Archive for the ‘participatory culture’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 04/06/08

April 6, 2008

League of Women Voters Says Yes to E-Democracy
Keeping the Internet Neutral and Supporting Public Access TV

[ “Emerging Media and Internet Issues: E-Democracy for Connecticut” pdf ]

After a year-long study, the League of Women Voters of Connecticut released new position statements on “Internet neutrality,” universal high speed Internet access for Connecticut residents, and community access television for state residents.

LWVCT President Jara Burnett said, “Over the past two decades, the Internet has emerged as the new press—a neutral, nondiscriminatory agent for free speech, democratic participation, and business innovation. The League will work to keep it that way—and to make sure that all Connecticut residents have an affordable way to acquire the high speed Internet service they need to connect to today’s information superhighway.”

Based on survey results from its 27 chapters around the state, League members voiced their support for state policies that will guarantee that their Internet service providers will not block, discriminate against, or slow down customers’ access to any Internet site.

“Once we’ve paid our monthly Internet service bill, we all expect full access to the entire Internet without our Internet service providers “tampering” with our service—controlling which candidate’s Website will load the fastest or which Internet telephone service we can use,” said League Vice-President Cheryl Dunson.

To support open and transparent government, League members will also lobby for protecting the future of community access television—the local channels that broadcast town council meetings, board of education meetings, candidates’ debates, and public affairs programs. The Connecticut Network, or CT-N, provides a similar service to the people of Connecticut on a channel dedicated to broadcasting the state legislature live and unedited, as well as other statewide meetings and events. The future of both CT-N and community access television have been the topic of debate with the entry of new video service providers into some areas of Connecticut. The state legislature has held hearings about the funding and broadcast quality of community access channels on these new video services.

Ms. Dunson says that the League uses its member-approved positions to advocate in Hartford for, or against, proposed state legislation.

Legislature to consider cable TV compromise
Leaf Chronicle (TN)

[ 1 comment ]

Tennessee lawmakers are expected to present compromise legislation on Monday that would create a statewide system for permitting cable TV franchises. The measure is supported by AT&T Inc., which wants to avoid having to seek hundreds of municipal permits as it enters the cable TV business. Similar legislation stalled last year. But lawmakers have scheduled a news conference on Monday to roll out legislation that is the result of behind-the-scenes negotiations between AT&T, the cable industry and local governments. —>

To YouTube or Not To YouTube: Human Rights Video in a Participatory Culture
by Henry Jenkins
MediaShift Idea Lab

[ comments invited ]

One of our goals at the Center for Future Civic Media is to identify best practices from existing projects which might inform those initiatives which will emerge from the Center. We want to understand how people out there are using the tools available to them right now to enhance civic awareness, to play informal watchdog functions within the culture, to call attention to problems and force governments and other institutions to respond, to skirt around censorship and other kinds of regulation over communication, and so forth.

We are looking at a range of different models — from serious games to programs to support an independent student press. We’ve done interviews; we’ve brought speakers to our lab meetings; we are hosting public forums (such as one to be held later this week at MIT featuring Yochai Benkler and Cass Sunstein, two of the best contemporary thinkers about the prospects of digital democracy.)

Last week, on my personal blog and on the Future Civic Media Blog we’ve been featuring an interview with Sam Gregory, Program Director at Witness, a human rights organization founded by Peter Gabriel in the late 1980s, designed to put cameras into the hands of everyday people around the world so that they can document abuses by authorities. The organization emerged in the aftermath of the Rodney King video, which had sparked much greater public awareness of police brutality in the United States, and the hope was to create what Gregory refers to as a “participatory panopticon,” as the wide spread availability of media production tools and the expansion of a distribution network for digital video makes it possible for people to record and transmit their own experiences of abuse. Those who might be seen as victims in one context are taking media in their own hands

I met Gregory during a recent DIY Media event at USC where he spoke about the decisions his organization faced between circulating these videos via a site like YouTube and creating their own web portal, The Hub, to create a better context for people to encounter human rights videos. What follows are a few highlights from this exchange, but to get the full account, I encourage you to follow links back to our blog. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media


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 – 03/17/08

March 18, 2008

U-Verse’s Sorry Excuse For Public Access TV
CT’s version of public access CSPAN a little annoyed….
by Karl
Broadband Reports


As Verizon and AT&T lobbyists worked to eliminate the local video franchise system, consumer advocates pointed out that such moves resulted in the death of public access. In States where lawmakers insist, AT&T has to carry public access — but localities haven’t been all too thrilled with the results. In Connecticut, AT&T is trying to pass preferred “franchise reform” legislation that would change how PEG channels are offered. The free, 24-hour local government policy public access channel (Connecticut Network), worried that the bill would kill off viewership, has created a video showing what locals have to do in order to access the channel in Michigan.   —>

Franchise, Phone Bills Percolate In Pa.
Cable, Verizon Put Lobbying Voice Behind VoIP Deregulation
by Linda Haugsted
Multichannel News

Pennsylvania lawmakers may consider a state franchising-reform bill, but the industries most affected by that bill, the cable and telephone companies, are teaming up to put their lobbying muscle behind deregulating voice-over-Internet protocol phone service.

Cable operators and Verizon officials testified last week before the state Senate’s consumer affairs committee in favor of SB 1000, which would prevent any government agency from trying to regulate the product.  Virginia, New Jersey and Delaware have already written into law that VOIP can be deployed without regulatory hurdles.

The state video franchising proposal — HB 1490 — was drafted in part by labor groups and neither cable operators nor phone companies like the bill.  “HB 1490 is a bad idea. You don’t amend or negotiate a bad idea,” Broadband Cable Association of Pennsylvania president Dan Tunnell said.

Most states adopting statewide franchise require a new provider to submit the names of executives, state office locations and a description of the intended franchise area. Pennsylvania’s draft bill goes further, requiring an applicant demonstrate the legal, financial, technical and managerial qualities needed to build and operate a system — much like the deep level of operating data local communities demand for cable franchises.

HB 1490 would also give the state Public Utility Commission up to four months to act on an application, a period during which three public hearings must be held. At the end of that period the PUC has the option to deny the application.

The bill also would establish:
• A six-year franchise;
• A requirement incumbents can’t be state franchised until their current pacts expire, unless the local franchiser consents;
• A build-out schedule that requires new providers to reach 35% of their declared franchise areas within three years of launch. A quarter of those customers would have to meet a low-income test. By year six, 70% of the franchise would have to be served, including 30% low-income households. If the franchise is renewed for another six years, the provider would have to serve the all households in the franchise by the end of year 12;
• And a rule that all installations, maintenance and customer service be done within the state.

Bridgeport schools showcased on TV
by Linda Conner Lambeck
Connecticut Post

[ comments invited ]

BRIDGEPORT — “Great Expectations,” a 30-minute news magazine showcasing all the good things happening in city schools, premieres this week on public access television.  The Bridgeport Public Education Fund is bankrolling the program, along with seven others, at a cost of about $5,000 per episode.

The program is hosted by Gina LeVon Simpson, a school system outreach worker with a background in television, and is produced by Borres Productions of Bridgeport.  Others involved in the production include students working in front of and behind the camera. They include: Justin Flores and Ahlaam Abdul, both students in Bassick High Schools Arts and Media Academy; and Rondique McLeon and DeSheena Kinney from Harding High.

The first episode features Hernan Illingsworth, parent of a fifth-grader at Classical Studies Academy and president of the citywide Parent Advisory Council.  “I hope this TV show starts to change expectations,” Illingsworth said. “Sometimes the expectations are bad. I hope this TV show shows a lot of the good stuff.”

A camera crew followed Illingsworth around for about three hours one day, filming him at work, during school and community activities, and at home.  “I believe the message was to get the aspect of me as a parent leader,” Illingsworth said. He hopes the show will get more parents involved and show the general public that Bridgeport parents care.   —>

Does Big Media’s One-Two Punch Knock Out the Internet?
by Jonathan Rintels

[ one comment ]

Last week saw Big Media deliver a powerful one-two combination of punches that may knock out today’s wide open Internet. First, in a speech delivered by Motion Picture Association of America President Dan Glickman, the nation’s media conglomerates vowed to fight increasingly vocal calls from policymakers and the public for “network neutrality” — a requirement that broadband Internet consumers be permitted to access the lawful content of their choice.

That’s hardly a revolutionary concept, unless you’re a broadband gatekeeper like Comcast that makes its customers’ choices for them by discriminating against some websites and favoring others.

To justify allying with Comcast, ATT, and their ilk in a mega-million dollar lobbying campaign to beat back government action that might prevent such anti-competitive, anti-consumer discrimination, the media congloms cited the need to combat piracy of their valuable content over broadband networks.

But as much as we also support fighting piracy, the MPAA’s invoking that fight here is a diversionary smoke screen for what’s really going on. The existing FCC policy principles that call for network neutrality, as well as every proposal to turn those principles into enforceable rules, speak to ensuring that broadband providers allow consumers “to access the lawful Internet content of their choice.”

By definition, pirated content is not “lawful content.” Big Media’s claim that Net Neutrality rules will prevent it from combating piracy goes way too far, as evidenced by Comcast’s recent blocking and slowing of its customers’ access to content distributed by BitTorrent. In kneecapping BitTorrent, Comcast didn’t just block pirated content, but all BitTorrent content, including legitimate un-pirated content such as a file containing the text of the King James Bible, and video that BitTorrent was distributing on behalf of its clients Fox, Time Warner, and Viacom – all card-carrying members of the MPAA!

Now consider the second powerful blow Big Media leveled against the open Internet last week. On Wednesday, went “live” after months in beta, streaming video of film and television produced by most of the media congloms that make up the MPAA.

[BTW, as Nikki Finke asked, how is it that this NBC-Universal and News Corp. (FOX) “joint venture” to distribute via Internet content owned by these companies, plus that of Sony, Warners, MGM-UA, and others, doesn’t violate antitrust laws? After all, not even the Bush administration’s “anything goes” antitrust regulators would allow these same alleged competitors to create a “joint venture” to distribute their content via movie theaters or a Dish Network-type satellite system.]

Allowing Comcast, ATT, and other broadband gatekeepers to discriminate against video content delivered by the BitTorrents of the Internet world vastly strengthens Hulu’s competitive position as the leading and “safe” web distribution method for video.

And can there be any doubt that as a condition of Big Media’s allying with the broadband providers to fight net neutrality that there is a clear understanding between them that Hulu will never be discriminated against in the way BitTorrent was? Look for all the Big Media companies currently using BitTorrent and other distribution over the Internet to sign up soon with Hulu.

Following that, to ensure they are not discriminated against by broadband gatekeepers and placed at a competitive disadvantage, look for many more video content creators to place their content on Hulu. In a world without Net Neutrality, linking up with Big Media’s Hulu — and its insulation from Comcast-style discrimination and degrading — will be a matter of self-preservation.

Kudos to the Independent Film and Television Alliance (IFTA) for immediately calling out the MPAA and exposing its anti-competitive collusion. Writes the IFTA:   —>

MIT’s Jenkins, Johnson Talk Community, Creativity
by Jessica Maguire

[ one comment ]

MIT’s Jenkins, Johnson Talk Community, Creativity Amidst accusations of the dumbing-down of American youth, Henry Jenkins stands as a profound defender of popular culture, and a notable commentator on media and video game-related issues.

The Co-Director of the Comparative Media Studies Program at MIT, author of numerous books including Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide and Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring Participatory Culture, shared the stage with Steven Johnson, author of Emergence: The Connected Lives of Ants, Brains, Cities and Software, Everything Bad Is Good for You, and other popular books about emerging technology, for the opening remarks at SXSW 2008.

The Decline Of Youth Culture?

To begin their conversation about the impact of new media and gaming culture, Johnson asked Jenkins about the emergence of books like The Dumbest Generation and the big NEA report about the decline of reading among kids today.   —>

NCVO: Over 120 MPs demand local TV on freeview

Over 120 MPs have signed an Early Day Motion demanding that the Government introduce a local television network on Freeview before switching off the analogue TV signals.

Members of Parliament from across the political spectrum are backing a plan put forward by United for Local Television, a coalition of local TV operators and campaigners. This would see the introduction of “Channel 6” as a new local channel broadcasting on the Freeview platform. No matter where you live in the UK, Channel 6 would be a local channel offering local news, local programming and local advertising. Channel 6 would also carry ‘networked’ public service content covering interests such as the arts, business, industry, rural affairs, tourism, health and social issues.

The Early Day Motion has been proposed by Ian Stewart MP, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Community Media, and is rapidly gaining support from MPs.  Ian Stewart, MP for Eccles, said:  “UK citizens are amongst the least well served in the entire democratic world for access to local news and information from television. It is vital that at least one channel (out of a potential 30+ channels on Freeview) is protected as a local channel providing a forum to debate and discuss local issues. I feel very strongly that local TV must be extended so that everyone has access to a local channel on Freeview no matter where they live and without the need to subscribe to pay-TV or the internet.”

The Government is committed to the expansion of local TV. Section 244 of the Communications Act 2003 gives the Culture Secretary the ability to enact a Local Digital Television Order which would roll out local TV services across the UK. MPs are now calling on the Government to enact these provisions.   —>$1213353.htm

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/11/08

March 11, 2008

Media Center Interns – Yeah, we rock.
Midpeninsula Community Media Center (CA)

[ comments allowed ]

Check out what the Media Center’s interns are up to: Videos! Editing! Office Assistance!
A short promo featuring interviews with campers and examples of their work. (03:00)

AT&T rolling out U-verse, a new TV, Internet service
by Kristie Swartz
Atlanta Journal-Constitution (GA)

AT&T considers its Internet-based television service, U-verse, to be its next multibillion-dollar product, but the company has been rolling out the service in some parts of Atlanta with little fanfare and won’t say when the entire metro area will have access to it.

U-verse, which AT&T hopes will be another way to snag customers from cable companies such as Comcast, has captured 231,000 subscribers in 43 markets nationwide, Michael Antieri , senior vice president for consumer marketing, told investors at Bear Stears annual media conference in Palm Beach on Tuesday. The San Antonio-based telecom giant wants to increase that number to more than 1 million customers by the end of the year, he said. “We believe video is truly a game changer for AT&T,” Antieri said via a Web cast.

AT&T quietly started selling U-verse in some Atlanta neighborhoods last December. Spokesman Steven Smith offered few details as to which neighborhoods have U-verse now as well as which ones were next in line, saying the company didn’t want to tip off the competition. “We’re looking forward to expanding the service into the Southeast,” Smith said. “We’re very committed to this product and very committed to the Southeast.”

But there’s been little, if any, advertisement for U-verse, which costs $44 to $154 per month depending on the package. What’s more, AT&T did not announce that Georgia granted the company a statewide franchise last month, allowing it to offer U-verse across the entire state. —>

Verizon hearts suburbs
by Jasonix
(remix) feat. Elevato (MA)

[ comments allowed ]

As you might already know, the Boston Metro has a regular feature where people write in to Mayor Menino. On March 6, there was a letter about Verizon’s FiOS fiber optic cable/internet service and why we in Boston (or Cambridge or other big city in the metro area) are bombarded with ads about it, but can’t actually get the service. Turns out its because we aren’t in the suburbs.

“Thank you for this question. My Office of Cable Communications monitors cable TV franchises and mediates consumer issues regarding cable TV service. I have recently written to Verizon asking them to bring FiOS to the entire City of Boston. To date, Verizon has declined the City’s repeated encouragement to enter a cable franchise negotiation, opting instead to slowly build in the suburbs. Meanwhile, the cities and towns of Boston, Brookline, Somerville, Cambridge, Everett, Revere, Chelsea, Medford, Melrose, Watertown and Quincy are left without this service.

“Verizon has said in the past that their business plans do not include urban areas, but how do they explain their FiOS builds in New York City and Washington, D.C.?”

I don’t know, man. —>

Public access TV may be on ropes
by Lewis Delavan
Saline County Voice (AR)

Public access television’s future may be threatened. No, not really from an irate alderman upset with programming, although backers of Benton’s public access Channel 12 may think so. The greatest threat to Channel 12 and community public access stations across the country is state, rather than local, control of content. AT&T, Verizon and other phone providers are lobbying state legislators to grant broadcasting rights for an entire state, an article in the February issue of Governing magazine says.

Local public access stations began appearing in the 1970s, but this threat arose in the past three years. In fact, 20 states have granted statewide broadcasting licenses in only three years. (Backers of constitutional amendments often could only dream of such fast action from legislators). Often with scant public notice before the legislation, local public access, education and government stations are being squeezed off the air. It could happen in Arkansas, so advocates of local public stations should take notice. —>

VON TV Webcast on Net Neutrality Features Leading Experts, and Intro Remarks by FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps
by PR Newswire
Sys-Con Media

Pulvermedia today announced that the live Net Neutrality webcast on the Internet TV Channel VON TV ( will take place today, March 11th, at 2 PM ET. As the Net Neutrality battle heats up in Washington D.C., today’s debate, featuring policy experts and industry professionals, promises to be an intense exchange of views on this controversial subject. To access this webcast, or for more information, please visit:

In introductory remarks pre-recorded for playback just prior to the debate, FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps calls on the FCC to adopt “a specific and enforceable principle of non-discrimination” that “should allow for reasonable network management, but make crystal clear that broadband network operators cannot twist reasonable network management into a not-so-reasonable mechanism for blatant network discrimination.” According to Copps, where “the line between discrimination and reasonable network management” is drawn should be determined through “a systematic, expeditious, case-by-case approach for adjudicating” discrimination claims.

Joining the debate will be Harold Feld, senior vice president of Media Access Project, Ken Ferree, president of the Progress & Freedom Foundation, Marvin Ammori, general counsel for Free Press and Lawrence J. Spiwak, president of the Phoenix Center for Advanced Legal and Economic Public Policy Studies. The discussion will be moderated by VON TV legal commentator Marty Stern. The webcast will also include a special pre-recorded feature with Paul Gallant, Senior Vice President and policy analyst with the Stanford Group, discussing reactions on Wall Street to recent developments in the net neutrality debate, and how various potential outcomes may impact industry performance. —>

[ As “community” media moves inexorably onto the internet, its practitioners are faced with fresh questions and possibilities. Andrew Keen raises a couple good ones here. – rm ]

Anonymity: The Enemy of Civil Online Discourse
by Andrew Keen
The Independent

[ comments allowed ]

When it comes to the destructive consequences of online anonymity, Wikipedia is actually quite tame compared to the latest generation of open source information sites such as, and, for example, encourages its contributors to anonymously rate people — especially politicians — in terms of their personality, looks and skills in the bedroom.

Ten days ago, I coheadlined a Commonwealth Club of San Francisco debate with Jimmy Wales, the founder of the hugely popular open source Internet encyclopedia Wikipedia Latest News about Wikipedia. Held at the Bubble Lounge, a fashionable downtown San Francisco martini bar, this was a much-hyped dialectical wrestling match — pitting wiki-crusader Wales, the wannabe slayer of the Encyclopedia Britannica, against me, a wiki-skeptic lovingly described, by my Internet critics, as the Antichrist of Silicon Valley.

But, as so often happens at this type of staged gladiatorial contest, it transpired that Wales and I actually agreed more than we disagreed. So the debate, I suspect, might have tasted disappointingly bland for those in the Bubble Lounge audience thirsting for a splash of intellectual bloodshed to spice up their early evening martinis.

Naming Names

But the one issue over which Wales and I did profoundly disagree was Internet anonymity. Wiki technology undermines the authority of professional editors and enables anyone with an Internet connection to automatically become an author. But when you do away with editorial gatekeepers, there is no way of checking the identity of your contributors. Thus, Wikipedia’s content is created by a nameless and faceless army of potentially corrupt or ignorant contributors. Unlike Wales, I simply can’t trust information when I don’t know the identity of its authors. Rather than a right, I think Wikipedian editors have a responsibility to reveal who they are. As I told Jimmy Wales at our debate, I believe that Wikipedia will only become a genuinely reliable information resource when he changes the site’s rules to force Wikipedians to reveal their real identities.

When it comes to the destructive consequences of online anonymity, Wikipedia is actually quite tame compared to the latest generation of open source information sites such as, and, for example, encourages its contributors to anonymously gossip and rate people — especially politicians — in terms of their personality, looks and amorous skills in the bedroom. This site is, of course, just a way of legitimizing unverified and unverifiable witch-hunts against elected officials. Meanwhile on, a notice board for law students, anonymous correspondents have posted so much abusive content about a couple of Yale University law students that the two women have been forced to take out a lawsuit against the site (Doe versus Ciolli). Meanwhile, — a Wikipedia-style site that encourages the anonymous leaking of corporate and political documents — recently posted content from a Swiss bank (the Julius Baer Bank) that revealed personal information from some of its clients.

So how, exactly, does the American law limit the rights of anonymous Internet users to post personal details about individuals, corporations or governments? It’s a highly complex set of legal issues around which American courts are struggling to legislate. Take the case for example. In mid February, Jeffrey S. White, a judge at San Francisco District Federal Court, ordered that should be disabled as punishment for its anonymous posting of confidential information about clients of the Swiss bank. But on March 1, White withdrew his order and so today is free to continue to publish its anonymous leaks.

A Challenge

The case shows the curse of Internet anonymity can’t be cured in the courts. As I told Jimmy Wales at our debate, discouraging anonymity is our collective responsibility. The solution to incivility of anonymous posts is education rather than legislation. We — parents, teachers, employers and policy makers — need to educate Internet users in to understanding that anonymity is the refuge of scoundrels and cowards. Wikipedia,, and are all fostering an ugly climate of personal irresponsibility.

Internet companies are also responsible for developing Web sites that actively discourage anonymous posts. Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) Latest News about Google is setting an excellent example here. Knol, Google’s open source encyclopedia, has been set up to bar anonymous entries. I publicly challenge Wales to follow Knol and force Wikipedian editors to reveal their identities. Come on Jimmy! Join the war against anonymity on the Internet and I’ll buy you a martini next time I run in to you at the Bubble Lounge…

Could the Internet Be Africa’s Savior?

Another week, another wrestling match. Last week, I was in London, at the swanky Holborn headquarters of the National Endowment for Science, Technology and the Arts (NESTA) debating Charles Leadbeater, the author of We-Think — likely to be the most controversial book about the Internet to be published in Britain this year.

Leadbeater, once a Tony Blair’s Internet maven, is Britain’s leading digital visionary, and We-Think is an optimistic take on our digital future. A highly readable British synthesis of James Surowiecki’s Wisdom of the Crowds and Chris Anderson’s Long Tail, Leadbeater’s We-Think is definitely an important book, even for skeptics like me who are suspicious of the seductive techno-utopian promises of the Web 2.0 revolution.

The Internet will revolutionize innovation, Leadbeater argues in We-Think. Collaborative Web sites will transform innovation from a selfish, individual preoccupation into the socially responsible activity of the community. The Internet will prioritize public interest over individual interest. The old Cartesian principle of “I think therefore I am” will be replaced by the communitarian credo of “We-Think therefore we are.” The consequences of this technological revolution on the future of capitalism, private property, the law and politics will be epochal, Leadbeater promises us.

We-Think is inspiring in its analysis of the impact of the Internet on the less developed world. Leadbeater suggests that the collaborative Internet will foster democracy, economic equality and social justice in Africa. For this insight alone, We-Think is thoughtful. I urge you to read it.

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 – 02/12/08

February 16, 2008

LWV urges ‘neutrality’ on access to Web sites
by Wynne Parry
Stamford Advocate (CT)

The state League of Women Voters reached out to its members last night in a discussion at the Harry Bennett Branch of the Ferguson Library, asking them to consider supporting the position that Internet service providers not interfere with users’ ability to access Web sites.  The issue, known as “Net neutrality,” was one of three the league put before members of its newly revived Stamford chapter. If approved, the league will formally adopt these positions.

“Internet service providers should not serve as gatekeepers,” said Cheryl Dunson, advocacy director of the state league. “If you get online, you should have access to the full and entire scope of the Internet.”  In other words, the Christian Coalition Web site should load as fast as Planned Parenthood…

League representatives also asked members to endorse the position that government should encourage efficient and affordable high-speed Internet access, including free access at libraries and other public buildings…

The league is also considering a position that community access television must be protected.  New legislation allowing phone companies to compete with cable companies to provide cable service may affect community access channels, according to Carole Young-Kleinfeld, the state league’s vice president of communications.   —>,0,1371935.story

County Board meetings to be shown on cable TV
by Jorge Sosa
Hutchinson Leader (MN)

[comments allowed]

Hutchinson Community Video Network will soon add a new reality show to its lineup — the McLeod County Board meetings.  County Commissioner Sheldon Nies said the County Board supports telecasting of their meetings, with HCVN’s help, beginning Feb. 19.  The local cable channel already airs Hutchinson City Council meetings, but HCVN Board Member Barry Anderson said the channel received many requests to see the County Board in action.   —>

Mayors meet with Bredesen, lawmakers
State of economy discussed during courtesy visit
by Bonna Johnson
The Tennessean

[comments allowed]

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, along with the mayors of Memphis, Knoxville and Chattanooga, made a courtesy call to Gov. Phil Bredesen and legislative leaders Monday.  “We went in to talk about the interest of the cities and to see if there is anything we can do to help the governor and basically talked about the state of the economy,” Dean said.

Dean said he did not talk to the governor about any issues specific to Nashville.  But outside the governor’s office, Dean did talk with reporters about his position on a few state issues….He is staying neutral in the battle between AT&T and Comcast on cable franchising.  “We’ll see what happens before we take a position,” he said. Without taking sides though, he said, he is “generally pro competition.”   —>

There’s Nothing Mainstream About the Corporate Media
by Harvey Wasserman
Huffington Post


As we stumble toward another presidential election, it’s never been more clear that our political process is being warped by a corporate stranglehold on the free flow of information. Amidst a virtual blackout of coverage of a horrific war, a global ecological crisis and an advancing economic collapse, what passes for the mass media is itself in collapse. What’s left of our democracy teeters on the brink.

The culprit, in the parlance of the day, has been the “Mainstream Media,” or MSM.  But that’s [the] wrong name for it. Today’s mass media is Corporate, not Mainstream, and the distinction is critical.  Calling the Corporate Media (CM) “mainstream” implies that it speaks for mid-road opinion, and it absolutely does not.

There is, in fact, a discernable, tangible mainstream of opinion in this country. As brilliant analysts such as Jeff Cohen, Norman Solomon and the Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) organization have shown, the “MSM” is very far to the right of it.   —>

Flashback to 2002: Is U.S. Big Media Still Brainwashing Us?
Pepperspray Productions’ “Indymedia Presents”
02/12/08 (?)

[comments allowed]

In the last few years many Americans have come to believe that the war in Iraq is wrong.  Fewer it would seem, have the same opinion about the war against Afganistan.  You decide.  Let’s go back with US Representative Jim McDermott.   —>

Nonprofit journalism on the rise
At a time of layoffs and budget cuts at traditional newspapers, foundations and donors are funding new journalism ventures.
by Randy Dotinga
Christian Science Monitor

San Diego – The police chief’s rosy crime statistics were a lie, it turned out. The councilman who urged water conservation was discovered to use 80,000 gallons a month at his home, more than five of his colleagues put together. And the school board president, according to an investigation, spent a full third of his time out of town and out of touch.

The Voice of San Diego, a nonprofit online media outlet, doesn’t have enough journalists to field a softball team. Yet it has managed to take on the powerful with the panache of a scrappy big-city paper.  It provides “the best coverage of city politics that we’ve had in years,” raves Dean Nelson, a journalism professor at San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University.

The success of the tightly focused Voice, which relies on donors, offers a ray of hope for a troubled industry. Plagued by shrinking circulations and advertising, newspapers are shedding staff and downsizing their offerings. Even the pages have gotten smaller.  By contrast, several nonprofit newspapers – though rare and often tiny – have sprung up in recent years both online and in print, funded largely by foundations and individual donors.  The strategy of nonprofits like the Voice “may be one of the ways to preserve the integrity of journalism,” says Mr. Nelson.   —>

When A Bunch of People Become Community
by Jim Benson
Evolving web

[comments allowed]

No matter how far removed my daily life gets from Urban Planning (I was a real-life urban planner for about 20 years), it still amazes me how I’m still right in the middle of it. Today on Twitter, Shel Israel sent out a note about a great post by Laura Fitton called “Twitter is my Village.”  Her posts cover the basic aspects of community.  Transportation, Culture, Commerce, and Continuity.   —>

ITP in Wikipedia
by Jon Swerdloff
Swerdloff Version 5.0

[comments allowed]

I have had a lot of people ask me – “Swerdloff” they say, because that’s what people call me, “Swerdloff, what the hell are you doing?” And I say “I’m at ITP!” and they say “um OMG WTF ITP?” or they say “What’s that” depending on whether it’s an IM or an in-person thing. Invariably, I point them to the ITP website and then describe a project or two or three if they still don’t get it. Maybe a fourth if they ask “what do you plan to do with this degree, exactly?”

I try metaphor – “It’s art for technologists” “technology for artists” “We’re building the future” “Second wave technologies built on things we tear up” “Hogwarts for hackers” or as Clay described it to me yesterday, “the center for the recently possible” which I like.

It’s very difficult going to a not-product-based incubator, a space that’s not art school but aims at artists, that’s not engineering but aims at engineers, and that’s not really definable. Particularly when you are studying identity! Also when your friends are lawyers, writers, bankers, bloggers, and other -ers that are easily defined.

I’ve copied and pasted the Wikipedia entry on ITP, strangely listed within the Tisch School page. I say strangely because despite having space there and sharing elevators (hello ladies of the drama department…) we really don’t interact with them much. Doubly ironic, since we’re the Interactive telecommunications program, and we don’t interact. Get it? Not in the 10,000 spoons way… ok shut up.  So, I reproduce this here for your pleasure. With luck, it’ll start to give you a sense of what I’m doing. And as you can see, after many years away – I’m back.

Tisch School of the Arts – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:  “The Interactive Telecommunications Program is a pioneering graduate department focused on the study and design of new media, computational media and embedded computing under the umbrella of interactivity.

“Founded in 1979, the origins of the program date back to 1971 when George Stoney and Red Burns created the Alternate Media Center (AMC). ITP grew out of the work of the AMC, and set the stage for the experimentation which would follow as well as the informing spirit of collaboration, and the ongoing emphasis on crafting social applications and putting the needs of the user first. A pioneering center for application development and field trials, the AMC initially focused on exploring the then-new tool of portable video made possible by Sony’s introduction of the Portapak video camera.”   —>

Better Than Free
by Kevin Kelley
The Technium


The internet is a copy machine. At its most foundational level, it copies every action, every character, every thought we make while we ride upon it. In order to send a message from one corner of the internet to another, the protocols of communication demand that the whole message be copied along the way several times. IT companies make a lot of money selling equipment that facilitates this ceaseless copying. Every bit of data ever produced on any computer is copied somewhere. The digital economy is thus run on a river of copies. Unlike the mass-produced reproductions of the machine age, these copies are not just cheap, they are free.

Our digital communication network has been engineered so that copies flow with as little friction as possible. Indeed, copies flow so freely we could think of the internet as a super-distribution system, where once a copy is introduced it will continue to flow through the network forever, much like electricity in a superconductive wire. We see evidence of this in real life. Once anything that can be copied is brought into contact with internet, it will be copied, and those copies never leave. Even a dog knows you can’t erase something once it’s flowed on the internet.


This super-distribution system has become the foundation of our economy and wealth. The instant reduplication of data, ideas, and media underpins all the major economic sectors in our economy, particularly those involved with exports — that is, those industries where the US has a competitive advantage. Our wealth sits upon a very large device that copies promiscuously and constantly.

Yet the previous round of wealth in this economy was built on selling precious copies, so the free flow of free copies tends to undermine the established order. If reproductions of our best efforts are free, how can we keep going? To put it simply, how does one make money selling free copies?

I have an answer. The simplest way I can put it is thus:

When copies are super abundant, they become worthless.
When copies are super abundant, stuff which can’t be copied becomes scarce and valuable.

When copies are free, you need to sell things which can not be copied.

Well, what can’t be copied?

There are a number of qualities that can’t be copied. Consider “trust.” Trust cannot be copied. You can’t purchase it. Trust must be earned, over time. It cannot be downloaded. Or faked. Or counterfeited (at least for long). If everything else is equal, you’ll always prefer to deal with someone you can trust. So trust is an intangible that has increasing value in a copy saturated world.

There are a number of other qualities similar to trust that are difficult to copy, and thus become valuable in this network economy.  I think the best way to examine them is not from the eye of the producer, manufacturer, or creator, but from the eye of the user. We can start with a simple user question:  why would we ever pay for anything that we could get for free? When anyone buys a version of something they could get for free, what are they purchasing?

From my study of the network economy I see roughly eight categories of intangible value that we buy when we pay for something that could be free.   —>

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