Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Problem with Public Access Television -Part 3

411 Productions

Empowering Youth with the Media Arts

On Thursday, May 18th, 2006, a small group of Public Access Television Producers in San Antonio, Texas went to the City Council Chambers to air once again, their outrage that the Public Access Channel 20 in San Antonio was still black (not broadcasting). We had only one public access channel in San Antonio where local citizens could produce television shows that could be aired locally. The channel had gone off the air on January 1st, 2006, due to the Texas state legislature passing Senate Bill 5.

Our original trip to City Council, in which over 80 (out of 180) Public Access Television Producers showed up to air their dismay at the prospect of losing the channel, was in mid December, at the last City Council meeting of the year for 2005. This trip was the 3rd time we appeared to speak as Public Access Producers at City Council Chambers, during the Citizens to be Heard segment, which is not aired on the local Government Channel 21 in San Antonio. The City Council doesn’t like to air that portion of City Council meetings because they get a lot of angry people who show up for that, some of whom make very strong comments. The rest of the City Council meeting (the part with all the people in suits) is always aired on the government channel 21 in San Antonio. How’s that for censorship!

If you need more background information on what the problem with Public Access Television issue is about, see our previous postings in this blog starting from December 2005, when we 1st realized the danger we were in. Bottom line, is that Public Access Television is in danger of being lost, not just in San Antonio, but all across the U.S. It is the only local outlet that ordinary citizens who don’t have the resources to rent production studios and film equipment, have, to produce and broadcast on television locally. This is funded with a 1% franchise fee that is charged to paying cable customers, and is turned over to the City for use for PEG (Public Access, Educational, and Government) broadcasting. The money to fund these channels comes from us, the paying cable subscribers, not the city or the cable companies.

One must understand that what is occurring here in San Antonio is not an isolated incident. This scenario is and will continue repeating itself in other cities in the U.S., one by one, as their current franchise agreements end, and if their state legislature has passed law(s) to make this drastic change. This is being done very surreptitiously. These laws are being lobbied to our state politicians by the cable/telecom companies, because they don’t want to have to deal with cities on an individual basis. In the end this endangers localism, which is how we are able to see and hear people in our own cities and neighborhoods on TV other than on the local news channel, and we all know what the local news consists of.

New York City is going through these same hard questions right now as they are realizing the danger their public access channels are in. The New York State legislature has been lobbied on this. A few other states have already passed these new franchising laws in favor of the cable companies negotiating on a statewide basis. This is becoming a model for the future, and this is not good. This leaves me and you, the common citizen, out in the cold, silenced and caught in the storm of who is responsible for the airing of public access. What has happened in San Antonio is a prime example of the damage than can take place and we all need to realize that “There for the grace of God go I.”

Citizens be warned. Don’t let this happen in your state and cities. Be sure to call, write or e-mail your state congressman and senator and let them know that all of this is very bad news, and they better not let this happen in your state. If we don’t all speak up now it will be too late to turn back the tide.

Patsy Robles, 411 Productions

Empowering Youth with the Media Arts

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