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Cable Access Producers Unwilling to be Herded into Free Speech Zone

One of our last venues of community access to local media, Portland Community Media (formerly Portland Cable Access) faces prospects of de facto censorship within proposed "Free Speech Zone," at the hands of a questionable Executive Director.
Amid a hostile environment consisting of a dubious Executive Director, a questionable consulting firm, an uninvolved Board, and a City Council willing to hush the public's voice and spend Cable Access funds elsewhere, Freedom of Speech at Portland Community Media is at risk of being destroyed.

As if having the national media taken over by a half-dozen media moguls weren't enough, Public Access stations across the nation are facing an onslaught of interests bent on destroying the last vestige of the public's voice on our own airwaves.

Here in Portland, this trend has taken on many forms. The most disturbing of which has been the recommendation of PCM's Executive Director to "brand" public stations and limit certain programming - such as shows of a political nature - to being broadcast as little as one day a week, thus creating a veritable Free Speech Zone within Public Access.

Considering that there isn't close to enough programming to fill the current schedule, one has to wonder why the Executive Director or his costly consulting firm, Loadstone Communications, might even consider such a limitation. The answer comes down to true motives. In Austin, Texas, this type of channel branding severely restricted the public's voice on their own station, with producers having to face a review board to even have their shows approved for broadcast.

In imitating this approach, PCM's Executive Director wants to assign broadcast time-slots based on a show's "quality." Exactly who or how this subjective judgement-call will be made has been left vague, but based on the Executive Director's desire to do away with certain problematic producers, it seems clear that shows with anything critical to say will be the first to face de facto censorship.

But these recommendations are only the tip of the iceberg in a long story of questionable management on the part of the Executive Director. One major concern of PCM producers is the Executive Director's refusal to allow public and producer participation in decision-making. He has spoken out in board meetings to keep producers locked out by preventing board meeting times from being announced to the public. He has personally insulted several producers and acted in an aloof and elitist manner to volunteers and staff at PCM. And he has failed to provide any news via the website, bulletin board, or newsletter concerning changes the Operating Rules and Procedures made by the PCM staff or Board of Directors. Considering that the producers are the lifeblood of PCM's programming, the fact that they have been shut out, insulted, and ignored raises vital questions into the Executive Director's qualifications for the job. However, considering that the Executive Director hired himself for the position, his shortcomings were apparently overlooked.

Another serious concern of many producers at PCM is the Executive Director's gross mismanagement of funds. This includes such things as:
-Not only supporting the city's proposed 8% budget cuts to PCM, but
countering with a 12% budget cut.
-spending $70,000 ($30,000 over budget) on an artist to give PCM a
frivilous facelift.
-wasting tens of thousands on consulting firms making recommendations in
opposition to the public interest.
-spending $75,000 of PCM's dwindling budget on a name-change that did
away with 20 years of name recognition as a nationally-award winning
Cable Access station.
-Spending $11,000 on a new website that provided less information than
the previous site.
-Alloting no funds to replace malfunctioning and outdated equipment such as decks
that eat tapes, cameras that don't work, studios in poor repair, and 20 year old
props. In light of these oversights, the Executive Director's "improvements" have
been "likened to icing on a stale and moldy cake."

In the midst of all this mismanagement, where is the Board of Directors, who is ultimately responsible for the hiring and firing of the Executive Director? For the most part, they have simply been out of touch with the producers, staff, and community of PCM. Producers have mixed opinions as to whether or not the Board, like the Executive Director, is operating under an ongoing conflict of interest, possibly related to the politics of the City Council, Mount Hood Cable Regulatory Commission, or city budget. However, it has been stated that the Board is very unlikely to replace the current Executive Director.

In a letter to the Board signed by dozens of concerned PCM producers, they stated "We must give a vote of no confidence to the current Executive Director, whose employment contract is up for renewal." The letter continues, "We believe that a costly identity change to include the word 'Community' should be coupled with an Executive Director interested in developing a positive community with the very people his job performance impacts." Producers will be presenting the signed letter to Board members at a PCM Board meeting this Tuesday, October 26th at 6pm. The meeting is open to the public and will be held a Portland Community Media, at the corner of MLK and NE Graham.

With free speech hanging in the balance as Portland's last politically conscious shows, including Indymedia News, face possible censorship, it is vital that the community speak now to protect our last vestige of the public airwaves. To make your voice heard, you can call Kohel Haver, President of Portland Community Media's Board of Trustees at 503-295-2787.
It's very good to know this 25.Oct.2004 19:32

can't be at the meeting myself, but will tell others

It's shocking that this would take place at PCA (yeah, I just can't get used to the new name). They have been a great community resource for as long as I can remember. Thanks for your good work, Kohel.

aghast 25.Oct.2004 20:08

snoopy

As a long time producer at Portland Cable Access my first impressione at reading this post is this is really, really bad for Portland Cable Access. I can't imagine the future will be for unincorporated tv producers. If this is true then I want to go to this meeting and speak out. As soon as I get off of work I will go there and raise hell. If I am shut out then where would I be able to show my videos since I am a burned out Steelworker making slave wages. PCA has been an outlet for me and I am afraid I am going to lose it according to this letter. Long live freedom but we must work at it and stop Karl Rowe from stopping free speech.

speak out 25.Oct.2004 20:45

cabled in

If anyone enjoys Cannibis Common Sense, or any of the many other informative or fun cable shows, be sure to come and support this effort to save Portland Community Media. The audience is the most important part of public access television--and you can influence what happens.

I wish Jim Spagg was still alive! 25.Oct.2004 21:36

Chris R

He'd have them running for their mommies!
Who will be the one to carry the torch?

PCA and MCTV opened my eyes 25.Oct.2004 21:43

Steve J

I voted for Bush in the last election *vomit*

I must remind everyone not to take public access for granted. I moved here from Spokane as a die-hard right-winger. All it took was a little ART, some Parenti, and FSTV, then kazaam, here I am apalled at how ignorant I once was. Some people are stubborn and will always be asses, but there are still many out there who just need a little education.

Whatever it takes, don't let these assholes take away this much valued public exposure to the truth. The only part of PCATV that left me damaged was watching Jim Spagg dance around with his peepee flapping in the wind. But it was a happy peepee.

Rescue PCA 25.Oct.2004 23:40

Vidiot

Thank you for that excellent article on the trials and tribulations of Portland Community Media (Formerly Portland Cable Access.) This is a very serious issue facing the free speech rights of not only this community but the nation as well. The public access stations across this nation are facing serious pressure from the cable operators that charge their customers franchise fees to support the first amendment right of free speech. Commnunities are losing these access facilities at about the same rate that local stations are absorbed by the media giants that are monopolizing the airwaves and cable systems at an alarming rate. One of the oldest public access facilities in the nation in Austin Texas just recently became heavily "branded" and lost much of the freedoms that once won them national honors. Portland Community Media is soon to join them as the current Executive Director sells our freedoms to Comcast. A former Executive Director of Portland Community Media, Deborah Luppold, has been seen making visits to the current ED of PCM. Ms Luppold is now VP in charge of contracts for Comcast. She is now infamous for destroying Public Access centers that Comcast has to provide channels for. Why? PCM owns five channels on Comcast. That is a lot of revenue NOT pouring into the corporate coffers of Comcast. The Board of Directors of PCM has no idea of what they direct. They do not produce programs there and it is unlikely that they even watch the channels that their decisions impact. The current ED feeds them the info they need to make the decisions that affect the community of producers that generate 90% of the the programming for those five channels. This board needs to become aware of the realities of the access center their decisions impact and unless the public does this they will remain ignorant and the ED can manage their decisions to his will. Please make a showing of support this Tuesday at the Board of Directors meeting at 6 pm Oct. 26. Make a statement during the public comments section of the meeting --if allowed-- but at least show up to support the efforts of the concerned producers who volunteer their time and energies to bring non-commercial, un-censored, and in-depth programming that affects you, your community and your country.

Speak Up Before It Is Too Late 26.Oct.2004 00:48

Jason

Also, talk to the city council. They have say in these matters! Speak up everyone!! The future of a free media in Portland is being decided by those who have a vested interest in taking away your freedom and YOUR airwaves.

Mad as a hornet 26.Oct.2004 00:52

Franklin

Comcast is out to destroy the public airwaves. They are destroyers of Democracy. They are greedy and care asbout nothing but their own profit motive. They cannot be trusted with a public resource. It is time to fight back. Does anyone have the contact numbers for the people involved? Lots of phone calls are needed. Call them everyday and tell them you demand what is yours. Cable Access is important. It is an important resource for the community.

THANK YOU! 27.Oct.2004 19:10

Some know me, most don't

Thanks to all that showed up for the board meeting Tuesday night. It was invigarating and reassuring to see so many people willing to go on record to protect the precious rights that community access affords us all.

Comcast not the problem, Look at Media Alliance 28.Oct.2004 09:00

D. Miles Jr. http://www.skatinplace.com Sk8GodFather@cora.org

I just ran accross your situation with your public access channel. I believe the people that would champion your cause are a fraud. Your access channel has been the victim of a cruel virus which is the Alliance For Community Media. People from this group and others like it have been fanning out all over the public access world taking over the stations in the name of progressiveness. They are merely creating jobs for themselves as they have learned to use public access as means to get funding to pay for high paying job positions for themselves. For this to work they must get rid of the people who recognize this and oppose them. They come up with all kinds of schemes that hurt producers participation while they hire their friends and pad the Board of Directors of these new intities with "yes men" that enforce the outragous proposals. I know what I am talking about. See what happened to me when I stood up to defend producers rights and interests at San Francisco Public Access. I am now streaming my show now on the internet at http://www.skatinplace.com. All those frauds who have claimed to be the defenders of public access revealed themselves as the perpetrators. Keep Rollin', D. Miles Jr. The GodFather of Skating

http://www.cora.org http://www.skatinplace.com
415-752-1967
San Francisco, Ca.