Archive for the ‘media research’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/04/08

April 5, 2008

Announcement of cable/AT&T deal set for Monday
by John Rodgers
The City Paper (TN)

[ comments invited ]

Leading lawmakers in the cable/AT&T negotiations over statewide franchising will roll out their compromise legislation Monday in a press conference, the House Democratic Caucus announced today.  The compromise bill marks the culmination of months of negotiations between the involved parties.  The deal is expected to have AT&T agree to “build out” its television service to a certain percentage of a town or city, as well as offer the services to some low-income residents.   —>

Legislators Say Bill Sought By AT&T Finally Ready
The Chattanoogan (TN)

Legislative leaders said they have finally reached agreement on a statewide franchise bill sought by AT&T that is expected to result in a new cable TV option for Chattanooga residents and others throughout Tennessee.  On Monday afternoon, House and Senate members working directly in talks with AT&T and Tennessee’s cable companies are due to hold a press conference to announce the completion of a new telecommunications bill.  Officials said copies of the agreement will be provided after the Nashville press conference.

Set to take part are Speaker of the House Jimmy Naifeh (D-Covington), Rep. Charlie Curtiss (D-Sparta), Rep. Steve McDaniel (R-Parkers Crossroads), Rep. Ulysses Jones, Jr. (D-Memphis), Rep. Randy Rinks (D-Savannah), Sen. Lowe Finney (D-Jackson) and Sen. Bill Ketron (R-Murfreesboro).
The bill was introduced last year, but has gone through a number of revisions before the compromise measure was reached.   —>

Comcast, AT&T work together on new bill for franchising rights
Memphis Business Journal (TN)
by Einat Paz-Frankel

After vociferously contending an AT&T, Inc.-backed bill on the state’s Capitol Hill last year, Comcast Corp. is now working with the telecom giant behind closed doors to create a new bill that will assuage both parties while changing the way video franchising rights are granted in Tennessee.  A resolution is expected this month, according to the Tennessee Cable Telecommunications Association and the Tennessee Municipal League, which has also opposed the proposed Competitive Cable and Video Services Act. The bill would allow television service to be provided through a single statewide franchise agreement, instead of negotiating with each municipality separately.   —>

SEE ME, HEAR ME, PICK ME: Endorsement video of Dems for House Seat 1
by Ian Gillingham
Willamette Week (OR)

[ comments invited ]

For the past couple of weeks, we’ve been inviting candidates to sit down with WW and make their case for your vote—and our friends at Portland Community Media have been there to catch it all on video. Every day for the next month, we’ll post a new video of our endorsement interviews on WWire.  Today and tomorrow, we’ve got the candidates for U.S. House of Representatives, First District .  First up: Democrats (incumbent David Wu, Will Hobbs).

For footage of more WW endorsement interviews, tune your TV to Channel 30, see Portland Community Media’s site, or just check back on WWire tomorrow, and the day after, and the day after….  Tomorrow: House Seat 1—the Republicans.

Cable Increases, Franchise Renewal Up for Questions
by Bernice Paglia
Plainfield Plaintalker (NJ)

[ comments invited ]

—>  The notice reminded Plaintalker of another issue, the cable franchise renewal process. According to a BPU report, more than 12,000 households had cable in 2005. The three-year process to determine how well Comcast has served Plainfield should have begun in August of 2006, with a report due in August of this year. The franchise expires in August 2009.  The Plainfield Cable Television Board was supposed to hold monthly meetings during the ascertainment period, make annual reports, report regularly to the mayor and council and generally to be involved in any activities having to do with local cable television, including the city’s own Channel 74.

Plaintalker has harped on this subject since December 2005 but there is not much progress to report. Click here for a file of past stories.   —>

Cable Access TV and the Arts
by Salma
Souldish (NJ)

[ comments invited ]

Monday, April 7 – A repeat of the successful 2 hr. forum will be held at SCAN covering topics on: a) Arts and cable access TV: how to get on TV for free b) The WIN-15 TV show & publicity c) Special TV production training for those in the art.  (7p, Free) SCAN Learning Center, Monmouth Mall, Rt 35 and 36, Eatontown, NJ; 732-938-2481

Great Falls TV station needs home
by Matt Austin

Many Great Falls departments are asking for more money in the next budget, and on Friday city commission members will talk about its budget priorities.  One group which always keeps an eye on commission meetings will also be watching the budget talks as a Great Falls television channel is looking for a home.  The community access channel, Cable 7, has become a nomad in Great Falls, moving four times in just five years.

The group is currently using the waiting area at the Central Avenue office of former  KRTV anchor Cindy Cieluch. Staff members tell us that the area works well for a studio and they use another office for the director and to store equipment. The non-profit films its six studio shows at the office, and also films government meetings.  “Cable 7 provides a public service, local events” explains Executive Producer Kevin Manthey. “This is something I feel is very important to the community of Great Falls and surrounding area.”   —>

PEG pact is unclear
by Alan Lewis Gerstenecker
Rolla Daily News (MO)


Steve Leonard, former President of Rolla Video Productions — the company that operated Channel 16 for the best part of seven years — has some concerns about an educational and governmental television channel currently considered by city and school officials and Fidelity Communications.  The PEG (Public Educational and Governmental) channel, which is in discussion stages, would be a partnership between Rolla city government, Rolla Public School District, and Fidelity Communications, Rolla’s cable television franchise holder.

Leonard, 28, expressed some of those concerns during a recent City Council meeting and then again Wednesday.  “In its current state, the contract with the city doesn’t say what they’re going to get for that $50,000,” Leonard said. “As someone who used to do programming, I’d like to think that it would spell out just what the residents of Rolla are going to get.”…

“Don’t get me wrong. I’ve moved on with my life,” Leonard said. “But if they would have offered me $50,000 for programming, I would have told them exactly what I’d have given them. In addition to City Council, I’d have televised the Planning & Zoning meetings, the RMU (Rolla Municipal Utilities) meetings, done more spring (high school) sports. I’d have done it right,” Leonard said.  “If you turn on Channel 6 now, you hear a buzz. You can’t listen long, or at least I can’t without getting a headache. I don’t know if $50,000 is going to fix that or not,” said Leonard, who is now a full-time business student at Missouri University of Science & Technology.

For his part, Leonard said he is supportive of Fidelity.  “Don’t get me wrong. I’m not knocking Fidelity. They offer some great programming, and I think they offer more basic channels for the best price. I just want to see what they’re going to offer for the $50,000,” Leonard said. “I think anyone who reviews that contract will want to know what they’re going to offer.”

John Paul, Fidelity Communications Director of Sales and top official in Rolla, said Thursday the contract with the city, Rolla Public Schools, and his company, still is a work in progress.  “I can tell you we intend cover all City Council and School Board meetings. I can also tell you we’re not just going to cover those two and then run a community bulletin board the rest of the time,” Paul said.   —>

State PEGs Tune Into “Same Channel” to Support Free Speech
by Cynthia Thomet
Akaku: Maui Community Television (HI)

Hawaii People’s Fund Media Justice review panel granted $7,400 to Akaku in mid-March to launch the Free Speech Hawaii Coalition, a collaborative effort to build community and ensure diverse points of view on issues of free speech across the state. The coalition is made possible by the commitment of all of Hawaii’s public, educational and governmental (PEG) access organizations, including Akaku for Maui County, `Ōlelo Community Television on O`ahu, Na Leo O Hawaii on Big Island and Ho`ike: Kaua`i Community Television.

“We’re very grateful to Hawaii People’s Fund for their commitment to media justice to fund this public awareness coalition,” says Jay April, President/ CEO of Akaku, who invited `Ōlelo, Na Leo and Ho`ike to lead the coalition’s public education messages with their respective island audiences

The grant will cover some of the expenses required for the core coalition members to work together and reach out to their respective islands’ viewers about preserving public, educational and governmental (PEG) access services in Hawaii. Some outreach measures include a vibrant website, advertising to build community awareness and localized public education campaigns to get island residents engaged in protecting their right to public access cable television and other mass media venues.   —>

Participatory Media for a Global Community: BAVC’s Producers Institute 2008
by Wendy Levy
Bay Area Video Coalition (CA)

[ comments invited ]

With continued support from the MacArthur Foundation, the Producers Institute for New Media Technologies will happen May 30 – June 8 here at BAVC in San Francisco. The new crop of projects coming into this year’s Institute are part of a documentary-driven conversation focused on finding and engaging diverse audiences, creating social and political networks of participation, the notion of global community, the viability of Web 2.0 social change, emerging mobile media applications, games for change, and interactive strategies for multi-platform storytelling.

Check out full project descriptions from the recent press release.

The first panel of the Producers Institute will be open to the public this year, and it revolves around marketing social justice media. The always dynamic and uber-literate B. Ruby Rich will moderate. I’ll follow up with details of the where and when, but here’s the panel description. We are hoping to see if its possible for change-the-world stories to expand You Tube sensibilities, to rock CreateSpace, to shock iTunes, to blow out XBOX. And, of course, we want to know if you can actually make money while making a difference?   —>

US kept in slow broadband lane
by Ian Hardy
> Click

We all know that America is the technology hub of the universe. It is home to Intel, Microsoft, Apple, Sun, Google, YouTube, Yahoo, MIT – the list is endless. So why, when it comes to the basics, like delivering the internet to its citizens, has it fallen way behind many other nations?

In Manhattan people pay about $30 (£15) a month for a download speed of three megabits per second (Mbps) via a DSL line. Many people are very happy with that, until they realise what is going on elsewhere in the world.  US broadband speeds are much slower than in many countries  “In Japan you can get 100 megabits for $35,” says Selina Lo of Ruckus Wireless.  “I think that has penetrated some 30% of subscribers. The government is targeting for 100 megabit services to penetrate 60% plus of the subscriber base in a few years…

Today most New Yorkers have two choices for home net – via their phone or cable TV company.  But in New York state 52% of residents do not have any internet access, especially rural areas and low income families.  “We haven’t been able to overcome those barriers in terms of increasing the technology adoption rate of those households that are on or below the poverty level,” explains Dr Melodie Mayberry-Stewart, New York State’s chief information officer.  “I think if you look at where the US is compared to other countries, given our speed, we’re not competitive with other countries.”

The lack of competition has had other consequences. Comcast, the nation’s largest residential cable TV and net company was recently accused of interfering with the downloading of video files.  Internet video directly threatens the popularity of traditional TV, so Comcast’s answer is to curtail download speeds for its biggest users.

“As we get more and more things that tie us into the internet – Xbox 360, IPTV services, all sorts of broadband gaming – we’re all getting online more and more,” says Jeremy Kaplan executive editor of PC Magazine.  “And rather than opening up and getting better service, most of these cable and DSL companies are really trying to limit what we do, put caps on what we do. As consumers we’re suffering from that.”

Public wi-fi efforts have also been held back. Several city governments have given up or reduced efforts to provide blanket coverage for their residents.  This is because they have been worn down with lawsuits and lobbyists working for the telephone companies, who want consumers to rely on expensive cell phone plans to access the net on the go.  “Taipei, Hong Kong, Singapore – they all have wi-fi in public areas. People can access broadband internet when they’re out in public,” says Ms Lo.  “It is the cheapest way to offer public access. As a quality of life, as a city service, I don’t know why our city government just don’t do that.”   —>

More questions than answers
by Mark Jones
Reuters Editors

[ 1 comment ]

I was invited to a gathering of activists, academics and media practitioners by the Berkman Centre’s Media:Republic program in LA last weekend. Exhilarating to be in such exalted company but depressing to find them so anxious about the future of political engagement and so negative about big Media’s future.

The context of the meeting was to establish what we don’t understand about the emerging media landscape in order to inform the direction of future research programmes.  So, in the spirit of Donald Rumsfeld, what do we know that we don’t know?

How distributed can the production of meaning be?
An academic question from John Zittrain of Berkman but very much with real world concerns in mind. He’s worried about where the atomisation of media consumption and production will take society. In an elitist world, one in which communication channels (including media) are controlled by the few, then it is relatively easy to see how the politics of consensus and compromise can be pursued. But many felt that the new social technologies were creating new silos, reducing the quality of public discourse, accelerating disengagement from politics and, possibly, creatng the conditions for extremist politics.

How can we get the public to eat their broccoli?

Traditionally, nearly all media has followed a public service remit to some degree and mixed content with public policy relevance with the really popular stuff. So you get a smattering of Darfur in a diet of domestic news, celebrity and sports. But that only works when publishers control the medium.

I know I wasn’t the only one to squirm as David Weinberger, co-author of the seminal Cluetrain Manifesto, described how increasingly anachronistic the Big Media model of editors deciding what it was appropriate for readers to read was beginning to seem. What seemed to worry this group more than anything else was that if consumers control their ‘DailyMe’ — a personalised news service — then how will the public service stuff get through?   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media


Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/01/08

April 2, 2008

Louisiana Lawmakers Mull Video Franchising Bills
Pending Bills Would Give Franchising Authority To Secretary Of State
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

Legislators in Louisiana will take on the issue of state franchising of video providers this session, a regulatory change that was shot down by then-governor Katherine Babineaux Blanco in 2006 due to her fear it would “interfere with the contractual rights of local governments.”  But the legislative session opened March 31 under a new governor, Bobby Jindal, and two bills have been introduced in the House and one in the Senate that contain several of the operational points that were in the bill rejected by Blanco two years ago.

For instance the bills would move franchising authority to the Secretary of State, which would have 10 days to authorize a certificate for a new provider.  Under the bills to be pondered in committee in both the state House and Senate, incumbent operators would be held to their current franchise agreements. Current video providers may only apply for state authorization when their current franchises expire, or if the local community agrees to let a company out of its agreement in favor of state regulation.

The bills ban build-out provisions and any local fees on new providers. Competitors would pay the same franchise fee amounts as incumbents, or up to 5%; and must provide up to three PEG channels. Local municipalities would be responsible for operating the PEG channels, though.   —>

Lawmakers Push For More Cable Competition
by Catharyn Campbell
WSMV Nashville (TN)

Lawmakers are reviving a plan to allow more cable providers to come to Tennessee to provide more choices to residents and hopefully create competition.  AT&T wants to provide cable television to Tennessee residents and the company may be able to offer that service before the year is up.

Currently state law prevents phone companies from providing cable television service.  However, Sen. Bill Ketron of Murfreesboro is trying to change that and is sponsoring a bill that will allow phone companies, electric utilities and cable television companies to sell video services across the state.  “I believe consumers should have the opportunity to pick and chose who they want. Right now if you are with Comcast or Charter, they went up $5 in December. So where do you go?” said Ketron.

A similar bill was put on hold last year, but for the past several months, cable companies, representatives from AT&T and attorneys have been meeting trying to hammer out an agreement.

They’re also proposing that the franchise fee be increased from 3 percent to 5 percent, which would go right back into the local community.  “Whatever is sold within the parameters of that community, they will get 5 percent of the franchise fee,” said Ketron…  The bill will go to committee next week and then still has to pass the House and Senate.   —>

Is the face of public access programming changing?
by Gregory Hyman
West Hartford News (CT)

Could revisions to a bill passed by the House last year change the way West Hartford residents view public access programming?  That’s the question some public access leaders are asking after members of the Connecticut House of Representatives convened to revise the language of a 2007 bill deregulating the cable broadcasting market in the state. Supporters of the bill hoped it would stimulate competition by allowing new entrants into Connecticut’s television broadcasting market.

Recently, members of the House revised provisions of House Bill 5814 to require video franchise providers to interconnect with public access at no cost to public access. Some public access leaders said language in the revisions could negatively effect the future of public access programming.

One of public access leaders’ greatest concerns was a provision that, while stating that service providers must pay for interconnection costs, also stated that service providers “could use the method most economical for them,” said Jennifer Evans, production manager for West Hartford Community Television.

Following testimony by Evans and others at a recent legislative hearing, members of the House removed the phrase “most economical” from the bill. They also removed the bill provision that assured costs for interconnection with public access stations would be paid for by the entrant video broacasting franchises, said Evans.

Rep. Steve Fontana (D-North Haven) said AT&T, a video service franchise making in-roads in Connecticut, has drafted a letter in which the company pledges to pay for all interconnection costs. Although he and his colleagues had not yet received the letter as of March 12, Fontana said that it is legally binding. leaving no need for the bill provision.

In his testimony at a recent legislative hearing, the president of Connecticut Network, Paul Giguere, voiced concerns about the way AT&T has made community access programming available in parts of California and Michgan, the only other states where the AT&T U-Verse platform is currently operational. Giguere said that AT&T’s U-Verse PEG platform, which the company plans to use to transmit public access channels, transmits with much lower video quality than is currently offered on public access channels in Connecticut.   —>

Customers vent frustration about Comcast takeover
Company officials say problems with service will be resolved soon
by Bill Engle (IN)


David Federico hopes he never has another problem with phone or cable service in his Hagerstown law office.  When Comcast replaced Insight as the local provider of cable television, Internet and phone service this year Federico lost his second phone line and the cable television connection to his personal computer.

Federico did what any customer would do, he called the company, he e-mailed, he went on “online chat,” first asking, then begging for help.  Nothing worked. It took almost a month, but Friday a local service technician finally came to his office and corrected the problem.  The experience left him wondering about the future of the new company in Wayne County.

“I have nothing but good things to say about the local service technician. He’s been just wonderful, friendly and knowledgeable,” Federico said. “But he said he had never gotten a work order on this. That’s why he never came to correct the problem.  “It was terribly frustrating to me. Obviously, this company has bollixed this whole transition.”

Comcast said problems like those experienced by Federico will be short-lived, but some customers aren’t quite ready to accept that promise. For them, Comcast’s move into the market has been anything but seamless.  Richmond City Clerk Karen Chasteen said her office has received more than 100 calls from customers complaining mostly about billing problems, but also about lost service and the cable television rate increase.

“It’s been awful. People are really upset,” she said. “One lady called up and screamed at us, but it’s not our fault. We had nothing to do with it.”  The city of Richmond prior to 2008 had governance over the cable provider, but that changed with the Indiana General Assembly’s adoption of the Telecommunications Reform Bill of 2006.  Now that governance falls to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission.   —>

Comcast denies violations
Selectmen plan to seek legal advice
by John Laidler
Boston Globe (MA)

Comcast has denied allegations by the Rowley Board of Selectmen that the cable firm is violating its contractual obligation to provide the town with a studio and an access channel, and to cablecast town-produced programs.  The company’s position, outlined in a letter to the town last Monday, came in response to the selectmen’s decision nearly three weeks earlier that Comcast was violating its license terms. Comcast’s letter does not address suggestions made by selectmen, in a letter accompanying their March 4 decision, on how the firm could come into compliance.

Selectmen chairman David Petersen said the board has forwarded Comcast’s letter to its legal counsel and at an upcoming meeting plans to discuss with him how to proceed. The board in its March 4 decision said it would pursue legal avenues if Comcast did not fully comply with the contract or reach an agreement with the town on a remedy within 21 days.   —>

Verizon working to grant public access channels
by Lydia Mulvany
Marshfield Mariner (MA)

[ comments invited ]

Marshfield residents who signed onto Verizon, which came into town in November, have been deprived of Marshfield’s public access channel — but not for much longer.  Rick Colon, regional director of Verizon for Southeastern Massachusetts, said public access channels should be up and running in about 30 days, and perhaps less.  “In Marshfield the service has been received with great fanfare, and people in the town love it,” Colon said. “We’re working hard to provide the public access channels because we realize more people will subscribe to FiOS TV if we have that.”   —>

Petition seeks to ensure access to analog OTA viewers post transition
Broadcast Engineering

The Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) last week asked an appeals court in Washington, D.C., to force the FCC to stop distribution and marketing of NTIA coupon-qualified converter boxes without analog-receive capability.  The move has the potential to derail the nation’s transition to DTV in February 2009. If the court agrees with the association that it is illegal to distribute TV receive equipment without the ability to receive all legal channels transmitted, it’s difficult to envision how the deadline will be met.

HD Technology Update spoke with Greg Herman, CBA VP of technology, to learn why the association has taken this extraordinary step.

HD Technology Update: Why has the Community Broadcasters Association (CBA) petitioned the court for a writ of mandamus to order the FCC to halt distribution and marketing of DTV converter boxes without analog tuners?

Greg Herman: First of all, we believe converter boxes lacking analog reception capability are in violation of the All Channel Receiver Act. Further, we believe the converter boxes that are being distributed are ill-conceived and are going to disadvantage those very individuals they were designed to help by blocking reception of the thousands of remaining analog televisions stations across the United States.   —>

The Medium is Still the Message
by Rev. Tony
Sunflower Chalice

[ 1 comment ]

In the April 8 issue of The Christian Century (the print issue gets out to me well in advance of the website being updated) there’s an interview with the pastor of Barack Obama’s church. No, not Rev. Jeremiah Wright, but Otis Moss III, who has recently taken over the day-to-day leadership of Trinity United Church of Christ from Wright.  Moss is 36 and the son of a man who served at Ebenezer Baptist in Atlanta with MLK.  One question put to Moss was: How is pastoring different for you than it was for your father’s generation?

“My dad’s generation did not embrace television the way it might have. It left that medium to the prosperity gospel preachers. That means that an entire generation has been raised and educated by the Benny Hinns and the Creflo Dollars of the world. If my father’s generation had embraced television, then the standard bearers of that medium would be preachers who emphasize hope for the poor instead of those who treat Jesus as a cosmic bellhop.  Now we have to play catch-up. They have both the microphone and the megaphone…..The Kingian idea of the beloved community is one that we pull out now only for King Day, I guess. Otherwise it is lost. We have to struggle with it. Love will force you to change your doctrine and to engage those who hate you. People don’t want to do that.”

Moss’s answer to this question is something I think about every week. I see the local Assembly of God, Seventh Day Adventist, and Brazilian Pentecostal church on my local cable access television.  Not to mention some guy who sits in a coffee shop and quotes from the Bible (out of context) and rails against liberals and how unpatriotic anyone is who dares question the war in Iraq. Their worship services run two and three times a week.  I see them, and sometimes watch for while, as I am searching for PBS or the Red Sox (again, thankfully), or the NASCAR race (you have no IDEA how huge a fan my son is) or just turning on the television to get the DVD ready.  These churches are on constantly.  And the message they are preaching is not Kingian beloved community.  It is not inclusive, it is not welcoming, and it is very dogmatic and creedal.

What if, just suppose, a Unitarian Universalist preacher were on local cable access every week? It doesn’t take much.  Most local cable access station require a yearly membership fee, usually in the $50 range, some as high as $100, but most lower.  With membership comes the opportunity to borrow the equipment and use the studio.  Even a digital camcorder can now make something that can be turned into a half-hour program with just a little editing.

The TIME magazine advertising is great and all, but I wonder if our money and energy wouldn’t be better spent investing in camcorders and computer equipment and money at the congregational level so that each congregation had the hardware, training and know-how, and funding to:
1. produce and air worship service or at least sermons on local cable television and then post them on the Internet on services such as YouTube.
2. have well designed and user friendly websites (many do, but many still do not)

More people, especially younger people, get their news and information today from the Internet than from newspapers or television and in local communities, it never ceases to amaze me how many people watch local cable television.   —>

James River Film Festival
Fan District Hub (VA)

[ comments invited ]

The all volunteer run Richmond Moving Image Co-op presents the 15th James River Film Festival this week, March 31-April 6, 2008.  Writer/director Richard Kelly, father-son filmmakers Ken and Azazel Jacobs, filmmaker and community media advocate DeeDee Halleck, the Richmond Indigenous Gourd Orchestra, assistant editor/producer Emily Doe from McSweeney’s DVD magazine Wholphin, and David Williams will headline the 15th edition of the James River Film Festival at the Firehouse Theatre, the Byrd Theatre, the Richmond Public Library Main Branch and the Camel.  For a detailed schedule of what happens when, where and how much, click here.   —>

Knights News Challenge has 17 finalists to transform community news through digital innovation
by Carolyn Lo
The Editors Weblog

[ comments invited ]

For the second year in a row, the Knight News Challenge asked the public for ideas to transform community news through digital innovation, and 17 projects were chosen for funding. The projects will be announced on May 14, 2008, at the E&P Interactive Media Conference in Las Vegas.  The top finalists are projects that have the potential to “inform, empower and engage citizens and help them participate in the decision-making process of their neighborhoods, their communities and their countries,” according to the Knight News.
Some projects are:   —>

African Day Parade Founder Seeks to Unify Compatriots
by Heather Robinson
New York Daily News

[ comments invited ]

—>  Still in high school, he completed an internship in video production at Manhattan Neighborhood Network, a public access TV channel. After producing the award-winning documentary “Carpe Diem,” about a young New York woman struggling with drug addiction, he helped found The Youth Channel, a public-access TV station for teenagers.   —>

All charged up over Comcast’s quadruple play
by Ed Foster


Today’s announcement of CHARGES, Comcast’s new home energy management system that will be combined with its TV, phone, and Internet services in a new “Quadruple Play” offering, has generated a lot of excitement. To help customers get charged up about this new service, following is a transcript from a Q&A session at Comcast’s press conference.

Q: What is the CHARGES program all about?
Comcast: We see CHARGES (Comcast Harvesting Additional Revenues Generating Electricity Surcharges) as a terrific opportunity to tap the potential of our cable set-top boxes to enhance our quality of life. Oh, and maybe yours, too.

Q: How will it work?
Comcast: Comcast will manage home energy the same great way our customers have come to know from our other offerings. Basically, all your lights and appliances will be wired through the set-top box. When you want to turn a device on or off, you go to the console and indicate it on the list. Then you walk to the device itself and throw the switch as desired.   —>

Entertainment and the Suburban Condition
by Scott B

[ 1 comment ]

Finally (!) delving back into Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone, I want to dig into a phenomenon that Putnam argues is the most significant shaping influence in terms of social capital in modern American life – namely, electronic forms of entertainment and, specifically, television. This particular chapter of the book is both enlightening and depressing, if not entirely surprising. Putnam offers devastating analysis and commentary that relentlessly links television with civic disengagement in measure after measure. In conclusion, he writes:

“Americans at the end of the twentieth century were watching more TV, watching it more habitually, more pervasively, and more often alone, and watching more programs that were associated specifically with civic disengagement (entertainment, as distinct from news). The onset of these trends coincided exactly with the national decline in social connectedness, and the trends are most marked among the younger generations that are…distinctively disengaged. Moreover, it is precisely those Americans most marked by this dependence on televised entertainment who were most likely to have dropped out of civic and social life – who spent less time with friends, were less involved in community organizations, and were less likely to participate in public affairs.” (p. 246)

I suppose I should be clear that what Putnam is discussing here -and in the book generally speaking – is not in any way isolated to suburbanites. Obviously the influence of electronic media pervades all demographics and communities in our society. Putnam, in fact, relates a story from a town in northern Canada where, due to a topological anomaly, television signals were unavailable until the mid-1970’s. This community was studied alongside two neighboring communities that had ready access to television signals. Once television became available, this community demonstrated an immediate, measurable decline in residents’ participation in community activities. The other two communities were used as a control to demonstrate that the only variable in play was, in fact, television.

But my concern is specifically with the way in which electronic media interact with suburban culture. —>      

Venezuelan Media Terrorism Conference Denounces Negative Role of Private Media
by James Suggett

Journalists, communications specialists, and other participants in the Latin American Meeting against Media Terrorism in Caracas last weekend demanded that political leaders in the region put the issue of media terrorism on the agenda of all international forums and meetings in which they participate, according to the “Caracas Declaration,” the final collection of the resolutions produced at the conference.

Endorsed by participants from 14 countries, the Caracas Declaration denounces the role of the private media in the toppling of democratic governments across the region, and asserts that “media terrorism is the first expression and necessary condition of military terrorism that the industrialized North employs in order to impose its imperial hegemony and neo-colonial dominion on humanity.”…

Community Media Event

While the meeting against media terrorism was going on in Caracas, CONATEL hosted a “Bolivarian Forum” for over 30 alternative community media outlets in the western state of Trujillo aimed at assessing the progress of community media and strengthening the capacity of these outlets to serve the needs of their communities.   —>

Information is not a commodity
by MissMachetera

[ comments invited ]

“Not only the IAPA, but shock troops such as Reporters Without Borders, are responding to Washington’s dictates of disinformation and global defamation. In this context, the European Union is fulfilling a shameful role which contradicts the heroic struggle of its people against Nazi fascism.”
Caracas Declaration, March 30, 2008
Latin American Meeting Against Media Terrorism

Journalists, communicators and scholars of communication in Latin America, the Caribbean and Canada, meeting in Caracas in this First Latin American Meeting Against Media Terrorism, denounce the use of disinformation by international news agencies, as a huge and permanent aggression against people and governments fighting for peace, justice, and social inclusion.

Media Terrorism is the first expression and condition necessary for the industrial North’s exercise of military and economic terrorism in order to impose imperial hegemony and neo-colonial dominion on humanity. As such, it is an enemy of freedom, democracy and open society and ought to be considered a plague of contemporary culture.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

New Voices Grant App Deadline; LSE Conf Call for Papers

February 17, 2008

Apply Now: Funding to Start Community News Projects
Contact Kira Wisniewski – (301) 985-4020  kira [at] j-lab [dot] org
New Voices

APPLY NOW! Applications due: Feb. 20, 2008.

COLLEGE PARK, Md. – J-Lab: The Institute for Interactive Journalism invites U.S. nonprofit groups and education organizations to apply for funding to launch community news ventures in 2008 and to share best practices and lessons learned from their efforts.

The New Voices project will help fund the start-up of 10 innovative local news initiatives next year. Each project may receive as much as $17,000 in grants over two years. Thirty New Voices projects have been funded since 2005.

Eligible to receive funding are 501(c)3 organizations and education institutions, including civic groups, community organizations, public and community broadcasters, schools, colleges and universities – and individuals working under the sponsorship of a nonprofit fiscal agent.

Grant guidelines and online application can be found at Project proposals are due February 20, 2008.   —>

Community and Humanity Conference
by Charlie Beckett

[ 1 comment ]

In celebration of the LSE Department of Media and Communication’s 5th year, my colleagues are inviting critical thinking about how the media and communications environment is implicated in shaping our perceptions of the human condition. How is it mediating human values, actions and social relations? We welcome proposals for papers and panels offering theoretical insight and/or empirical work on this theme. Abstracts or panel proposals may focus on one or more of the areas below.

* Communication and Difference
* Democracy, Politics and Journalism Ethics
* Globalisation and Comparative Studies
* Innovation, Governance and Policy
* Media and New Media Literacies

The conference is at London School of Economics and Political Science, London, Sunday 21st – Tuesday 23rd September 2008.  Abstracts should be submitted by 1st March 2008. Go here to submit abstract and/or register.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 02/09/08

February 10, 2008

Power to Lynchburg’s public access station to be shut off soon
by Alicia Petska
News & Advance (VA)

[comments allowed]

Wally Roach has often wondered how his 13-plus years as a public access host might come to an end.  Finding himself in hand-to-hand combat with the ninja assassin mimes of Lynchburg City Council was not one of his first guesses.

“What’s going on here? Leave me alone! Oww!” screamed an apparently helpless Roach after being dragged off-camera during a live taping of his show Wednesday.  “Mayor, put me down! Aaah!”  The television – which showed none of the fracas as the supposed ninjas took care to avert the camera – suddenly went black.  “Now we see the violence inherent in the system!” Roach yelled over the sounds of a struggle. “You’re repressing me! Stop it!”

This scene, partially borrowed from a moment in “Monty Python and the Holy Grail” when King Arthur beats an uppity peasant, might best encapsulate the feelings of Lynchburg’s 40-some public-access hosts, all of whom are scheduled for cancellation next week.  “This is the end and City Council did it,” explained a calmer and remarkably unscuffed Roach the next day. “If they have to come in and physically stop us, they’d do it.”

He paused a moment.  “I don’t suppose they’d really do it themselves,” he said. “They’d call the police. But I didn’t have any police uniforms, so it would have ruined the whole bit.”

For months now, the city has been preparing to cut the power to Lynchburg’s public access channel, a process expected to be complete next week.  The community’s cable franchise is up for renewal and Comcast, which took over service here in 2006, plans to drop all support for public access programming. City Council also declined to step in and continue the station.

“It’s almost like our voices are being hushed,” reflected Keith Lee, director of the Dance Theatre of Lynchburg and producer of the show “Dance Journey.”  “It’s like expression is being hushed in the community,” he said. “And I don’t think that’s very fair.”

Currently, Comcast pays to operate a community studio and air programs ranging from government meetings to publicly produced talk shows and religious sermons. New state laws aimed at deregulating the industry no longer require that service.  In the cable company’s stead, the city plans to step in, take over the studio and start producing its own all-government channel. Although Comcast no longer has to bankroll public programming, it does have to keep broadcasting it when it’s produced.

Under the terms of the new franchise agreement, which will be brought to a hearing before City Council on Tuesday, both the city government and the school system will have their own channel.  Lynchburg schools have had their own TV program for years. The government station, which will air on Channel 15, is scheduled to start up next Friday. A total of $266,000 has been set aside for its first year of operation.

A proposal to add to that budget funding for a third, community-based channel was unanimously rejected by City Council. Officials also decided against exercising their right to require that Comcast add a public access surcharge to its bill that would then be used to fund a public station.

In making those decisions, council members cited the burden to taxpayers and cable customers, respectively.  “I don’t think (supporting public access) is a necessary function of government, and I don’t think it’s a wise use of taxpayers’ money,” Ward I Councilman Mike Gillette said. “I’d rather put that money into our schools and police and parks.”

City Council will hear from the public on the cable changes at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday in City Hall. Staff members hope to see the new franchise agreement approved immediately following that hearing.  The public-access producers, however, plan to make one final plea for their work and hope a few viewers will turn out to show their support.  Among their points of contention is a franchise feepaid every year by Comcast that rakes in more than $500,000 for the city.

Traditionally, that money has gone into the government’s general fund, but public-access supporters are now questioning why some of it can’t be funneled into their station. According to city estimates, it would take around $86,000 annually to keep public access going.  “City officials, if they really wanted to, could find a way to keep public access on at a minimal cost,” said Andre Whitehead, who got his start in TV through Lynchburg public access more than 20 years ago.   —>!news!archive

ECTV picked to take over Channel 61
by Stacy Brown
Times-Tribune (PA)


Electric City Television was selected Friday by a search committee appointed by Mayor Chris Doherty to operate Channels 61 and 62, ending a decade-long run by the civic group Scranton Today.  ECTV will receive a five-year contract to operate the channels and a yet-to-be determined amount of money from the city’s cable franchise agreement with Comcast. The deal with Comcast expires next year, and negotiations are expected to begin later this year.  “We are thrilled,” said Chris Balton, a former Scranton Today cameraman and one of ECTV’s founders.   —>

County Allowed To Sell Cable TV Ad Spots – If It’s Careful
by Richard Mullins
Tampa Tribune (FL)

The Tampa Bay area could soon have another TV station competing for local advertising money, run by the government.  In a drive to raise revenue, Hillsborough County commissioners are pondering ways to sell commercials during the cable TV broadcasts of their meetings, similar to the sponsorships that companies like General Motors Corp. and State Farm Insurance buy on public broadcasting TV shows.  The move would mark a first for Hillsborough County, which broadcasts its meetings, seminars and other shows on an exclusive cable TV channel on Bright House Networks (Channel 622) and Verizon’s FiOS cable systems (Channel 22).

Part of the issue is the cost to run the station itself. HTV, as the station is called, has 21 employees and a budget this year of $1.9 million, including a one-time $500,000 project to upgrade to digital TV equipment. The bulk of that money goes to televise meetings of the commission, the Tampa Port Authority, Planning Commission, land use meetings and other public information events.

Where the TV advertisement idea goes could take an important turn today, when commissioners receive a legal study that says the county can go ahead and sell TV spots as long as they aren’t “commercials” that show product prices or comparisons with competing brands.

The idea originated last fall, when commissioners taking a retreat pondered new ways to raise revenue. Commissioners asked county lawyers to look into the legality of selling TV commercial spots. Today, commissioners will receive a legal opinion that says the county can go ahead with the plan — if done carefully.  That’s because the government only has a cable TV channel through a carefully negotiated deal that allows Bright House and Verizon to sell cable TV in the area, and gives the county its own TV channel in exchange.

That agreement specifically says that “under no circumstances will commercial advertising be permitted” on the county’s channel. But, there is a loophole. The county may accept monetary donations for recognizing “donors and sponsors.” County lawyers said any on-air sponsorship should mirror those seen on the nonprofit WUSF, Channel 16 and WEDU, Channel 3, and offered an example script: “This program is made possible in part by Company name, serving the Tampa Bay area since year.”

Selling that kind of TV spot could prove difficult.  First, there are some conflict of interest questions, HTV station manager Tammy Peralta said.  The county could not run sponsorships bought by companies doing business with the county, or that have matters before any county agency, or links to county commissioners. Political ads could also be troublesome.  “All those questions have definitely crossed our minds,” Peralta said.  Also, HTV does not conduct regular ratings surveys, so it can’t tell potential advertisers how many people the TV spots would reach. —>

Participatory Media Studies and PEG Access TV
by Colin Rhinesmith
Community Media in Transition

[comments allowed]

I’m starting to believe – but I hope it’s not true – that the lack of widespread research in Public, Educational and Government (PEG) Access Television studies may have profound consequences for media scholars seeking to understand participatory culture.

Not only is there a huge misunderstanding about the differences between public access television and video sharing sites such as YouTube, but as a student of media studies I find the shortage of community television research particularly troubling when reading articles such as David Croteau’s 2006 article, entitled “The Growth of Self-Produced Media Content and the Challenge to Media Studies,” as an example.

In the article, Croteau writes that self-produced media is the result of (1) an increase in “affordable digital equipment” and the young people growing up with them, (2) an increase in “broadband presence” to “facilitate the distribution of data-heavy files,” and (3) a rise in “specialty websites and services” to aid in the “distribution and promotion of self-produced media content” (341).

While the author recognizes that self-produced media has “long existed in many forms,” such as with community media and other independent forms, Croteau states that what makes participatory media different from previous media is the way in which the Internet enables locally produced content to be distributed to “far-flung” audiences (341).

As a result, the author writes that both the fragmentation and proliferation of self-produced media content have created challenges for media scholars previously focused on areas such as the concentration of media ownership and its impact on large consumer audiences.

Therefore, Croteau proposes that media scholars need to develop new methodologies for assessing “content trends across these new production platforms” in order to better study the “volume” of self-produced media content (343). The purpose, he writes “could provide a unique glipmse into an increasingly diverse society and an interconnected world. It could suggest new models for traditional media to adopt to facilitate civic engagement and participation. It could reveal a refreshingly broad range of self-expression and creativity, indepedent of market imperatives.” (344)

I chose to highlight David Croteau’s article not because I disagree with the statements mentioned above. I respect his work as a media scholar in general and specifically in his works Media/Society: Industries, Images, and Audiences and Business of Corporate Media. However, the article represents the disconnect between studies in community media and media studies more broadly – i.e., media scholars often seem to gloss over community media research contributions to the field of media studies.   —>

Training for the Masses: Public Television ABCs
by Paul W. Marino (MA)

[comments allowed]

“Grandmother! What Big Characters You Have!”  All the better to let you know what you’re watching, my dear!

Characters, of course, can be lots of things. They can be parts in a play, or people with very singular or eccentric personalities, like the big clod who writes this column.  But in television, characters are something else altogether (which is also something that’s been said about the big clod who writes this column, but that’s another story).  To us, characters are letters (and numbers, etc.), which we put on the screen by means of a device called the “character generator,” also known as the CG…

…If you think you’d like to learn how to operate a character generator — or just become a character yourself — come on down and visit us in Building 6 in Western Gateway Heritage State Park or give us a call at 663-9006.  We’ll show you just how user-friendly our CG — and the rest of our equipment — is. We’ll try to talk you into signing up for a workshop series. And we really hope you will sign up, because most of our programming (and in many ways, the best) is made by ordinary, local people like you. The moral? Don’t just watch TV; make it yourself, here at NBCTC.

Jakrapob’s panels to check media content
by Anucha Charoenpo & Manop Thip-Osod
Bangkok Post

Prime Minister’s Office Minister Jakrapob Penkair will establish government committees over the next two months to check the impartiality of news coverage by the state media. Mr Jakrapob said members of the committees must be knowledgeable in media affairs, free of political and business interests, and be visionary.

He did not say how many committees there would be although each would study one state media outlet category. For example, panels would be responsible for studying outlets grouped as digital broadcast media or community radio.  ”And I will supervise them myself,” Mr Jakrapob said of the committees.  The minister insisted he was not out to control the media.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 12/31/07

January 1, 2008

Will IPTV Kill the Television Star?
by Sibylle Gierschmann

It seems logical for the European legislation to apply rules to television-like services in so far as these services compete with traditional broadcasting. There is no argument as to why editorial content provided via a different platform should be treated differently. Also, the provisions now applicable to video-on-demand services do not really come as a surprise.

Already, YouTube has conquered your PC and mobile. However, what happens if YouTube conquers your living room, too — and in high-definition television quality? With IPTV (Internet protocol television), that is possible, and the race to see who will be best-positioned in the digital living room of the future has already started. IPTV is being called the “fourth TV broadcasting channel,” after satellite, cable and terrestrial broadcasting.

What is so interesting about this technology is that IPTV provides the potential for interactive TV not possible with traditional broadcast television, along with the true high-definition quality you do not see with typical Internet streaming. Also, network operators can offer their customers one-stop-shopping for Internet access and television as well as landline and mobile telephone services, and thereby become the customer’s sole communication link.

So far, the competition to see who gets there first mainly concerns hardware and cable providers. For example, Microsoft and Sony both provide game devices that can be used as a set-top boxes for television reception and allow video download. Also, phone companies like Verizon and AT&T have invested heavily in new broadband infrastructure in order to compete for TV customers.

Calling for Regulations

Still, this concerns the content industry just as well. IPTV will allow an immense increase in new TV programs and formats, and established TV broadcasters may fear their return on investment will decrease heavily once programs become more and more fragmented.

It is therefore no wonder that some television broadcasters are calling for regulations of IPTV. Their point: Once television provided over the Internet becomes a real substitute for traditional television, there is no argument as to why traditional broadcasters should be more regulated than IPTV providers.

Today, 68 percent of IPTV subscribers are located in Europe, 28 percent in Asia and only 8 percent in North America, Eastern Europe, the Middle East and North Africa combined. It seems logical that this is why Europe has been the first to address the issue of regulating IPTV.  The European Directive  —>

Radioshow 2007 Highlights
by Paul Riismandel

There were actually more than two highlights from the radioshow in 2007, but for this last show in 2007 I wanted to focus on just two interviews to that if you missed them the first time around you’d still get some good info and context. I think both of these interviews will have continuing relevancy. First, we listen to an excerpt of a talk by Google’s Internet Evangelist, Vint Cerf, who talks about the origin of the basic architecture of the internet, highlighting the importance of end-to-end neutrality. Then we hear from Maria Juliana Byck of Paper Tiger TV, who discusses the 25th anniversary of this pioneering public access TV production organization, spearheading radically DIY video a quarter-century before YouTube.

You can download the mp3 or ogg vorbis at the radioshow page, or listen in your browser.   —>

Mayor seeking TV chief
by Stacy Brown
TheTimes-Tribune (PA)

Scranton Today could soon be out as operator of public access Channel 61.  After nearly a decade of operating the channel, the nonprofit group could lose the rights later this month when proposals from other potential suitors are opened in the city controller’s office.  “We are going to see what else is out there, who else is interested,” Mayor Chris Doherty said. “Scranton Today is still invited to submit a proposal.”

The decision to accept proposals comes as the city is set to begin negotiations with Comcast on a new cable franchise agreement.  The franchise agreement between the city and its cable television provider gives the mayor authority to decide who manages programming on the cable system’s two public-access channels, city lawyers said.  The agreement expires in December 2008, which means Mr. Doherty can explore requests from other entities that may want to operate Channel 61, which is on the cable menu for about 95,000 homes in Lackawanna County and parts of Luzerne County.

Scranton Today has operated Channel 61 since 1998, when the nonprofit group, then known as Scranton Tomorrow, received permission from Mayor Jim Connors to manage the station’s broadcasts for five years.  Advertisements soliciting proposals are scheduled to appear this week in The Times-Tribune and other publications. The proposals must be submitted to the city controller’s office no later than Jan. 23 and a decision is expected shortly after that.   —>

CCTV Hires Community Media Coordinator
by Susan Fleischmann
Cambridge Community Television (MA)

Colin Rhinesmith will be joining the staff of CCTV as Community Media Coordinator. He will be working with CCTV members in computerCENTRAL and on a number of exciting community media projects with Cambridge residents.

Colin comes to CCTV with a background in digital media production from the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School. During his time at the Berkman Center, he helped produce audio and video podcasts featuring many of the world’s leading Internet thinkers. He is also entering his final semester as a graduate student in Visual and Media Arts at Emerson College. Welcome, Colin!

Generation Y Looks To The Web For Answers
A Pew Internet study found 58% of Americans go online first when seeking information on common issues, such as an illness, finances, taxes, and careers.
by Elena Malykhina

Americans seeking information on common issues, such as an illness, finances, taxes, and careers, were found to consult the Internet for answers instead of other resources, according to a study released on Sunday by the Pew Internet & American Life Project.   —>

Breaking news: the Internet is useful, people still use libraries
by K.G. Schneider
Free Range Librarian

Pew just issued a report, Information Searches That Solve Problems,” that even on its debut over a holiday weekend has already been quoted left and right as proof that the Internet is a popular information source, Gen Y uses libraries, and people want printed government documents.

I’m still trying to sort out what the report really means, and that’s hard to do in part because some of the language in the report feels very fuzzy, if not at times a wee bit misleading. Yes, yes, go Illini, but I do have to ask if the UIUC GSLIS partnership with Pew on this grant isn’t a bit like Big Pharma underwriting studies of restless leg syndrome, which until we had a drug to cure it was merely ants in one’s pants.   —>

Loss of a voice
The Post’s passing will change the region’s media landscape
by Greg Paeth
Cincinnati Post (OH)

The Post’s voice has been heard by fewer and fewer people in recent years.  As the presses rolled for a final time today, Post circulation has slipped to about 25,000 on weekdays and 34,000 on Saturdays, a fraction of the paper’s peak circulation (about 270,000 in 1960).  The Enquirer today circulates 195,000 during the week, 280,000 on Sundays.

A little more than 49 years ago, in July 1958, Cincinnati lost its third daily newspaper when the Cincinnati Times-Star was acquired by The Post, which at the time also owned the morning Enquirer.  Today, as The Post ceases publication after 126 years, Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky will lose their second daily, establishing the Enquirer as the only game in town for anyone who wants to read a daily – or in many cases a weekly – newspaper.   —>

Broadcasters’ Turn to Worry About FCC
Broadcast Newsroom

The cable industry felt the full force of FCC Chairman Kevin Martin’s authority in 2007.  He has knocked cable rates and invoked cable’s market power, and tried to push it to offer a la carte programming.

Now, it may be broadcasters’ turn for some of the chairman’s tough love. The recent new media-ownership rule revision did not go far enough for broadcasters’ liking. Years of talk about deregulation ultimately led only to a “modest” modification of the cross-ownership ban, affecting only the top 20 markets, instead of a complete lifting of the ban. In addition, broadcasters now also face the broad potential for license renewal reregulation – a prospect which is more than they bargained for.   —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 11/29/07

November 29, 2007

Sunshine Week 2008: People, Get Ready…
by Charles Davis
FOI Advocate

Sunshine Week 2008 Hits the Campaign Trail:
Candidates from President to Mayor to be Quizzed on Access Issues
Actors, Scientists, Researchers Join Growing Call for Open Government

Washington, D.C. — The Sunshine Week alliance has begun a yearlong Sunshine Campaign project to bring the discussion of open government issues to election campaigns from president to local city council. While the initiative expands the scope of Sunshine Week to cover the entire election season, specific events and coverage are still planned for Sunshine Week, March 16-22, 2008…

Resources such as suggested questions and links to additional material to help get people involved in the project are on the Sunshine Week Web site. —>

Policy Changes Threaten Local Nature of Radio and Television, Scholar Says
by Gina Vergel
Inside Fordham Online (NY)

Philip M. Napoli, Ph.D., Magis Professor of Communications and Media Management, is a huge fan of talk radio. Daily newscasts courtesy of National Public Radio help get the 37-year-old through his long commute to work and his favorite on-air sports personality is New York Yankees broadcaster and Fordham University alumnus Michael Kay (FCRH ’82).

Napoli may love to surf the dial but that’s not to say that the director of the Donald McGannon Communication Research Center doesn’t see problems in the ever-volatile world of radio—and television, for that matter. In fact, Napoli believes that both media are under increasing danger of losing their sense of localism and thus their grounding in the communities radio and television stations serve.

“Media content and services that address local interests and concerns,” Napoli said, “are essential to the welfare of local communities.” The problem, however, is that given policy changes in recent years, that essential role played by local radio and television station is under attack like never before.

For years, the federal government imposed strict limits on the number of television and radio stations a single company could own in one community. In 2003, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) relaxed a variety of media ownership regulations. The move resulted in large media companies acquiring many more radio and television stations in the same market. The policy change sparked a widespread debate, with critics arguing that the rules would result in fewer companies controlling more of what Americans see and hear.

So far, Napoli said, the critics were on the right track. “The biggest disparity we see is in terms of source diversity—the diversity of information sources available—given the increasing concentration of ownership of the major media outlets,” Napoli said. “The problem has been that policymakers have increasingly emphasized economic efficiency to the neglect of non-economic policy objectives such as diversity and localism.

“A media marketplace of diverse sources is inherently inefficient in that it’s more efficient to have one source covering a story, for example, than four or five different sources,” Napoli said. The move by media companies to buy more stations and leave fewer independent voices in local communities has implications for society as a whole and minority communities in particular, Napoli said. “Content flows from owners,” he said. “The statistics on minority ownership are really disappointing. It simply hasn’t kept pace with the increasing numbers of minorities in the country.”

So what can be done to fix the problem? —>

Teletruth News Analysis: PART TWO (Summary)
by Bruce Kushnick

NOTE: This is the second in a series examining how the FCC’s brand of deregulation harmed America’s economy and digital future. Part One: 56% drop in wireline competition since 2004.  . To read the details of Part Two.

Part TWO: Summary:

* Killing Off 7000 Independent Internet Service (ISPs) Providers by the FCC Created Net Neutrality Problems — a 74% Drop in Companies Since 2000.
* The FCC Used Bad Data and Undue Corporate Influence to Destroy the Small ISPs, Violating Section 257 of the Telecom Act.
* The FCC, FTC and DOJ Supported Actions that Blocked Small ISPs from Migrating Their Customers to Faster Services, Failed to Enforce Laws, Harming Choice and Increasing Duopoly Controls.

According to the Census, in 2000 there were 9335 independent, mostly small ISPs operating in America. By 2005, there has been a 74% drop in the number of independent ISPs in the US.

Uniform cable agreement changes channel on WBRW
by Chris Gray
Romeo Observer (MI)

You’ll have to exercise your thumb a bit more to get your local public access news coverage. Letters were recently sent to residents in Bruce and Washington townships and the Village of Romeo, stating that Channel 6 will be known as Channel 902 as of Jan. 15. This is caused by the Michigan Uniform Video Service Local Franchise Agreement. —>

Manatee gives up cable TV suit plans
Bright House basic cable subscribers will need upgrade for county channel
by Frank Gluck
Herald Tribune (FL)

MANATEE COUNTY — When Bright House Networks decided to charge thousands of cable subscribers higher fees to view public access channels, Tampa Bay-area governments promised a legal fight. These broadcasts, while hardly ratings grabbers, give homebound residents a way to keep up with local news and watch live public meetings. Charging more would be unfair, especially to the poor, officials argued.

The cities of Tampa and St. Petersburg filed federal lawsuits earlier this month to block the Dec. 11 channel change. But Manatee County, also a leading opponent of the cable company’s plans, is now backing down. Here, Bright House subscribers with basic cable subscriptions, and no digital channel box, will soon have to pay for an upgrade if they still want their MGA-TV, Manatee’s government channel.

Robert Eschenfelder, assistant county attorney, said a lawsuit could have proved costly. And a court victory would have ultimately been pointless, he said. Federal law requires that all full-power television station broadcasts be digital by Feb. 17, 2009. That means televisions will need to either be digital-ready or viewers will need converter boxes to receive most broadcasts. —>

Guest commentary: Wisconsin deserves better cable bill
by Senator Judy Robson
Beloit Daily News (WI)

Since the dawn of broadcasting, the public interest has struggled with commercial interests for use of our public airwaves. The government decides how much control of the airwaves to hand over to private corporations, and how much control to retain in the hands of the people. So far, control has gone largely to the corporations. A few bones have been thrown to the people in the form of public television and radio, public access cable stations, and public service announcements. But by and large, our public airways are wholly owned by corporations whose primary interest is maximizing profits.

Consumers get stuck paying ever-increasing prices for channels they don’t want in order to get a few channels they do want. People are clamoring for change – for more options and lower prices, and more control over price and options. In swoops AT&T with legislation it claims will provide more options and bring down prices. AT&T calls it the “cable competition” bill. A more apt name is “cable deregulation.”

The bill may create competition in some markets. But the areas that are most in need of cable and Internet options – rural and low-income urban neighborhoods – will continue to be bypassed. The Legislature could have added requirements to wire more of these areas, but it did not. That was but one reason I voted against the bill. —>

Airing of 9/11 film ignites debate
Some say channel is for local access
by Eric Moskowitz
Boston Globe (MA)

The Groton Channel usually carries local selectmen’s meetings and high school sports events. So Joan Simmons was taken aback this month when she flipped on the cable-access channel and found a documentary that argued the Twin Towers fell because of a planned demolition, not because of the crash of two hijacked airliners…

Colman said he hopes any attention generated by the movie will help increase the community’s understanding of public-access TV – and draw viewers to its locally generated programming, like a recent documentary on the high school’s robotics club that won its producer, Astrid Jacob, a regional excellence award from the Alliance for Community Media. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 10/12/07

October 12, 2007

Broadcasting Peace – Radio a Tool for Recovery
by Mary Kimani
Africa Renewal (United Nations)

Radio can be a powerful medium for spreading misinformation and insecurity – and for building peace.

Mega FM’s broadcasts may not reach far outside northern Uganda. But in an area that has been brutalized by decades of insurgency by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA), it is having an impact. Oryema, a former LRA child soldier who later returned home, explains why. “I did not feel anything bad about killing,” he says. “Not until I started listening to Radio Mega…. I actually heard over the radio how…we burnt homes…. And I started to think, ‘Are we really fighting a normal war?’ That is when I started realizing that maybe there is something better than being here in the bush.”

According to Mr. Boniface Ojok of the non-profit project Justice and Reconciliation, located in Gulu, northern Uganda, Mega FM’s programme “Dwog cen paco” (come back home) “succeeded in encouraging rebels to come out of the bush.” The programme brought former soldiers like Oryema on the air to talk about their experiences. —>

Through Our Eyes
ARC’s Participatory Video Communications Project to prevent gender-based violence
American Refugee Committee International

[ Watch video of the first Through Our Eyes training workshop ]

During times of war and armed conflict, traditional community support systems fall away. People become extremely vulnerable to exploitation and abuse, especially women and children. ARC has partnered with Communication for Change to create the Through Our Eyes Participatory Communications Project. The goal of Through Our Eyes is to break through the secrecy that surrounds gender-based violence in post-conflict settings and empower local communities to raise awareness and promote change.

Participants are working together to create videos and audio tapes that will be used as teaching tools in their own communities, and as advocacy tools in the world community to raise awareness about gender-based violence. —>

Martin: Untying, Unbundling Cable Programming Would Help Minorities
FCC Chairman Discusses Initiatives to Help Minorities
by John Eggerton
Broadcasting & Cable


photo by Rob McCausland

Federal Communications Commission chairman Kevin Martin was both applauded and prodded at a media conference devoted to empowering minorities to wrest at least some of the media agenda from the major players.

Rainbow/PUSH founder The Rev. Jesse Jackson led his lunch audience in a little call and response Friday. “Better that we lease than rent,” he said. “Better that we own than lease,” he added, as the primarily African-American crowd echoed him in his call to the “mountaintop.”

That followed a luncheon speech at a Rainbow/PUSH media conference in Washington, D.C., Friday by Martin in which he proposed a number of FCC moves to help minorities, including lowering leased-access rates and leasing excess digital-TV spectrum to designated entries, including minorities, to increase digital voices.

Jackson called for, and got, a standing ovation for Martin for being willing to come and discuss minority issues. Also in attendance were Democratic commissioners Jonathan Adelstein and Michael Copps, who were described at one point in an earlier press conference as the “eyes and ears” of minority issues at the FCC, and Republican commissioner Robert McDowell. —>

AT&T to try again for statewide video permits
by Jake Jost (TN)

AT&T will again ask Tennessee lawmakers for authority to add video services without having to get city and county franchises. AT&T is hoping for a fresh start in 2008 after a failed attempt this year to get approval for a change that would allow itself and others to operate with a single franchise agreement.

AT&T wants Tennessee lawmakers to allow it to provide video services in Tennessee without having to obtain franchises in each city or county where it wants to operate. Franchise agreements specify how cable and video businesses may operate and what local taxes and fees they must pay. Existing cable companies traditionally have negotiated individually with local governments. —>

Town at odds with AT&T over U-verse
New Haven Register (CT)

Wallingford — Democratic Councilman Michael Brodinsky told his colleagues on the Town Council Tuesday night that he is concerned the town’s three local cable access channels are getting short-changed by AT&T’s new television service offering.

Brodinsky said AT&T’s U-verse television service — which provides programming via the Internet — does not carry the local access channels and that many residents subscribing to the offering aren’t aware of that. Brodinsky said AT&T officials have told him that the channels won’t be on the U-verse system for at least five months, and then only if the town spends $5,000 for special equipment and other fees.

“They are making money in this town, and I don’t think we should have to pay this,” Brodinsky said of the one-time expenditure of $5,000 to buy an encoding device and between $2,100 and $3,000 a year for the town to have dedicated high-speed Internet lines that he said AT&T is requiring from local access providers…

Resident Susan Huizenga, who is chairwoman for the Cable Advisory Council for the seven towns, including Wallingford, that are part of Comcast Cable’s Branford system, said she is concerned that the picture quality of local access programming will not be viewable because of the encryption technology.

That position was echoed by Scott Hanley, who manages the town’s government access television, which telecasts the council meeting on Comcast. “The video is going to come up on a Windows Media screen, similar to what you get when you play videos on your computer,” Hanley said. “It’s not going to be full screen.” Hanley said local access officials statewide are set to meet with AT&T officials Oct. 29 to address their concerns. —>

Battle over AT&T’s U-verse TV service rages on
by David Krechevsky
Republican-American (CT)

The legal battle over AT&T’s U-verse television service continued this week on two fronts, with each side now looking to have competing rulings tossed out. Meanwhile, AT&T’s subscriber base for U-verse continues to grow despite the legal twists and turns.

Wednesday, AT&T asked federal Judge Janet Bond Arterton in U.S. District Court in New Haven to declare that her ruling this past summer that U-verse is a cable television service was made moot by a new state law that took effect Oct. 1. The law, “An Act Concerning Certified Competitive Video Service,” allows AT&T to apply for certification for its service instead of having to seek a cable TV franchise.

Arterton ruled in July that U-verse is a cable TV service as a result of lawsuits filed against state regulators by the Office of the Consumer Counsel, the New England Cable and Telecommunications Association and cable television companies. The lawsuits sought to overturn the state Department of Public Utility Control’s 3-2 decision in June 2006, which declared that U-verse is not the same as cable TV and allowed AT&T to offer it without seeking a cable franchise. After the judge ruled, AT&T asked her to reconsider, but that motion was denied last week.

In the wake of that denial, the state consumer counsel and attorney general filed motions with the DPUC on Wednesday asking it to vacate its June 2006 decision. The motion states that Arterton’s ruling means AT&T should have been required to seek a cable franchise before offering its service, and, because it did not, has been operating U-verse in violation of state and federal law. —>

Citizen-produced TV programs coming of age
by Naohiko Takahashi
Yomiuri Shimbun (Japan)

Citizen-produced cable TV programs offering local information have been attracting attention as a way of revitalizing community ties, while also giving talented individuals a breakthrough they might otherwise never have had.

One day earlier this month, about 10 members of a broadcasting station in Chofu, Tokyo, sat around a large screen and busily checked programming schedules for the month. “Let’s cut some of the narration,” one member of the civic broadcasting station Community Access Television Chofu (CATC) said, while another suggested, “How about changing the order of the scenes?”

Being screened was a five minute program about a local university that was teaching children how to assemble a radio. The program will be broadcast on a regional information cable channel. “We pick up minor topics that terrestrial TV stations and newspapers don’t cover, but which are important to local areas. In fact, there’s usually a good response from citizens because they’re featured in the programs,” station representative Mikiko Ono said.

CATC programs are planned and produced by Chofu residents who offer their services voluntarily. “We want to show off the good things about Chofu ourselves,” one member said.

The scheme was launched in April 2006, and the team now broadcasts Chofu-related programs several times a month. Among the topics covered have been the traditional bamboo work undertaken by local craftsman and the history of Chofu Airport. “We’re sticking closely to local issues,” CATC’s director Mariko Nagatomo said.

In other parts of the country, cable TV companies are actively encouraging locals to help produce TV programs. Chukai Cable Television System Operator in Yonago, Tottori Prefecture, is one such company. The company is providing one of its channels to citizens and broadcasting their videos for free, as long as the videos do not violate copyright or public decency standards. —>

Building an Online Community
by Sarah Dawud
The Daily Californian

Wikipedia founder Jimmy Wales, along with Oh Yeon Ho, the founder of OhmyNews, spoke about the role of online media and community to a small group last night at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism.

Students listened to Wales talk about the importance of community, which he said must be maintained by continuously communicating norms and common values. “Most people like an environment where they are free to have a discussion and be respected,” he said. He added that the Wikimedia Foundation—the parent company of the popular online user-created encyclopedia—is planning to move from Florida to San Francisco.

Ho introduced his creation, OhmyNews, which serves the Korean community through about 50,000 citizen reporters. His site includes a live newscast with simultaneous reader comments. He said the main goal for the site, which was launched in 2000, is to encourage an “active community.” He added that education is important and that the OhmyNews is good way to imform citizens.

The talk was organized by the Center for Citizen Media, which is affiliated with the journalism school and the Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard University Law School. Dan Gillmor, who teachers at the journalism school, said Wales and Ho were invited to campus for their contributions to the media world. “These guys are genuinely pioneers in online media and what they have done is extraordinary,” he said.

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media