Archive for the ‘MB 05-311’ category

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government September 17th Hearing on PEG Access TV, in YouTube Clips

September 21, 2008

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We thank the House staff and the staff of DCTV for their work in making this footage available.  Persons interested in cablecasting this hearing on their communities’ PEG access channels may obtain a copy by contacting the Alliance for Community Media at 202-393-2650 x 12.  Also, the whole hearing is available for viewing in one online file at http://blip.tv/file/1278920/ .

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01: Chairman Jose Serrano (NY-D) Opening Statement (pdf)

In his opening statement Chairman Serrano expressed support for PEG access, explaining the purpose of the 1984 federal law that gave local franchising entities the authority to require PEG access channels.  “By granting this authority,” Serrano said, “Congress recognized that PEG programming is in the public interest and essential to our communties as an outlet for free speech, local information and opinions, and emergency communications.  PEG supports our democratic ideals by helping to develop a well-informed and educated society.  It benefits all of us to support and encourage PEG programming.”

Chairman Serrano also explicitly took AT&T to task for declining to attend the hearing.  “AT&T’s recent action relating to PEG channels goes to the heart of many of the concerns that will be raised today.  Let the record show that I consider their decision not to send a witness to be indicative of the company’s apparent disregard of the importance of PEG to local communities.”
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Chairman Jose Serrano (NY-D) & Acting Ranking Member Mark Kirk (IL-R)

02: Acting Ranking Member Mark Kirk (IL-R) Opening Statement

In the absence of the Subcommittee Ranking Member Ralph Regula (OH-R), Rep. Mark Kirk (IL-R) made the opening statement for the minority.  He strongly reinforced the Chairman’s comments on AT&T, and the importance of PEG access.  “If there was any thought by AT&T that the Republican member here at the hearing would help them out, let me disabuse them now,” Kirk said.

Kirk continued, “I think this committee should take some action on this.  It does appear that AT&T is in direct violation of Illinois law, and so, whether it is in Springfield or in Washington, we should fix this to make sure that there is a very convenient place, especially for our seniors, to find what’s happening in their local community… I breeze through local access cable like everyone else does, except when we’re doing a zoning or other issue related to my neighborhood, and then we are locked on this like everyone else.”
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03: Monica Desai, FCC Media Bureau Chief, Testimony (pdf)

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04: Barbara Popovic, Alliance for Community Media, Testimony – (Written-pdf) (Oral-pdf)

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05: Howard Symons, National Cable Television Assoc., Testimony (pdf)

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06: Michael Max Knobbe, BronxNet, Testimony (pdf)

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07: Chairman Jose Serrano (NY-D); Questions – Territories

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08: Chairman Jose Serrano (NY-D); Questions

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09: Acting Ranking Member Mark Kirk (IL-R); Questions

Rep. Kirk asked Monica Desai, “What are your plans to implement your testimony from the Commission, to make sure that AT&T is forced to bring PEG back to the basic – so that they have a channel, somewhere between 1 and 100, on the basic service tier, and are not exiled to on-demand?”  Desai replied, “I would be anxious to place this issue in front of the Commissioners for them to decide, with our view that this would be a violation of the statute.  But what we would need is to have a specific and formal complaint filed in front of us.  We would need something to act on.”
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10: Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (MI-D); Questions

Rep. Kilpatrick made mention of the Michigan law suit enjoining Comcast from channel slamming, then said, “I don’t want to see PEG relegated to some substandard something.  It ought to be right up there with the other major channels.  And whatever we have to do to get it there — it sounds like it’s a regulatory something, as well as a people something — and if we have to mobilize America to educate them to what it is, I think we have to do that.”

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11: Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY-D); Questions

Rep. Hinchey asked about possibly establishing minimum levels of support for PEG access.  “I have a public access station back in my district, in the city of Binghamton,” Hinchey said, “that unfortunately is not provided with the facilities and training by its cable service providers.  So I’m wondering what you think could be done so that the Federal Communications Commission would have the authority to enforce perhaps a federal minimum of financial support that could be provided by cable service providers, so that rural areas generally have the same capability for public access as do larger cities?”

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12: Rep. Peter Visclosky (IN-D); Questions

"Oh, don't say that!"

Rep. Peter Visclosky to NCTA's Howard Symons: "Oh, don't say that!"

Rep. Peter Visclosky (IN-D) asked questions of Howard Symons about the cable industry’s commitment to community service.  In response to a question about Comcast’s closing of studios following passage of Indiana’s statewide video franchising law, Symons said: “You know, Congressman, the cable industry didn’t ask the state legislatures to change the law.”  Visclosky instantly replied, “Oh, don’t say that!  Don’t say that! I would suggest that that is not a correct statement — to be polite.”
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13: Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-D); Questions

Rep. Adam Schiff (CA-D) questioned Ms. Desai’s mention of the FCC’s requiring a formal complaint

“I’m surprised that it really requires that.  I would think if you have an oversight responsibility in this area, and you see major companies who are not complying with the statute, that you have the authority on your own to take action, to communicate with the companies that this does not meet the requirements of the statute.”
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14: Chairman Jose Serrano (NY-D); Questions, Round 2

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15: Michael Max Knobbe Answers Chairman Serrano

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16: Acting Ranking Member Mark Kirk (IL-R); Questions, Round 2


Rep. Kirk asked Ms. Desai if a joint letter from the Committee would help the FCC expedite an inquiry into these matters.  “I would be willing to sign a letter, with the Chairman, to you, saying, ‘Hey, get on the case here.’  Is that enough for you to get rolling?”

Ms. Desai answered, “I’m sure a letter from you and Chairman Serrano would be taken… act on it post haste.”
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17: Rep. Maurice Hinchey (NY-D); Questions, Round 2

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18: Chairman Jose Serrano (NY-D) Closing Statement

“We stay committed to the commitment I made before to Mr. Kirk and the Committee that the issues that have been discussed here will be placed by this Committee officially in a formal fashion before the FCC, to make sure that we begin to look at the whole issue and how best we can stick to the intent of the law, notwithstanding some changes that have taken along the way.”
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compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650
http://alliancecm.org

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/25/07

December 31, 2007

Local Groups Petition FCC to Stay Ruling on Video-Franchise Reform
Broadcast Newsroom
12/21/07

Local franchise authorities, including the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, have asked the FCC to stay its Oct. 31 decision extending to incumbent cable operators essentially the same video-franchise reforms it gave telco video providers  in an earlier ruling.

In a petition for the stay and reconsideration of the decision, the local government groups “more than a half dozen of them, including the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors” argued that the commission failed to preempt “most-favored nation” clauses (which specify that the a new entrants can’t get better terms than the incumbent) or to base its decision on “appropriate economic impact analysis.” The groups further pointed out that they had filed a lawsuit against the initial decision granting franchise relief to telco video providers.    “In the absence of a stay,” they said in the FCC filing, “petitioners’ members will be irreparably harmed.” The governments have said that the FCC decision will “severely restrict the ability of local governments to protect their citizens, rights-of-way, community channels, and public safety networks.”

They argue in the request for a stay that by not preempting existing most-favored nation clauses, the commission “upended the franchise negotiation process.”   —>
http://webcast.broadcastnewsroom.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=263342
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The good FCC
by Matthew Lasar
Lasar’s Letter on the FCC
12/21/07

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission, by a bare majority, voted to lift its over three decade old prohibition against an entity owning a newspaper and a television station in the same market. Most FCC watchers will now shift their visors to Congress and the circuit courts, where media reform activists will doubtless turn in a bid to reverse this ruling.  But the agency also made four important decisions this month and last that deserve a second glance, not only because they could have an impact on broadcasting, but because they illustrate the extent to which the Commission can promote measures that clearly serve the public interest—when it wants to.

Low Power FM…
Diversification of broadcast ownership…
Cable subscriber caps…
Localism
   —>
http://www.lasarletter.net/drupal/node/531
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Local Network’s Warnings About TV Unheeded
by Louise Thompson
Tampa Tribune (FL)
12/25/07

Regarding the Tribune editorial, “Bright House Snubs Public Good” (Our Opinion, Dec. 13):

In this editorial about Bright House Networks moving local government channels to the 600 tier, you neglected to let your readers know that their own local public access channels have also been moved from Bright House channels 19 and 20 to digital channels 949 and 950 or Outer Mongolia on the TV channel lineup.  To view Tampa Bay Community Network’s programs, which are produced by the local community, Bright House subscribers who don’t currently have digital boxes, will have to rent them for $1 per month.  Or, perhaps, and more likely, make the switch to Verizon FIOS, where they can still view Tampa Bay Community Network on channels 30 and 36.

It is on TBCN that viewers can watch alternative news programming like Democracy Now and Free Speech TV, learn (in both English and Spanish) how to access nonprofit and government services, enjoy University of Tampa sports, take in a sermon or local band, “attend” (via TV) local community events and, perhaps most importantly, watch local debates and political forums that may help them vote in the right people come November.

As we previously told your editorial board, there is no question that our legislators made a huge error when they passed the so-called Consumer Choice Act of 2007, which your paper supported.  As our governor suggested when he signed the bill last May, it needs to be amended to protect the public, education and government channels. Hopefully, that will happen.

And, just maybe, then the county’s Board of County Commissioners, which eliminated residents’ free speech rights on cable when they de-funded the people’s channel, will come to its senses and restore their constitutional rights by reinstating TBCN’s budget.  As your own editorial pointed out in a different context, why would anyone want to “slam shut a wonderful window of public access”?
http://www2.tbo.com/content/2007/dec/25/na-local-networks-warnings-about-tv-unheeded/
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Daytona may televise more public meetings
by John Bozzo
Daytona Beach News-Journal (FL)
12/24/07

Forget about those premium movie channels.  Mayor Glenn Ritchey is considering expanding the city’s telecasts of public meetings on Channel 99.  “There’s a lot of people who can’t get to meetings because of their work schedule or they can’t because of their health, or any reason,” he said.  City Commission meetings began airing on the Bright House cable channel last Jan. 10 after the company provided the city with $300,000 to equip the commission chambers to televise discussions.

“Anything that takes place in the commission chambers — Planning Board, Code Enforcement Board, redevelopment boards, Economic Development Advisory Board — anybody who meets in the chambers, we’re already set up to televise there like we do for the City Commission,” Ritchey said.  The mayor plans to nail down additional costs, such as for employees to operate the equipment, before bringing the issue to the City Commission, possibly Jan. 16.  “The whole thing is to make our government more accessible,” Ritchey said.

Other commissioners appear to like the idea of televising city advisory board meetings, but cost might be an issue.  “I don’t know what the costs are yet,” Commissioner Rick Shiver said. “I like the concept a whole lot.”   —>
http://www.news-journalonline.com/NewsJournalOnline/News/Headlines/frtHEAD03122507.htm
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PVT wants to enter Carlsbad cable market
by Stella Davis
Current Argus (NM)
12/25/07

CARLSBAD — Artesia-based PVT Networks is seeking a long-term, non-exclusive cable franchise agreement with the city of Carlsbad.  If the Carlsbad City Council approves the agreement, PVT will begin building its multi-million fiber optic network in Carlsbad that, when completed, will offer residents cable television with a “local flavor,” said Terry Mullins, PVT marketing director.

“What we are planning to do is build a fiber network in phases,” Mullins said. “The network will be capable of delivering video, TV cable, local telephone and extremely high-speed Internet for businesses and residences.”  PVT offers video/telephone, video/cable, data Internet, landline and cell phone services to residents in North Eddy County and other rural communities north of Artesia.

“We hope to get the city’s support on this,” Mullins said. “We offer cable TV with a local flavor in Artesia that offers high school sporting events, community theater productions and other community functions. We  also offer the standard channels and special packages and other quality products. The people in Artesia like to see the local stuff on cable and we have received a lot of favorable comments from them. We believe Carlsbad would also like to have the local cable channel, in addition to the standard channels.”   —>
http://www.currentargus.com/ci_7807271
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Council adopts public access TV policy
by Dick Broom
Bar Harbor Times (ME)
12/25/07

The Town Council last week adopted a policy governing use of the public access cable television channel, which the town controls.  The policy states that programs distributed on the Public Access System “may be intended for any purpose and may include information, entertainment or the expression of points of view without limitation unless prohibited elsewhere in this document.”  Content that is not allowed includes:

• Advertisements or information concerning lotteries or games of chance;
• Advertising designed to promote the sale of commercial products or services;
• Solicitation of funds;
• Material soliciting or promoting unlawful conduct;
• Statements, pictures or sound that violate town, state or federal laws including those related to obscenity, defamation, slander and libel;
• Sexually explicit material.

The administrator of the Public Access System must be notified if a program contains adult language, images or situations.  “At the sole discretion of the administrator, this material may be cablecast outside of prime time child viewing hours,” the policy states. “Such programs would be cablecast between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m.”  Steve Cornell, the town’s technical systems administrator is designated as the Public Access System administrator.   —>
http://www.mainecoastnow.com/articles/2007/12/26/bar_harbor_times/local_news/doc476fb6ebcfb3b860646519.txt
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‘Interviews with the Veterans’ public access program lets former GIs tell their stories
by Andrew Schroedter
Chicago Tribune (IL)
12/25/07

Like many in his generation, Larry Littel preferred not to talk about what he saw as a member of the California National Guard during World War II.  Littel, 82, said not even his family heard stories about gun fights in the Pacific Islands or the men he saw wounded and killed.  “I didn’t talk about it for 50 years,” said Littel of Evanston. “But you know, there’s a 1,000 of us dying every day. In 10 years, you won’t know we were around.”

Rushing to capture the stories of Chicago-area veterans before it’s too late is part of what motivates Gerry Boguse to produce his “Interviews with the Veterans” program, broadcast on local public access in 28 communities on the North Shore and in the northwest suburbs.  Since the first show in May 2004, Boguse has filmed 65 interviews with 55 veterans like Littel, who served in World War II, the Korean and Vietnam Wars.  “I’m not glorifying war,” said Boguse, 47, a programming/government access coordinator with the Evanston Community Media Center. “I’m here to record history.”   —>
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/local/chi-vets_on_tvdec25,1,5951320.story?ctrack=1&cset=true
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Rhode Island gets a lot more FiOS TV
by Darren Murph
engadgetHD.com
12/23/07

Wondering what Verizon was going to get you for the holidays? If you find yourself a resident of the Ocean State, the answer could be FiOS TV access. Reportedly, the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carries granted Verizon licenses just this week to operate cable TV services in Charlestown, Cranston, Foster, Hopkinton, Johnston, Narragansett, North Providence, Providence, Richmond, Scituate, South Kingstown and Westerly. Apparently, Verizon had secured a license to operate in Service Area 6 earlier this year, but just now got approval on Areas 2, 3 and 8 covering the locales mentioned above.   —>
http://www.engadgethd.com/2007/12/23/rhode-island-gets-a-lot-more-fios-tv/
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Verizon FiOS coming to more Westchester communities
by Sean Gorman
The Journal News (NY)
12/25/07

OSSINING – Several more Westchester communities are moving closer to sealing deals to provide Verizon cable television to their residents.  Last week, Briarcliff Manor, the town of Ossining and Sleepy Hollow signed agreements with Verizon, the company said.  Elected officials in New Castle and the village of Ossining last week voted to give cable franchises to Verizon, but they have yet to reach final agreements.  Verizon has been working to provide its FiOS television services in a market long monopolized by Cablevision.

“I think they (residents) like the idea of competition,” said New Castle Supervisor Janet Wells. “They have felt that when there’s only one franchise, it’s hard to get the service they would like, and also I think people are hoping that it (cable services) will be less expensive.”  The town was still trying to work out some technical concerns with Verizon, such as whether events and meetings held at the library, community center and other buildings in town could be simultaneously broadcast live on both the Verizon and Cablevision systems, said Town Administrator Gennaro Faiella.

In Ossining, the village board last week voted 5-0 to approve a resolution authorizing Village Manager Linda Cooper to sign a deal with Verizon.  “It’s very important, we believe, that the competition exists,” Ossining Mayor William Hanauer said last week.  At that meeting, Verizon officials had committed to speeding up their timetable for paying $62,500 to the village for cable equipment for public access television, Hanauer said.   —>
http://www.thejournalnews.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20071225/NEWS02/712250325/1018/NEWS02
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compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650
web: http://ourchannels.org
wiki: http://peg.ourchannels.org

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/21/07

December 21, 2007

Local Groups Petition FCC to Stay Ruling on Video-Franchise Reform
Groups say FCC decision will “severely restrict the ability of local governments to protect their citizens, rights-of-way, community channels, and public safety networks.”
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable
12/21/07

Local franchise authorities, including the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors, have asked the FCC to stay its Oct. 31 decision extending to incumbent cable operators essentially the same video-franchise reforms it gave telco video providers in an earlier ruling.  In a petition for the stay and reconsideration of the decision, the local government groups—more than a half dozen of them, including the National League of Cities and the U.S. Conference of Mayors—argued that the commission failed to preempt “most-favored nation” clauses (which specify that the a new entrants can’t get better terms than the incumbent) or to base its decision on “appropriate economic impact analysis.” The groups further pointed out that they had filed a lawsuit against the initial decision granting franchise relief to telco video providers.

“In the absence of a stay,” they said in the FCC filing, “petitioners’ members will be irreparably harmed.” The governments have said that the FCC decision will “severely restrict the ability of local governments to protect their citizens, rights-of-way, community channels, and public safety networks.”  They argue in the request for a stay that by not preempting existing most-favored nation clauses, the commission “upended the franchise negotiation process.”  “It has given incumbent operators free reign to unilaterally modify their existing contractual obligations, including PEG and I-Net support,” the filing states. “It will permit incumbents to circumvent the Commission’s stated objective that any modifications to existing agreements be assessed on a “case-by-case” basis.”   —>
http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6514926.html?industryid=47170
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Dingell Asks Comcast To Rethink PEG Policy
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable
12/21/07

House Energy & Commerce Committee Chairman John Dingell has asked top cable operator Comcast to rethink moving public, educational and government (PEG) channels to the digital tier in some Michigan communities.  Dingell (D-Mich.) called “very troubling” news that some of his constituents and other Michiganders are going to have to install a set-top box and eventually pay a monthly fee if they want to receive the PEG channels.

In a letter to Comcast Chairman Brian Roberts Friday, Dingell said he was concerned about what he said was Comcast’s decision to move the PEG channels in Ann Arbor and Dearborn to the digital tier as of Jan. 15, 2008. “Comcast’s analog subscribers will then need a set-top box to be able to view PEG channels, he said, asking Comcast to “reconsider this decision.”   —>
http://www.broadcastingcable.com/article/CA6515028.html?industryid=47170
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Doyle signs ‘cable competition bill’
Small Business Times (WI)
12/21/07

Doyle Wisconsin Gov. Jim Doyle today signed the “cable competition bill,” which opens the door for AT&T Inc. and other entities to bypass having to negotiate contracts with local communities when they seek to provide video content that will compete with cable television.  Instead, the bill grants statewide licenses to video content providers.

Assembly bill 207 law streamlines the cable franchise process by creating a statewide video service franchise process through the Department of Financial Institutions. The statewide franchise will replace the current process where individual municipalities grant cable franchises in Wisconsin. Existing municipal cable franchises will be phased out.  Doyle said he preserved protections for cable customers through several vetoes…

Mark Miller (D-Monona) said, “I would have preferred a veto of the entire bill, but I am pleased Gov. Doyle vetoed the worst parts of the bill, particularly the ‘in perpetuity’ language that would have granted a video franchise forever. The governor’s vetoes improve consumer protection and provide for more industry accountability. I remain very concerned about the continued viability of local public access programming. However, the vetoes provide a window of opportunity to address these issues in the next legislative session.”   —>
http://www.biztimes.com/daily/2007/12/21/doyle-signs-cable-competition-bill
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Wisconsin Governor Signs “Video Competition” Bill: Partial Vetoes Put Lipstick, Mascara & Rouge on Pig
by Barry Orton
Paul Soglin: Waxing America
12/21/07

Without ceremony, Governor Jim Doyle signed AB 207 into law today, using his partial veto power to mitigate some of the worst aspects of the bill.   The Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) was given significant powers the original bill restricted: rulemaking, setting the franchise term, state fees, applicant qualifications and revocation standards. So instead of being a rubber stamp, DFI will have some real oversight capability.

The cities didn’t fare as well.  The Governor’s veto message bragged that he restored municipalities’ power to charge permit fees for use of public rights-of-way, but failed to mention that he didn’t veto a provision that such fees could be deducted from other fees due the cities. He vetoed a bad limit on auditing fees, but also inexplicably vetoed a good provision added in the Senate that allowed municipal control of the aesthetics of facilities placed in the rights-of-way. So, in all, not much help.

Public, educational and governmental (PEG) access channels didn’t get whole lot of help either.  The word “noncommercial” was vetoed, theoretically allowing them “the ability to air revenue-generating commercial programming,” but the veto provides no specific help on funding cuts, technical signal quality or channel location.  Expressing concern and urging the Legislature to deal with the issues PEG channels present in follow-up legislation gives new meaning to the phrase “lip service.”

AT&T is delighted by the signing, and seemingly unconcerned with the vetoes.  More reactions in the media tomorrow…stay tuned.
http://www.waxingamerica.com/2007/12/wisconsin-gover.html
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Tctv2 supporters hope for better reception
by Melissa Domsic
Record-Eagle (MI)
12/21/07

TRAVERSE CITY — Local officials are likely to pull the funding plug on public access television, but a private effort to raise cash could prevent the community channel from fading to black.  Traverse City is among a handful of governments that continue to fund tctv2 and the city plans to do so through June 2008, said City Manager Richard Lewis, who added he expects Elmwood and Garfield townships to follow suit.

But that financial support could end then, and require other mechanisms to keep the local access channel on the air.  “I don’t think it’s our role anymore to go over and dictate what’s going to be happening at that channel,” Lewis said. “It belongs to the public … the government should stay the heck out of the way.”  Traverse City, Elmwood and Garfield are the three official remaining members of the Cherry Capital Cable Council. The city and nine surrounding townships formed the council in 1993 to coordinate franchising and regulate cable rates and television.   —>
http://www.record-eagle.com/local/local_story_355093037.html
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Opposing sides meet about contentious cable permitting bill”
by Erik Schelzig
WKRN (TN)
12/21/07

Lawmakers called a meeting between the two sides of a contentious cable TV permitting proposal this week in an effort to fend off a repeat of the multimillion dollar lobbying effort and advertising barrage of last session.  The meeting was called at the urging of House Speaker Jimmy Naifeh, sponsors of the measure told The Associated Press. Naifeh, D-Covington, and Senate Speaker Ron Ramsey, R-Blountville, officially stayed on the sidelines of the legislative tussle over the bill last session.   —>
http://www.wkrn.com/nashville/news/ap-opposing-sides-meet-about-contentious-cable-permitting-bill/134206.htm
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Rowley grants cable license to Verizon
by Lynne Hendricks
Daily News of Newburyport (MA)
12/21/07

There’s a new cable provider in town, after selectmen granted Verizon New England Inc. a 10-year license to use the public way effective Dec. 17.  With the approval, representatives from Verizon said residents can begin signing up for service as early as this week.  In contrast to the hearings held last November, when residents vented their frustration with current cable provider Comcast, those crowded into selectmen’s chambers Monday evening spoke mostly in favor of Verizon’s license approval.   —>
http://www.newburyportnews.com/pubiz/local_story_355094054?keyword=topstory+page=0
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A Solution to Diversity in Media Ownership and Opinion
by Geoff Daily
AppRising
12/19/07

On Tuesday the FCC approved a new rule relaxing restrictions on newspapers who want to buy radio and television stations.  The public reaction has not been positive as activists feel this is a step down a slippery slope of media consolidation, and newspaper executives don’t feel the ruling has gone far enough.  A common thread found throughout reaction against this news is the rallying cry around the need to protect diversity of opinion. That if big conglomerates are able to continue buying up news outlets, public discourse will be restricted.

While I’ll give no argument to the fact that diversity in opinion in news and media is essential to making this country great, I do wonder about one thing: would media consolidation be that big of an issue if we lived in a world where everyone’s engaged with producing and consuming content over the Internet?

The Internet provides an open platform through which anyone can deliver their message, whatever that message may be. The Internet delivers opportunities to link people together, to share information, and to facilitate the collaborative understanding of issues. The Internet can support limitless voices and in doing so supersede concerns about the limited voices of consolidating media conglomerates.

The problem with the Internet from the perspective of diversity in local media is that since everyone can voice their opinion, the cacophony of perspectives can obscure truth. The problem with the Internet in getting these messages out is that not everyone is online and even those that are often don’t know what resources are available to them.

So in my mind, the issue should be less about lamenting the consolidation of media and moreso on how do we find more ways to leverage the Internet to allow for the creation of, discovery, and participation in a public dialogue that can not only provide balance to the views of media conglomerates but also expand the number and variety of voices being heard far beyond what is currently possible through the broadcast paradigms of print, radio, and television…

Don’t get me wrong, I have some significant reservations about how consolidation may impact public discourse in communities where the same company owns multiple outlets. (Though I tend to worry about this on a more macroscopic level related to the impact of the monopolization of media on everything, not just diversity of opinion.)  But I’m also not totally against the idea of allowing companies to acquire other companies, just so long as we begin to support local community media to a much greater degree.

To achieve diversity in media outlets we need to do a whole lot more than encourage media ownership by women and minorities. We need to equip communities with the tools to engage their citizens, to encourage them to participate, to facilitate the production of independent news that can counterbalance concentrated private interests.  It’s frustrating how so often the government tries to tackle issues individually as if they exist in their own in a bubble. To find the best answers, especially to questions involving the Internet, we need to think about things holistically, we need to realize that the best solutions may be found by solving tangential problems.

The topic of diversity in media ownership and opinion may be a perfect example by this simple idea: By supporting local community media, we can create diversity in local opinion.  Another angle to this thought is that perhaps by allowing the consolidation of media and restriction of voices we will in turn bolster interest in the independent content created by local community media outlets.  But this can only be true in a world where we’re working aggressively on getting everyone engaged with using the Internet and on supporting local community media, which has so far been best expressed through the many great things being done across the country by the PEG community.
http://www.app-rising.com/gdblog/2007/12/a_solution_to_diversity_in_med.html
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Challenging Voldemedia
Potter activists
by Sharon Steel
The Boston Phoenix (MA)
12/20/07

Is Federal Communications Commission (FCC) chairman Kevin Martin working under the Imperius Curse? Andrew Slack, the 28-year-old founder and director of the Somerville-based Harry Potter Alliance, an organization dedicated to fighting the “dark arts” in the real world, claims it’s possible. In the Harry Potterverse, that means someone cast a dark spell rendering Martin incapable of making decisions for himself — he’s under the spell-caster’s control. In our reality, however, Slack is parlaying the expression to allege that Martin has been Imperiused by the Big Six media conglomerates (News Corp., Disney, Viacom, CBS, TimeWarner, and NBC/GE) in an effort to hush the voice of independent media sources. You might recall that in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, following Voldemort’s return, the media was censored by Death Eaters in order to keep the public from the truth. Slack says the last thing this country needs is the real-world equivalent, what he’s deemed “Voldemedia.” We’re not there yet, he says, though we are in really bad shape.

“Harry Potter . . . presents a vivid example of what can happen when the media is controlled by the hands of the very few,” says Slack. “Real issues are being ignored because it’s cheaper to cover celebrity gossip.”

In the past year, the Harry Potter Alliance — mission: promote Rowling’s messages of love, tolerance, and social justice — has launched grassroots campaigns to combat a host of issues, from the genocide in Darfur to racial and sexual discrimination. Slack has been troubled for some time by drastic cuts in foreign news coverage in favor of weather, sports, and tabloid items. But he was particularly disturbed by the inevitable repercussions of Martin’s proposal to allow media companies to own both newspapers and radio/television stations in the country’s top 20 markets. It came as no surprise to Slack when the FCC voted to accept Martin’s plan on Tuesday.

On December 10, Slack partnered with  stopbigmedia.com  to release “Potterwatch” (stopbigmedia.com/potterwatch), a combination podcast and free-for-download wizard-rock compilation titled Rocking out Against Voldemedia. The podcast itself is modeled after the underground radio show in Deathly Hallows that was designed to get real news and information to the wizarding community in spite of Voldemort’s restrictions. “They combined humor and real news, and that’s what we’re doing, too,” says Slack. The podcast features wizard-rock tunes, a 1940s-style radio play, and an interview with a Darfur activist who lost her entire extended family to violence in the region.   —>
http://thephoenix.com/article_ektid53334.aspx
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Sudanese media faces difficult material and political conditions
Sudan Tribune
12/21/07

The media in Sudan are hindered by poor training and a lack of resources, and journalists are struggling to keep citizens adequately informed ahead of several important events in the country’s history.  Media advisors familiar with the environment in Sudan say it doesn’t make much sense to establish newspapers in Sudan, especially in the South, Voice of America reported.

“There are no reliable figures available, but most estimates say literacy levels in Southern Sudan are no more than 20 per cent. The vast majority of Sudanese cannot read and write,” says the manager of Sudan Radio Services, Jeremy Groce, whose broadcasts reach Southern Sudan from Kenya.  He continues: “And there are so many different languages in the region – so even if people could read and write, you’d have to print newspapers in lots of different languages – and that’s assuming there’s even a written form of that language.”

There are also few roads by which publications can be distributed across Africa’s largest country, which is prone to extreme weather conditions, such as heavy flooding during the rainy season.  “Newspaper distribution is an extreme challenge: getting them out into rural areas is impossible at the moment. Some areas in Southern Sudan are only [reliably] accessible by air. The expense of getting newspapers out is very high,” says Groce.

So many are convinced that the future of Sudan’s media industry lies with small community radio stations.   —>
http://www.sudantribune.com/spip.php?article25257
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Interview: “Miss Mia” Park, Chic-a-go-go
by Karl Klockars
The Chicgoist (IL)
12/21/07

—>  For over a decade now, Chic-a-go-go has been fusing dance party with performance art, musical all-star revue with Soul Train bootyshaking. Mia Park, better known as “Miss Mia!” on the program, has been the face of the show since 1998 and her always-up rock n’ roll demeanor is the perfect complement for the diverse world of the program. For a city that has a long and storied history of classic children’s television, Chicago is woefully lacking any sort of homegrown kid-centric programming – save for Chic-a-go-go. It’s a cotton-candy headtrip with grooving kids, innocent fun, and Li’l Ratso with all his friends. It’s beautifully awesome.  We talked to Miss Mia about Duran Duran, the Black Lone Ranger, and why you can’t date her, after the jump.   —>
http://chicagoist.com/2007/12/21/interview_miss.php
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compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650
web: http://ourchannels.org
wiki: http://peg.ourchannels.org

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/10/07

December 11, 2007

Regulators Fight FCC’s 90-Day Shot Clock
Montgomery County Files Appeal
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News
12/10/07

Local regulators across the country challenged the Federal Communications Commission’s so-called “90-day shot clock,” calling it an abuse of power, and the agency’s latest order clarifying its application of the rule has also been appealed in court.  The FCC released a Second Report and Order on Nov. 6, which detailed what franchising rules in the March 5 First Report and Order should also apply to incumbent cable TV operators.

For instance, the latest order states that the 90-day time frame does not apply to incumbents at the time of refranchising because as a current operator, a company can continue to deliver service even if negotiations run long. Therefore, prolonged talks are not a barrier to the provision of service.

But Montgomery County, MD., on behalf of other challengers of the FCC rules on franchising, appealed the latest order in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit on Dec. 6. The county’s appeal asserts that the most recent order “exceeds the FCC’s statutory authority, is arbitrary and capricious and violates the Fifth and Tenth Amendments to the U.S. Constitution,” among other legal claims.

These are similar to the abuse of regulatory discretion claims made in the challenge to the original, March 5, franchising order. That legal challenge is still pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth District.
http://www.multichannel.com/article/CA6511254.html
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Criticism of the FCC’s chairman is widely aired
‘Lone operator’ is said to keep plans from colleagues and manage the agency ineffectively.
by Jim Puzzanghera
Los Angeles Times
12/10/07

The Federal Communications Commission’s monthly meetings are scheduled to start at 9:30 a.m. Under Chairman Kevin J. Martin, the trains don’t always run on time, and recently they’ve come close to veering off the rails.  On Nov. 27, for instance, the FCC was slated to consider controversial proposals dealing with potential new cable TV regulations and increasing women and minority ownership of broadcast stations. Journalists, lobbyists and spectators waited as the five commissioners on the fractious panel wrangled over the issues eight floors above. When they finally showed up for the public session — nearly 12 hours late — the few spectators remaining had front-row seats for the sniping and accusations that are threatening to become hallmarks of FCC meetings.

Critics usually blame Martin, a soft-spoken Republican known as a political tactician who has accomplished the rare feat of being criticized by all four of his fellow commissioners. He is also facing a congressional inquiry into the FCC’s procedures and allegations of flawed research studies, suppressing data, ignoring public input and holding hearings with minimal notice.

“The FCC appears to be broken,” Rep. John D. Dingell (D-Mich.), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said during a hearing last week. Congressional Democrats’ growing frustration with Martin could hinder his agenda. Last week, for example, a Senate committee passed legislation to delay Martin’s planned vote this month on loosening media ownership rules.

In an interview, Martin said he was under fire for trying to force the FCC to deal with controversial topics. “It’s not unusual for there to be tension in trying to work them out.”

FCC employees and people who frequently deal with the agency said tensions were bogging down the panel. Reviews of corporate mergers and sales frequently stretch longer than the six months the agency aims for. Critics have complained that important issues — such as the 2009 transition to digital television and reforming a fund that subsidizes phone and Internet service for low-income and rural residents — are taking a back seat to bickering.  “There’s budding upheaval here if some of these abuses don’t get addressed,” said an FCC official who requested anonymity to avoid irritating Martin.   —>
http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/world/la-fi-fcc10dec10,0,4815390.story?coll=la-home-center
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What cable competition bill, poised for passage Tuesday, may mean for consumers
by Brian E. Clark
WisBusiness.com
12/10/07

When the Chibardun Telephone Cooperative considered offering cable television services in Rice Lake six years ago, it backed off the plan because of a city requirement that it serve all of the 9,000-person community within 18 months.  “We couldn’t make that commitment,” said Rick Vergin, CEO of the 70-employee company.  But if the state Assembly approves legislation dubbed the cable competition bill (AB 207) on Tuesday and Gov. Jim Doyle signs it, Vergin says his company will begin offering service early next year to Rice Lake.

Adam Raschka, a spokesman for Rep. Phil Montgomery, R-Green Bay, said he expects the legislation to pass without amendments. Montgomery is the lead proponent of the Assembly bill.  “It’s been discussed at length,” Raschka said of the legislation, which ends existing deals with local governments and cable companies. Those agreements would be replaced by a state-wide franchise costing $2,000 annually.  “We are confident the Assembly will concur with the Senate version,” he said of Tuesday’s planned floor session.

But critics of the legislation remain. Among them: Jim Zellmer, who runs a small real estate software firm in the Madison suburb of Fitchburg. He says the bill is flawed because it lacks consumer protections and fails to require telecommunications companies to lay fiber optic cable to homes and businesses. Zellmer and other critics also say they doubt if it will lead to more competition…

Barry Orton, a UW-Madison professor, said he’s concerned the bill will leave parts of Wisconsin underserved.  “I know they say ‘the market will take care of it,’ but I worry that there will be some poor areas of Milwaukee or south Madison, for example, that will be ‘red-lined,’ with this new law,” he said.

Zellmer, who blogs on telecommunications and other issues at Zmetro.com, said he sees “no evidence that the dominant Wisconsin ‘telcos’ have an interest in implementing a modern, widespread fiber network to the home.  “Pervasive fiber benefits everyone – schools, government, residential and business users, but they aren’t going to build it,” argued Zellmer, who owes the predicted telecommunications victory on this legislation to a huge lobbying effort.  “Meanwhile, around the world and in other U.S. communities, fiber installation continues,” he said. “It will take decades for Wisconsin to catch up, once it starts.”

According to author Bruce Kushnick’s book, “$200 Billion Broadband Scandal,” – cited on Zellmer’s blog – the U.S. telecommunications companies have failed to live up to promises they would install fiber to 86 million households by 2006.  Kushnick said that agreement was part of the deal worked out in the 1996 Telecommunications Reform Act. “They asked for and were given some $200 billion in tax cuts to pay for it.  “But the Bells didn’t spend that money on fiber upgrades,” he said. “They spent it on long distance, wireless and inferior DSL services.”   —>
http://www.wisbusiness.com/index.iml?Article=112681
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Bright House Makes Waves In Government Television
by Anthony McCartney
The Tampa Tribune (FL)
12/10/07

Some television viewers who want to watch government programming will have to pay a little extra to tune in beginning Tuesday.  The move affects Bright House Networks subscribers who do not have a digital television or cable service that requires a converter box. They will have to pay $1 a month for a digital converter to watch several government, education and public access channels. The channels also will be moving on the channel lineup, no longer occupying a lower tier of channel numbers.  The new lineup will be as follows:   —>
http://www2.tbo.com/content/2007/dec/10/me-bright-house-makes-waves-in-government-tv/
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Time to upgrade Channel 26
by Dave Hardesty
Tracy Press (CA)
12/08/07

—>   I recommend engaging a service provider that deals with live and indexed on-demand video services, such as can be seen by viewing http://elkgrove.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=3, Elk Grove’s city Web page; or http://stockton.granicus.com/ViewPublisher.php?view_id=4, the Web page for the city of Stockton.

With an initial investment of about $20,000 and a re-occurring expense of roughly $10,000 per year, money already available via the funding from the Cable Franchise Agreement and defrayed costs incurred by having city-paid employees do the job, the city of will be positioned to join cities like San Francisco, San Carlos, Palo Alto, Brentwood and Sacramento, offering residents live and on-demand streaming Internet video.   —>
http://tracypress.com/content/view/12600/2244/
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Media center puts focus on nonprofits
by Erica Kritt
Carroll County Times (MD)
12/08/07

The Community Media Center is making it easier for residents to give to those in need in Carroll County.  All this month, 48 of the county’s nonprofits are being spotlighted on Channel 19, the county’s TV channel. The eight hourlong programs, which will run every day of the week for the rest of the month, were filmed Friday at the Community Media Center.  “We’ve been doing it for nine years,” said Marion Ware, executive director of the CMC. “It started off as a Christmas party and it’s just gotten bigger.”   —>
http://www.carrollcountytimes.com/articles/2007/12/08/news/local_news/newsstory5.txt
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An “Honest” Mistake in Greece?
by stlo7
Rochester Turning (NY)
12/04/07

Well – another day another op-ed piece that makes you spit out your coffee.  I’d argue many of these op-eds are actual health and safety issues as it seems I’m continually spitting out my breakfast as I read the daily drivel.  Two words I don’t want to see in the same sentence – let alone referring to the same event “on advice from the district’s attorneys” and “honest mistake”

So let’s review the editorial. Here is my take.  A school board member urges voters to vote a particular way. This is either illegal in some degree or, as the op-ed says, prohibited. So the school board member urges a vote a certain way, the incident is caught on tape. Attorney’s are consulted and the offending (to the school board) video is deleted. The offending school board member apologizes and all with well with the world. Oh, we should be reasonably concerned that the school board who doesn’t have to tape these meetings might get the opportunity for greater abuses because there is a move to take these responsibilities from a local independent agency currently taping these meeting. The Fed rules are stricter.  Where to start.   —>
http://rochesterturning.com/2007/12/04/an-honest-mistake-in-greece/
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Celebrating everyday women
by Cindy Cantrell
Boston Globe (MA)
12/09/07

While working as a realtor for 22 years, Dacey Zouzas of Chelmsford said she was consistently inspired by tales of personal and professional perseverance from the women she met. So when she saw an ad looking for volunteers to produce public access shows a year and a half ago, Zouzas (left) became a television host and producer in order to share their stories.  “I wanted to do something to celebrate these everyday women who are working and raising families, and moving forward no matter what cards they’ve been dealt,” she said. “I wanted to bring their voices front and center.”

Since launching “Dacey’s Divas” through Chelmsford TeleMedia in June 2006, Zouzas has broadcast 40 episodes. Guests have included businesswomen, politicians, philanthropists, leaders in education and nonprofit organizations, athletes, musicians, artists, and survivors of cancer and other illnesses.   —>
http://www.boston.com/news/local/articles/2007/12/09/celebrating_everyday_women/
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For Ewa Today
Hawaii House Blog (HI)
12/10/07

That’s the title of Rep. Cabanilla’s weekly public access television show on Olelo, ch. 54. It airs every Sunday at 7:00 p.m. For the month of December, the show will focus on the Toll Road concept.
http://hawaiihouseblog.blogspot.com/2007/12/for-ewa-today.html
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New bill would stop FCC’s cable regulation attempt
by Nate Anderson
Ars Technica
12/10/07

What happens when a large and powerful US industry decides that it doesn’t like a law? Simple: it works to change that law. AT&T has had notable success this year at pushing legislation for state governments to bypass local controls and give the company a statewide video franchise. Not to be left out, cable has mounted a lobbying offensive of its own in the wake of the FCC’s attempt to regulate the industry. The effort is now paying fruit in Washington.

Late last week, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced HR4307 (PDF), the “Consumer Freedom of Choice in Cable Act.” It’s not clear why this name was chosen, since the bill’s main text is under fifty words long and simply repeals the 70/70 rule so loathed by cable. Does that make you, the consumer, feel free to choose?

The 70/70 rule came out of a 1984 cable law that largely deregulated the industry. That law said that the FCC could exert broad authority over the cable companies should they ever pass more than 70 percent of all US households, and should more than 70 percent of those households actually subscribe to cable. No one doubts that the first threshold has been reached, but there is substantial uncertainty about the second one.   —>
http://arstechnica.com/news.ars/post/20071210-christmas-comes-early-for-cable-bill-would-gut-7070-rule.html
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The 700 Club – Minus Two
by Jim Barthold
Cable360.net
12/10/07

Comcast and Time Warner Cable have withdrawn from next month’s mortgage-the-future bidding war for 700 MHz spectrum, thereby squelching a pretty good theory about how cable operators could blanket their serving areas with WiMAX and deliver an in-franchise mobile wireless play using 700 MHz spectrum.

Ostensibly, the two biggest MSOs pulled out because that multi-billion-dollar swath of spectrum they bought as part of SpectrumCo, along with Cox Communications and (at the time but not now) Sprint Nextel, will cover their mobile needs. Beneath the surface, it’s also likely the two cable behemoths, who surprisingly broke stride with Cox on this, didn’t want to get into a bidding war with the deep pocketed telcos and their newfound gadfly friend Google.

While it sort of makes sense for Comcast and Time Warner to back away, and it sort of makes sense for Cox to stay in, it’s puzzling why Google, which has a lot of money but no networking sense, wants to play at all.   —>
http://www.cable360.net/technology/news/26962.html
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compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media
202-393-2650
web: http://ourchannels.org
wiki: http://peg.ourchannels.org