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A Looming Threat To Public Access Television

I just received an e-mail from Portland Community Media linking to a recent article from BusinessWeek Online, concerning the future of Public Access in this country.
What it gets down to is that the Baby Bells want to enter the lucrative cable t.v. market, and they don't want to have to pay local communites for the right of way.

From the BusinessWeek article: "SBC Communications Inc. (SBC ) aims to spend as much as $6 billion by 2007 to build a state-of-the-art fiber system connecting 18 million homes to TV programs, as well as voice and Internet data. Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ ) has an even more technologically ambitious goal: spending $2.4 billion by the end of 2005 to provide video and other services to some 3 million homes. BellSouth Corp. (BLS ) has big plans, too."

This grandiose scheme is meeting with a roadblock in the form of local governments demanding franchise fees, like those collected from Cable franchises funding all local Public Access channels nationwide. These fees do not sit well with the Cable companies, and they have even recently, in San Jose, California sued to be released from these obligations. They lost, but as I understand it, the case will eventually go up to the Supreme Court.

Quoting the e-mail from PCM:
....... if the phone companies are allowed to provide video services locally without a local franchise which includes public interest obligations such as PEG access and do not have to pay franchise fees it won't be long before the cable companies challenge their situation in court with the potential result that PCM, PEG access and access organization across the country will be history in three years. That's about the amount of time it will take to get through an FCC process and the associated court battles."

We all know that the FCC is no friend of the people, but rather, they have an open door policy to the Corporate Media giants they are supposed to regulate. Nothing new here. And, things could get worse in Bush's second term. So, we as media consummers must make efforts to keep well informed of developments and share these with our friends, as well as passing along these views to our elected officials.

PCM is working through the Alliance for Community Media and the Alliance for Communications Democracy to prevent this future from occurring.

Some other Media Democracy websites:
Reclaim the Media
Media Alliance
Alliance for Better Campaigns
Media for Democracy 2004
Center for Digital Democracy

Telecom: The Fiber Optic Nightmare

homepage: homepage: http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/04_49/b3911038_mz011.htm