeding that included six public hearings and thousands of comments from concerned citizens. While the comments submitted and the testimony given overwhelmingly suggest that the American people are dissatisfied with the way their local media are serving their community, the FCC barely acknowledged these complaints in their report. —>
An FCC watcher’s guide to Super Tuesday
by Matthew Lasar
Lasar’s Letter on the FCC
Super Tuesday is coming on, well, Tuesday. Twenty four states and American Samoa will hold primary elections or primary caucuses for Democrats and Republicans. And while the horse-race watchers obsess over which candidate will be most electable, LLFCC has kept track of their positions on broadcasting and telecommunications related issues. Of all of the contenders for the Democratic nomination, John Edwards had the most clear and comprehensive set of positions on Federal Communications Commission related matters. Unfortunately, the former United States Senator has withdrawn from the race.
Candidate Edwards repeatedly pledged to strengthen rather than weaken the FCC’s media ownership rules. “Edwards believes extreme media consolidation threatens free speech,” his media page declares, “tilts the public dialogue towards corporate priorities and away from local concerns, and makes it increasingly difficult for women and minorities to own a stake in our media.” Edwards also promised to strengthen public interest requirements for broadcasters, including disability access requirements. Edwards said that he supports net neutrality. And he assured voters that he would lift restrictions on the licensing of Low Power FM radio stations.
Congressmember Dennis Kucinich, who has also withdrawn from the race, also supported net neutrality and opposed the relaxation of the agency’s media ownership rules. Kucinich has been a strong supporter of locally controlled, public access television and Low Power FM radio.
Four candidates with clear records on the issues remain in the field. —>
Prescott considers new channel on access television (1 comment)
Daily Courier (AZ)
A possible change in the city’s public access television programming and an engineering contract for levee analysis will be among the issues the Prescott City Council will discuss this week…. On the agenda will be discussion and possible direction from the council on the creation of a government channel through the Prescott Community Access Channel, Inc.’s Access13.
City Manager Steve Norwood explained on Friday that officials with Access13 approached him recently with the proposal for adding another access channel for Prescott television viewers. While City Council meetings and other programs currently air on channel 13, Norwood said the change would move that programming to channel 15. Channel 13 would remain as the channel for other access programming. —>
Waiting on FiOS Until It Can Deliver LMC-TV
by Judy Silberstein
Larchmont Gazette (NY)
Less than 24 hours after the Larchmont Village Board approved door-to-door sales of Verizon’s new FiOS (fiber optic) television service on January 7, the salesmen were at our door, and we eagerly signed on. (See: Verizon & Cable Board Agree on TV Franchise Terms and Verizon FiOS Ready for Sale but Not for LMC-TV.) We were lured by the promise of faster broadband, more reliable phone service, better digital picture and lower prices.
There was a hitch – a deal breaker for us. Verizon was not yet ready to provide local access television stations, including LMC-TV, and no one knew when that part of the service would begin. The salesmen and their supervisor had no clue. Nevertheless, we signed up – having been assured that we could just delay installation until Verizon was ready to deliver LMC-TV.
Unhappily, we learned later that Verizon’s franchise agreement allows four months to conclude whatever process is necessary to enable broadcast of local access stations over FiOS. According to a Verizon spokesperson, the work is a priority – but it’s not easy. The likely completion date is April 10. And, much to our regret, we learned that pushing off installation of our FiOS television and telephone was also not easy. The system could barely handle a short delay; multiple delays led to chaos…
…But, for us, the biggest problem was the specter of being without LMC-TV for months. Why do we care? For the Gazette, LMC-TV is our back-up for all the government meetings we cover. We rely on the live broadcasts when we can’t be at a session and on the replays when we need to review exactly what was said.
And why should you care? Judging from the number of citizens attending most sessions, very few of you actually turn up at Village Hall or the Town Center or Mamaroneck High School for board meetings. Many more of you – without a rating service, we don’t know how many – watch from home. We try to cover the highlights in our reporting, but if you want all the details, LMC-TV is the only source. And then there are all the other LMC-TV shows that are hosted by community members and that feature our neighbors and our neighborhood. —>
City seeks to regulate its cable TV channel
by Angela Daughtry
Fernandina Beach – If City Manager Michael Czymbor has his way, the city’s local public access channel will have a new regulatory policy. Czymbor has asked city commissioners to consider adopting a Public, Educational, and Government Channel Broadcasting, or PEG, policy for the channel the city has with cable television franchisee Comcast. The PEG policy would designate what types of programs the city would allow to be broadcast. Any religious, political or commercial shows would have to pay Comcast for airtime and would not be allowed on the city’s public access channel.
“Our quandary is that we don’t have any rules and regulations,” Czymbor told commissioners at a Jan. 22 commission meeting. He pointed out that if the city allows churches to have free programming, it must also allow any organization, no matter how controversial, to run programs on the channel.
Commissioner Ron Sapp said the progression of public access cable “has been interesting to watch.” He noted that the cable company used to be “equal access,” providing free equipment and a studio for the public to air its own shows. “Now the taxpayers have to provide the equipment,” he said. “The First Amendment didn’t apply to Comcast, but it applies to us.”
Commissioner Bruce Malcolm asked Czymbor if there had been a problem with misuse of the channel. Czymbor answered that the channel had not been misused but without the PEG policy, the city would have to broadcast any program, “whatever the organization’s mission.” He added that he thought the city should be doing “a lot more programs that would interest the general public,” such as tours of Egans Creek Greenway and the lighthouse.
Commissioner Ken Walker said he could not understand why the channel hasn’t been used more, but to “keep some form of civility to the channel we have to adopt some sort of rules.” Sapp noted there has been community access programming since the early ’70s, with “no conflict, no controversy.” “If there begins to be a concern, then we start to look at that,” he added. “So why pass some exclusionary kinds of rules?” —>
Town television offers new programs this month
Greenwich Post (CT)
In February, Greenwich Community Television Channel 79 will feature three programs on topics of public interest this election year: climate change, civil rights and equal education.
“The Economics of Climate Change: Risk, Ethics and a Global Deal,” a lecture by Lord Nicholas Stern, is part of The Walter E. Edge Lecture series at Princeton University…
…“Jim Crow’s Last Stand: The Struggle for Civil Rights in the Suburban North,” a lecture by Thomas J. Sugrue, was given at Case Western University in 2007 as part of its Cityscapes Lecture Series…
…“A View From the Top: A Conversation with Former Governors About Abbott v. Burke,” a 2007 program featuring former New Jersey governors Brendan Byrne, Jim Florio and Donald DiFrancesco, was held at Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs. —>
Seeing is believing — or is it?
by Rick Siefert (1 comments)
The Red Electric
—> Last week two Media Think colleagues (Joan Rutkowski and Matt Stockton) and I presented a televised discussion about television advertising. We examined four ads for the above products in some detail. In the course of the Metro East cable access program, “Community Hotline,” we considered several questions:
Who made these ads? How were they made and at what cost? For whom were they made? What devices were used to appeal to the “target audience”? How successful were the ads in appealing to the audience? What were the ads NOT telling viewers that they needed to know about the product.”
One hour wasn’t enough time to do justice to the questions or the answers, but we made a start. (The program will be rebroadcast, and I’ve listed the times below if you are interested in seeing what we had to say.)
The ability to “read” visual images critically (yes, I know, words are also visual images) is a necessity in our media-saturated culture. The field of media literacy tries to address that need. Media Think, one of dozens of groups around the country, is lobbying to make media literacy a “life skill” and a required subject in our schools. Without the skill, we will be increasingly vulnerable media messages aimed not at our minds but at our emotions and basest instincts—never mind the cost to us, our society or the planet.
As I’ve done my own critical thinking about our on-air ad analysis, I wish we had shared some key concepts of media literacy and applied them to the ads. Better late than never. You can find varying lists of these concepts, but here are the ones that the Alliance for a Media Literate America (AMLA) circulates. After each. I’ve included my own parenthetical comments in hopes of giving you a sense of the concept’s significance. —>
Kenyan Expatriates Access Live African Television Coverage of Crisis in their Homeland
by Howard Lesser
A leading broadcaster of African television over broadband internet has noticed a surge in the number of Kenyan viewers and others around the world avidly following disturbing political developments in Kenya. Africast-TV streams real-time and archived programming over the internet from more than 40 public and independent channels in 25 African countries to subscribers in 50 countries, who can also sign up to watch it on their television sets. From its US headquarters in Westport, Connecticut, founder and CEO John Sarpong says that the contentious campaign and its violence-filled aftermath has stirred more than 120-thousand anxious new viewers to tune in, looking to fill a void in global media coverage of Africa. —>
Broadcasters, cable operators blasted for bottom-line approach to content
The Canadian Press
GATINEAU, Que. – Actors, directors, writers and producers described Canadian private broadcasters as greedy capitalists who care little about Canadian programming, as week-long hearings on the future of domestic television programming began Monday. “Our problem in this country is the broadcasters who have been demonstrating a slavish devotion to lowest common denominator U.S. shows and simulcast them at bargain-basement prices,” said Richard Hardacre, president of ACTRA, the Canadian writer’s guild.
The comments came at a news conference in conjunction with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission hearings, which are examining recommendations to change the way Canadian-produced television and films are financed. The federal regulator will be hearing arguments throughout the week on a proposal that would divide the $288 million fund essentially into two streams – one for commercial shows paid for by private broadcasters, and another supported by the government to produce culturally significant programming. —>
Survey: More Internet Users Watch Web TV Than Cable VOD
20% Of Internet Users Watches A Show A Week On The Web
by Todd Spangler
Internet users are more likely to watch TV shows on the Web than access cable video-on-demand services, according to a survey by research firm Solutions Research Group. The survey found that about 20% of Internet users in the United States said they watch TV episodes on the Web every week, compared with 14% who use a cable operator’s VOD. —>
compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media