Sunday, December 23, 2007
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Commissioner Copps: "The Commission's priorities are dangerously out-of-whack, and we
urgently need this Committee's help to save us from ourselves. We have a proposal before us at
the Commission to open the door to newspaper-broadcast combinations in every market in the country and the drive is on to rush this to a vote next week. Meanwhile we have given short shrift to pressing problems like the sad state of minority ownership of U.S. media properties and the obvious decline of localism in our broadcast programming. We have also neglected the DTV transition, and have not done nearly enough to prepare consumers and broadcast stations for the rapidly approaching deadline. If we don't turn this around quickly, the DTV transition will result in widespread television outages and a consumer backlash the likes of which you and I haven't seen for a long, long time."
Saturday, December 8, 2007
Friday, November 30, 2007
Click the link at the top to view the entire posting.
Thursday, November 29, 2007
Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Thursday, November 15, 2007
Clip for the faith based Beyond Today Show which airs on Mondays 10:00am and 6:30 pm on Time Warner digital CH 20 in San Antonio TX.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
Bipartisan legislation would put the brakes on FCC plan to gut media ownership limits
WASHINGTON -- At a Senate Commerce Committee hearing today, Sen. Byron Dorgan (D-N.D.) and Sen. Trent Lott (R-Miss.) announced plans to introduce legislation that would halt the Federal Communications Commission's rush to gut longstanding media ownership rules. The bipartisan "Media Ownership Act of 2007" -- co-sponsored by Sens. Barack Obama (D-Ill.), Olympia Snowe (R-Maine), John Kerry (D-Mass.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) -- would direct the FCC to conduct a separate proceeding on localism and create an independent minority and female ownership task force before moving forward with any changes to media ownership limits. The bill would also give the public a 90-day comment period on any proposed rules. Last month, Senator Dorgan uncovered FCC Chairman Kevin Martin's secret plan to eliminate longstanding media ownership limits before the end of the year. Ben Scott, policy director of Free Press, made the following statement: "We are thrilled to see members from both sides of the aisle stand up for the public. This critical legislation will restore fairness and transparency in what has become a corrupt process at the FCC. "In the rush to gut media ownership rules, the Commission has ignored the American people, neglected the media diversity crisis, and buried evidence that consolidation harms local communities. The Media Ownership Act would hold the FCC accountable for listening to the public and ensuring that the public airwaves reflect America's diverse local communities. "The American people overwhelmingly oppose any rule changes that would allow big companies to swallow up more of their local media. This bill is an important reminder from Congress that the FCC must answer to the public, not corporate interests." ### Free Press is a national, nonpartisan organization working to reform the media. Through education, organizing and advocacy, we promote diverse and independent media ownership, strong public media, and universal access to communications. Learn more at www.freepress.net
Tuesday, November 6, 2007
Tuesday, October 30, 2007
The purpose of the hearing is to gather information from consumers, industry, civic organizations, and others on broadcasters’ service to their local communities. Along with competition and diversity, promoting localism is a key goal of the Commission’s media ownership rules.
List of witnesses for panel discussion as follows:
Marcellus Alexander, Executive Vice President for NAB Television, President of NAB Education Foundation
Mark Cooper, Director of Research, Consumer Federation of America
Bob Edwards, National First Vice President of AFTRA; Host, The Bob Edwards Show, XM Satellite Radio; and Former Host, NPR's "Morning Edition"
Kim Gandy, President, National Organization for Women
Jim Goodmon, President & CEO, Capital Broadcasting
Wade Henderson, President & CEO, Leadership Conference on Civil Rights
Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., President and Founder, Rainbow PUSH Coalition
Andrew Jay Schwartzman, President & CEO, Media Access Project
Christopher Sterling, Professor of Media and Public Affairs/Public Policy/Public Administration, George Washington University
S. Derek Turner, Research Director, Free Press
The moderator will be Louis Sigalos, Chief of the Consumer Affairs and Outreach Division, Consumer Governmental Affairs Bureau, FCC.
Open captioning and sign language interpreters will be provided for this event. Other
reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities are available upon request. Please include a description of the accommodation you will need and as much detail as possible. Also, please include your contact information. Make your request as early as possible. Last minute requests will be accepted, but may not be possible to fill. Send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Consumer & Governmental Affairs Bureau at 202-418-0530 (voice), 202-418-0432 (TTY).
Audio/Video coverage of the meeting will be broadcast live with open captioning over the Internet from the FCC's Audio/Video Events web page at www.fcc.gov/realaudio. Spanish language translation service will be provided. In addition, the hearing will be recorded, and the recording will be made available to the public. The public may also file comments or other documents with the Commission and should reference MB 04-233. Filing instructions are provided at http://www.fcc.gov/localism/filinginstructions.doc.
Friday, October 19, 2007
WASHINGTON, Oct. 17 — The head of the Federal Communications Commission has circulated an ambitious plan to relax the decades-old media ownership rules, including repealing a rule that forbids a company to own both a newspaper and a television or radio station in the same city.
Kevin J. Martin, chairman of the commission, wants to repeal the rule in the next two months — a plan that, if successful, would be a big victory for some executives of media conglomerates.
Among them are Samuel Zell, the Chicago investor who is seeking to complete a buyout of the Tribune Company, and Rupert Murdoch, who has lobbied against the rule for years so that he can continue controlling both The New York Post and a Fox television station in New York.
The proposal appears to have the support of a majority of the five commission members, agency officials said, although it is not clear that Mr. Martin would proceed with a sweeping deregulatory approach on a vote of 3 to 2 — something his predecessor tried without success. In interviews on Wednesday, the agency’s two Democratic members raised questions about Mr. Martin’s approach.
Mr. Martin said he was striving to reach a consensus with his fellow commissioners, both on the schedule and on the underlying rule changes, although he would not say whether he would move the measures forward if he were able to muster only three votes.
“We’ve had six hearings around the country already; we’ve done numerous studies; we’ve been collecting data for the last 18 months; and the issues have been pending for years,” Mr. Martin said in an interview. “I think it is an appropriate time to begin a discussion to complete this rule-making and complete these media ownership issues.”
Officials said the commission would consider loosening the restrictions on the number of radio and television stations a company could own in the same city.
Currently, a company can own two television stations in the larger markets only if at least one is not among the four largest stations and if there are at least eight local stations. The rules also limit the number of radio stations that a company can own to no more than eight in each of the largest markets.
The deregulatory proposal is likely to put the agency once again at the center of a debate between the media companies, which view the restrictions as anachronistic, and civil rights, labor, religious and other groups that maintain the government has let media conglomerates grow too large.
As advertising increasingly migrates from newspapers to the Internet, the newspaper industry has undergone a wave of upheaval and consolidation. That has put new pressure on regulators to loosen ownership rules. But deregulation in the media is difficult politically, because many Republican and Democratic lawmakers are concerned about news outlets in their districts being too tightly controlled by too few companies.
In recent months, industry executives had all but abandoned the hope that regulators would try to modify the ownership rules in the waning days of the Bush administration.
“This is a big deal because we have way too much concentration of media ownership in the United States,” Senator Byron L. Dorgan, Democrat of North Dakota, said at a hearing on Wednesday called to examine the digital transition of the television industry.
“If the chairman intends to do something by the end of the year,” Mr. Dorgan added, his voice rising, “then there will be a firestorm of protest and I’m going to be carrying the wood.”
Supporters of the changes say that the rules are outdated and that there is ample empirical evidence to support their repeal. A small number of media companies, including The New York Times Company, are able to own both a newspaper and a radio station in the same city because the cross-ownership restrictions, which went into effect in 1974, were not applied retroactively.
Mr. Martin faces obstacles within the agency to overhauling the rules. One Democrat on the commission, Michael J. Copps, is adamantly opposed to loosening the rules. The other, Jonathan S. Adelstein, has said that the agency first needs to address other media issues, including encouraging improved coverage of local events and greater ownership of stations by companies controlled by women and minorities.
Advisers to Mr. Martin said he hoped to gain the support of at least one of the Democrats, probably Mr. Adelstein, but Mr. Adelstein said in an interview on Wednesday that Mr. Martin’s proposed timetable was “awfully aggressive.”
Three years ago, the commission lost a major court challenge to its last effort, led by Michael K. Powell, its chairman at the time, to relax the media ownership rules. The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit, in Philadelphia, concluded that the commission had failed to adequately justify the new rules. Mr. Martin’s proposal would presumably include new evidence aimed at fending off similar legal challenges.
Mr. Powell’s effort, which had been supported by lobbyists for broadcasters, newspapers and major media conglomerates, provoked a wave of criticism from a broad coalition of opponents. Among them were the National Organization for Women, the National Rifle Association, the Parents Television Council and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.
The agency was flooded with nearly three million comments against changing the rules, the most it has ever received in a rule-making process.
Since the appeals court struck down the deregulatory changes, the commission has continued to study the issues at a leisurely pace, and it held a series of hearings around the nation. It had not made any new proposals, and industry executives had not expected the agency to move again so soon.
But in recent days, Mr. Martin has proposed to expedite the rule-making and hold a final vote in December. In part, he has told commission officials, he was reacting to criticism by Mr. Copps about temporary waivers that have allowed companies to own newspapers and stations in the same market.
Mr. Zell has said he wants to complete his $8.2 billion buyout of Tribune Company by the end of the year. Tribune had been granted what were supposed to be temporary waivers to the rule to allow it to control newspapers and television stations in five cities: New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Hartford and the Miami-Fort Lauderdale area.
Mr. Copps, who for years has waged a campaign against media consolidation, said that it would be hard for the commission to proceed during an election year because media consolidation has provoked deep public skepticism in the past.
He said Mr. Martin’s proposal to complete a relaxation of the rules in December would require procedural shortcuts, giving the public too little time to comment on the proposals and industry experts too little time to weigh their impact on news operations.
“We shouldn’t be doing anything without having a credible process and nothing should be done to get in the way of Congressional oversight and more importantly, public oversight,” Mr. Copps said in a telephone interview from London. “We’ve got to have that public scrutiny. That was one of the big mistakes that Mr. Powell made, and he was taken to the woodshed by the Third Circuit. I fear it is déjà vu all over again.”
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
This was the original post: Cindy and Dawn dance this beautiful belly dance called Ancient Ruins. This performance was for the Jumpstart Works-In-Progress Show September 2007. Cindy and Dawn will perform at the Give Belly Dance a Chance Show in San Antonio, October 27-29, 2007.
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
“We continue to be shocked at the brazen efforts of the FCC to help the already-thriving telecommunications industry to the detriment of local governments, their first responders, and their taxpaying residents,” said Elizabeth Beaty, executive director of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). “Hundreds, if not thousands, of cable franchise agreements could be voided across the country as a result of the pending FCC order. This is not competition, this is chaos,” Beaty said.
NATOA, the National League of Cities, and several organizations representing consumers, cities, towns, counties and non-profits are already suing the FCC over its initial order of last March, which in their view improperly strips local governments of their authority to protect the public health, education, welfare and safety of local residents, in violation of the Cable Act. The latest effort by the FCC, far from simplifying or streamlining matters, would only multiply the potential problems and disputes that cities have with cable operators.
According to recent media reports, the FCC is expected any day to rule that existing cable operators can, under certain circumstances, back out of key provisions in their current franchise contracts with local governments, renegotiate lower municipal fees, and reduce the benefits they currently provide to the public. This compounds the problems already created by the initial order, which among other things, appears to allow new franchise applicants to refuse to provide free service to municipal and school buildings and eliminate other in-kind services, while unilaterally reducing the fees they pay to support public, education and government (PEG) access channels.
“This new FCC order could put many PEG channels out of business. It would likely cripple many local governments’ emergency services communications, which rely on institutional networks furnished by the cable operator,” said Beaty, who is serving as a spokesperson for the six organizations. “What will happen if the backbone of emergency communications is stripped away? What happens to the math homework channels? How will cities make up lost revenue that currently assures local residents are connected to libraries, governments, schools, senior centers, and police and fire stations? The FCC is creating problems – not solutions – by its actions.”
Communities are already experiencing confusion and backlash where state legislatures have taken video franchising out of local hands. Comcast, a major provider of cable services across the country, has already informed some agencies in
Video franchise agreements between local governments and cable operators usually provide for an array of services to localities in exchange for the operator’s use of public property. Institutional networks or I‑Nets are secure connections to municipal buildings, police and fire stations, courts and jails, schools, libraries, senior centers and hospitals. In many communities, these networks are the linchpin of emergency communications. Public access channels are made available for government, educational and community programming, such as high school football or Little League games, city or county council meetings, and homework help.
“Not only would the FCC’s rulings create chaos and uncertainty for our communities; they have the potential to create a real budget gap for our municipalities that would have to be closed, either by reducing important local government services or raising fees or taxes in other areas,” Beaty said. “This FCC order is a win for big business and a loss for the people of this country.”
In a 2006 survey of local government cable offices conducted for NATOA, 94 percent indicated that their community collects a franchise fee from cable operators. The majority, 87 percent, collect a franchise fee of 5 percent of gross revenues. The remaining 13 percent collect varied lesser franchise fees or do not collect a franchise fee at all. More than half of the fees are used by local governments to support their general fund, which funds police, fire, schools, transportation and other vital public services provided by local governments. Seventeen percent of the fees are used for oversight of cable franchising and for public access channels; 20 percent are used for a combination of general fund and cable oversight; and 11 percent of fees are used solely for public access channels.
submitted by Anthony T. Riddle
Tuesday, September 18, 2007
Sam Thompson, who helps out the local libraries in town, talks to San Antonio City Councilman Justin Rodriguez and San Antonio City Manager Sheryl Sculley about increasing funding for the libraries, with funny results.
Thursday, September 13, 2007
Nick Lee of South Texas Media Access (STMA) addresses the San Antonio Texas Budget Hearings held in Sept 2007. STMA is working for the establishment of a community media center for public access TV Producers.
Tuesday, September 11, 2007
We will have a meeting on
Wednesday, September 5, 2007
Tuesday, September 4, 2007
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
Wednesday, August 22, 2007
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
28 Groups Tell FCC That Digital TV Rules Lack Public Benefit
Broad Coalition Asks Commission to Define the
Public Interest Obligations of Digital Television Broadcasters
Over the past 12 years, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has repeatedly failed to redefine broadcasters’ public interest obligations in light of the nation’s ongoing transition to digital television, a coalition of 28 groups said in a filing at the FCC today. The groups echoed the warnings of FCC Commissioner Michael Copps that this “record of inaction” may “go down . . . as the Commission’s major failing in its efforts to move the digital transition forward.”
The groups’ filing came in the FCC’s third periodic review of the conversion of the nation’s broadcast television system from analog to digital television (“DTV”). The DTV transition will increase efficient use of the spectrum, expand consumer choice for video programming, and increase the amount of spectrum available for public safety and other wireless services. Analog TV broadcasts are to end February 17, 2009. In its rulemaking, the FCC proposed procedures and rule changes necessary to complete the transition, but once again failed to address broadcasters’ obligations to serve local communities’ educational, informational, civic, minority, disability and emergency information needs – or how these services should be disclosed to the public.
“Congress and the courts have been clear,” said Benton Foundation Chairman Charles Benton, “that the rights of viewers are paramount in broadcasting. The FCC has worked long and hard to help broadcasters make the transition to digital TV technology, a transition that could greatly increase the value of their businesses. The Commission must now do the work to define the benefits of the transition for the public, a transition that could make their airwaves more valuable to them.”
“The Commission has the opportunity and the statutory obligation to create an important and lasting legacy to benefit the citizens of our nation as we enter the digital age,” said Meredith McGehee, Policy Director of the Campaign Legal Center. “Despite the fact that most broadcasters have come to treat the public airwaves as their personal property, that incredibly valuable spectrum is still owned by the American public. It is the Commission’s job to remind broadcasters of that fact and to demand substantive public interest efforts in return.”
-- more --
Cynthia Canary, Director of the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform -- one of 14 members of the Midwest Democracy Network which participated in the filing -- said, “The Supreme Court has observed that speech concerning public affairs is more than self-expression; it is the essence of self-government. Due to its reach, influence and statutory obligations, local television news, in particular, has a special responsibility to inform voters at election time about the backgrounds, experiences, qualifications, and policy views of candidates for public office. Between elections, it has a duty to help citizens make sense out of governmental issues and decisions that will impact their lives and communities. By defining and enforcing the public interest obligations of digital television broadcasters, the FCC can guarantee that citizens have the access they need to be full participants in our democracy.”
When the FCC launched this proceeding earlier this year, Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein said, “I am concerned that we have not yet provided broadcasters and the public with a concrete understanding of broadcasters’ public interest obligations in the digital age. This necessary piece of the transition continues to lag further and further behind. Congress made clear that broadcasters continue to have public interest obligations in the digital world, but left it up to us to specify how to apply them. As we continue to speed the arrival of the best possible digital television service to the public, an important proceeding that could bring certainty continues to linger at the Commission…. A crystal clear digital picture is important, but quality programming is just as, if not more, important.”
List of commenters: Alliance For Community Media, Benton Foundation, Center for Digital Democracy, Chicago Media Action, Citizen Advocacy Center, Common Cause, Common Cause Illinois, Common Cause Michigan, Common Cause Ohio, Common Cause Wisconsin, Communication Service For The Deaf, Consumer Action, Democracy Now, Free Press, Hearing Loss Association Of America – New York State, Illinois Campaign For Political Reform, Illinois PIRG, League Of Women Voters Of Minnesota, League Of Women Voters Of Wisconsin, Michigan Campaign Finance Network, National Hispanic Media Coalition, Northern Virginia Resource Center For Deaf And Hard Of Hearing Persons, Ohio Citizen Action Education Fund, Sunshine Project -- University Of Illinois At Springfield, Take Action Minnesota, The Campaign Legal Center, United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops, Wisconsin Democracy Campaign.
Read the comments at http://www.benton.org/benton
Wednesday, August 8, 2007
We will have a meeting on Wednesday, August 8, 2007 at 10:30 am with newly elected San Antonio City Councilman John Clamp's staff member Amy Putney in District 10. District 10 is in the northeast area of
Update; The meeting with Amy Putney went well and we discussed the history of the public access issue. She stated she will issue a report to Councilman Clamp about our quest.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Click To Play
This is a sample clip for the Perspective Prisms show, hosted by San Antonio Producer Roberto Canedo. Roberto has just set up a videoblog for his show. This clip features artists at the Centro Cultural Aztlan with a summer exhibit for 2007. This aired on San Antonio Public Access TV in the fall of 2007.
Monday, July 30, 2007
We will have a meeting on Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 11:00 am with newly elected San Antonio City Councilwoman Mary Alice Cisneros in District 1. District 1 is in the central and downtown area of
Update: The meeting was held with the Chief of Staff Leticia Cantu and she was updated on history of has happened to Public Access over the last year and half and why we are pushing for a media center. She recommended that attend the summer budget meetings.
Monday, July 23, 2007
We will have a meeting on Wednesday, July 25th at 2:30pm with Judy Peterson, Chief of Staff for newly elected San Antonio City Council person Justin Rodriguez District 7. District 7 is in the northwest side of San Antonio. The meeting will be at the office at City Hall downtown. We will speak with him about our goal for a public media access center.
Update: we met today with Judy Peterson and gave her a history of what happened with the loss of public access over the past 2 years and our goal to re-establish facilities. We also showed her some video clips of shows.
Friday, July 20, 2007
This cat likes to sleep in cabinets. Featuring Miss Kitty.
Produced by 411 Productions.
This was our practice video for the videoblogging class we had. We all took turns uploading the video to get practice and set up a videoblog for Roberto Canedo and his show Perspective Prisms.
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
The City of San Antonio Department of Communications will hold a meeting with Public Access Producers on Tuesday evening 5:30pm, July 24, 2007. The purpose of the meeting is to provide an update on new equipment and services which the City has available to assist in the production of program content., including additional editing equipment, wireless microphones and tutorials. The city also wants feedback from the producers as to their needs.
The meeting will be held at the Development Business Services Center, 1901 S. Alamo Street (X-street: S. Flores) and will begin at 5:30.
You are urged to attend this meeting, whether you are currently active in Public Access programming or would like to get involved. This is an opportunity to learn more about the City's efforts and ask questions of City Staff. Tel for Frank Burns 207-4000.
Later on we will post some videos from this meeting.
Monday, July 16, 2007
Tuesday, July 3, 2007
Nick calzoncit talks to the staff of
Nick’s show is Mexican American Advancement Project, which airs on Fridays at and on
Friday, June 22, 2007
Chapter Finds that Video-Subscription Rates Have Actually Risen Texas
By Linda Haugsted -- Multichannel News, 5/24/2007 5:11:00 PM
Basic-cable rates have not declined in any of the
Rates for the tier including off-air signals and public, educational and government channels have actually increased over the past two years, according to the study posted May 22 on the group's Web site.
The greatest hike, according to the group, was in
However, the arrival of Verizon as a video competitor provided a lower-cost alternative for consumers of basic and expanded-basic services. According to the survey, the disparity in rates was greatest in Southlake, where Verizon charges $34.95 for what it terms standard service, compared with $48.99 charged for the same type of service level from Charter, a 27% difference. (Municipal officials used the tier terms utilized by the providers, noting that the number and type of video channels in that level may be different provider to provider.)
NATOA members were prompted to begin tracking rates after a Federal Communications Commission meeting that was held in
Testimony at the hearing tossed out figures of rates 25%-45% lower in
Civic officials nationally have criticized rate-decrease claims, such as those stated in a January 2007 Bank of America Equity Research report. That report quoted double-digit rate drops in
Civic officials countered that such figures are based on short-term, nonpublished special acquisition rates. The rates in the
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
AT&T executives spoke with Texas and Louisiana Public Access Providers in January 2007 about AT&T U-Verse plans for PEG channels. Public Access Producers, concerned about the possible loss of public access, asked questions about their service or lack of service offerings (PEG is not offered on U-verse at this time). Part 5 of 5.
Please note these files are 10-15 minutes long and may take some time to load.
Wednesday, June 13, 2007
AT&T executives spoke with Texas and Louisiana Public Access Providers in January 2007 about AT&T U-Verse plans for PEG channels. Public Access Producers, concerned about the possible loss of public access, asked questions about their service or lack of service offerings (PEG is not offered on U-verse at this time). Part 4 of 5.
Please note these files are 10-15 minutes long and may take some time to load.
Friday, June 8, 2007
AT&T executives spoke with Texas and Louisiana Public Access Providers in January 2007 about AT&T U-Verse plans for PEG channels. Public Access Producers, concerned about the possible loss of public access, asked questions about their service or lack of service offerings (PEG is not offered on U-verse at this time). Part 3 of 5.
Please note these files are 10-15 minutes long and may take some time to load.
Monday, June 4, 2007
Friday, June 1, 2007
AT&T executives spoke with Texas and Louisiana Public Access Providers in January 2007 about AT&T plans for PEG channels. Public Access Producers, concerned about the possible loss of public access, asked questions about their service or lack of service offerings (PEG is not shown on U-verse at this time) . Part 1 of 5.
Please note these files are 10-15 minutes long and may take some time
AT&T executives spoke with Texas and Louisiana Public Access Providers In January 2007 about AT&T plans for PEG channels with its U-Verse service.Â Public Access Producers, concerned about the possible loss of public access, asked questions about their service or lack of service offerings. Part 1 of 5.
Please note these files are 10-15 minutes long and may take some time to load.
Tuesday, May 29, 2007
We will have a meeting on Monday, June 4th at 4pm with Sonny Torres, chief of staff for San Antonio City Council person Delicia Herrera in District 6. District 6 is in the west/northwest sides of San Antonio. The meeting will be at the office at Alamo Downs office Park.
Update, this meeting did not happen due to confusion on appt. time. Another one will be scheduled.
Wednesday, May 23, 2007
by Charles N. Wheeler III
"When two elephants fight, it is the grass that gets trampled."
In the legislative battle now under way between two heavyweight industries — the telephone companies and the cable television providers — what's at risk of getting trampled is the public interest.
The focus of the intense struggle is a telecom-backed measure that would strip franchising control from local governments and do away with most regulation for new entrants into the lucrative field of providing wired video service, long dominated by cable companies. As cable providers have started to offer telephone service, though, traditional phone companies have begun fighting back with plans for video over their landlines.
Led by AT&T, the phone companies argue that Illinois consumers are being gouged by the near-monopoly on video that cable companies like Comcast now enjoy, a competitive advantage owing in part to the need for would-be video providers to negotiate franchise agreements with every locality they wish to serve.
Under the pending legislation, providers no longer would have to deal with city officials. Instead, they could seek authorization from the Illinois Commerce Commission to provide video wherever they choose. Proponents say allowing the telecoms unfettered access to local markets will unleash competition that will drive down prices, attract more investment to Illinois and create thousands of new, high-tech jobs.
The cable industry responds, quite accurately, that nothing now prevents AT&T, Verizon or other telephone companies from competing for the video business under the existing rules by negotiating the same sort of franchise agreements that cable providers have with cities and villages across the state. The telecom proposal, the cable guys say, is merely a way for Ma Bell's offspring to avoid locally set service standards and to serve only those neighborhoods most likely to sign up for the most-expensive packages with lots of bells and whistles.
Fearful of being caught underfoot are the folks who run the community-based, public, educational and government channels, referred to as PEGs. They typically broadcast such fare as school board meetings, city council sessions, community arts events and educational programming.
Equally concerned are local government officials, who worry about losing control over the public rights of way in their communities and losing their ability to set service standards for the new video providers, including requiring that service be offered throughout the community.
Lawmakers face a tough challenge in sorting out fact from the public relations spin employed by the competing corporate interests. A key point to remember, though, is that neither the telecoms nor the cable companies should be expected to have the public interest at heart. After all, big corporations are supposed to make as much money as possible for shareholders. Looking out for the little guy — John Q. Public — is government's job, and it should be a top priority for elected officials.
To his credit, the telecom bill's chief sponsor, Rep. James Brosnahan, an Oak Lawn Democrat, already has removed some of the measure's more troublesome points and has been negotiating with the community groups and local officials in an effort to allay some of their other concerns.
To safeguard the public interest, however, lawmakers should focus on a couple of critical issues:
• Protecting the existing network of public access channels, including encouraging their future growth. Telecom allies profess their commitment to public access, citing a provision of the measure that earmarks 1 percent of receipts to underwrite PEGs. But public access stations in some communities enjoy higher levels of funding, which would be slashed by a statewide 1 percent cap.
Moreover, cable providers now foot the bill for hooking up the public access stations to their systems and carry the signal for free. In contrast, AT&T would like PEGs to buy the equipment needed to make their signal compatible with the phone company's technology, then pay AT&T for carrying it. And the phone company initially planned to provide a lower quality picture for PEGs — akin to a YouTube image in a computer window — rather than the full-screen TV picture viewers expect.
Advocates argue, correctly, that new entrants into video service should be required to play by the same public access rules as cable providers. That means no funding cuts, no freeze on future PEGs, no new carriage charges and no second-rate picture quality.
• Assuring that local governments maintain control over the use of public property by private business. Even if one accepts the premise that the state should issue video licenses to all comers, that's no reason to allow the telecoms to stick the refrigerator-size boxes needed for their technology where they see fit. Local regulation of equipment placement is important for public safety — think clear sight lines at intersections.
Local officials also generally have done a good job of requiring cable providers to offer service to everyone within the franchise area, thus avoiding so-called "cherry picking" in which only affluent, or demographically desirable, neighborhoods are covered. The telecoms say they want everyone for a customer, but mandating 100 percent build-out is bad business practice. At the least, though, lawmakers should set a goal of universal build-out, with reporting and enforcement provisions to stop technological redlining.
Similarly, the legislation sets out demanding standards for consumer protection, like resolving billing disputes, requiring prompt service calls and barring excessive fees, the familiar consumer headaches. All commendable, but equally necessary is oversight and enforcement, somewhere an aggrieved customer can complain, short of suing the provider, and get a fair shake. Perhaps the ICC's role could be expanded beyond mere pro forma license issuance; even better, the attorney general could be given the job.
The ultimate goal in the telecommunications war is to become a customer's sole provider of video, telephone and broadband Internet service. Lawmakers should watch out for the broader public interest along the way.
Charles N. Wheeler III is director of the Public Affairs Reporting program at the University of Illinois at Springfield.
Illinois Issues, May 2007
Go to Illinois Issues blog at http://illinoisissuesblog.blogspot.com/
Friday, May 18, 2007
Short video of our tour of the Guadalupe Cultural Arts Media. They have a very nice set up, and it is not being used.Â They might be a possibility for a temporary studio space. This was shot with a chip off a camera, not a video camera.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Our next meeting with a San Antonio City Council member is Monday, May 14th with San Antonio City Councilman Roland Gutierrez District 3 councilman. District 3 is in the Southside. The meeting is to lobby for a new community media access center. 1:30pm. Tel 534-1300.
Update: We met with the Staff of councilmen Gutierrez at City Base on the Southside. We gave them the presentation and they gave us some feedback. We did find that there were some misconceptions with the city staff as to what had happened to public access (they had the impression we were using Maverick Studios), so this gave us an opportunity to educate them on the history of public access in San Antonio and the situation we find ourselves in now.
Then Wednesday, May 16th, our meeting is with San Antonio City Council member Art Hall of District 8 at 9:30am. District 8 is in the Northwest side of town.Tel 207-7086.
Update. We met with Councilman Hall and one of his staff members downtown and had a short 15 minute meeting. He was very supportive but did tell us that funding directly from the general fund would be a very hard sell to the City Council and that we would need to have a good detailed presentation to be able to convince them. He also mentioned that the City Council was basically split in half with one half being supportive of Public Access and the other half not being that supportive. This is why it is important that we meet with City Council members and their staff to give them better insight into who we are as a public access community and the benefits of public access.
Friday, May 11, 2007
This is a recent article by Jennifer Harris, of the Center for Digital Democracy. It mentions an issue of concern in San Antonio.
The Universe According to AT&T’s U-verse
By: Jennifer Harris
AT&T's leap into the converged world is illustrated in its two-pronged IPTV approach, Homezone and U-verse. IPTV is a system that enables digital television sets to be programmed using the more personalized data delivery method of the Internet – Internet Protocol.
U-verse, as explained by Joe Laszlo of JupiterKagan Research, is considered "the end-game" for AT&T. U-verse is similar to a cable-like video service offered by way of phone lines and to only those privileged enough to have fiber in their neighborhoods. Homezone, a hybrid satellite/IPTV service offered in conjunction with Dish Network, is a second-tier option offered to customers who don't want to wait (or may never see) fiber optic appear in their city. The cities able to yield the highest return on investment for the pricey deployment of fiber cables will get services first, while other communities remain on the back-burner. AT&T’s model of preferential treatment extends throughout the formation of their IPTV service, stepping up quality for those with deep pockets and standing aside for those without. By building a new media system that perpetuates the anti-competitive communications market and neglects the public interest, AT&T delivers a service to customers that falls short of its connective and innovative potential.
Traditional media is inevitably shifting from being a source primarily for entertainment to becoming a networked system that connects households inextricably to their educational, civic, health and buying needs. New media services will no longer be classified as stand-alone luxuries, because convergence is melding voice, video and data into singular systems essential for information sharing and communications. IPTV, and other new media services, will become staples in American households (much like electricity or telephone service) and become necessities in the information age. As AT&T sets the stage for an IPTV service that plays favorites between the haves and have-nots, it is setting in motion a system that restricts information, and allocates it only to the wealthy and the well-connected. The fiber lines being laid are dividing more than just parts of a city; AT&T is creating a lopsided playing field that will ultimately leave citizens and communities out of countless opportunities for advancement and connectivity.
When AT&T refused to disclose their build-out plans in the
Unwilling to negotiate under local franchising authority and abide by the rules set for cable providers, AT&T eventually took the city of Geneva to court (many other cities have also been dragged into similar legal battles: Milwaukee, WI, Walnut Creek & Livermore, CA, Naperville, IL and multiple Chicago suburbs). Ralph Ballart, former vice president of broadband at SBC Laboratories commented that "If we are going to build the IP (Internet Protocol) pipe, we want all the revenue streams." However, AT&T cannot guarantee that all parts of a community that allow the company to build the IP pipe will ultimately receive AT&T’s IP services. When AT&T officials are questioned specifically about obligations to build out services, they claim that U-verse cannot be classified as either a cable or telecommunications service; therefore previous rules do not apply.
If U-verse is neither accountable for previous obligations nor responsible in adhering to principles guiding future innovation, then how can customers expect to benefit from services that don’t have to truly serve them? AT&T, as a stipulation to their $86 billion merger with BellSouth, agreed to abide by a set of net neutrality principles, or guidelines that the company will not favor one set of online content above others. However the guidelines distinctly exclude AT&T’s “end game”, U-verse. If U-verse is truly where the buck stops then as David Isenberg recognizes “we have provided AT&T/[BellSouth] the means to render the proposed Network Neutrality condition on the merger violable, and…so weak as to be meaningless”. By discriminating against certain types of content, U-verse will be able to set the hierarchy – dictating which content is most valuable for you and your family.
Pay for Digital Play
AT&T is not only seeking to control broadband on the user end, but to parcel it out to preferred content providers as well. AT&T is taking harmful steps to ensure that non-commercial television has no future on IPTV sets. Consumers should not expect to see community-focused, noncommercial programming in the world of U-verse…at least not clearly.
A suspicious request made in an agreement between AT&T and San Antonio asked that PEG access centers send all programming to the provider at rates that would clearly degrade the content; ultimately making the community channels unwatchable to all viewers.
As AT&T has shifted into the new media environment, they have made it very clear that they want to leave the public’s interests out of the big IPTV picture. AT&T is rolling out a service that is perpetually cutting corners – exploiting converging technologies and dodging local oversight. AT&T is taking measured and calculated steps that trim the edges off of previous obligations to serve communities.
The infrastructure for a powerful, interactive communications system deserves to be built on a model that will give back to communities exponentially. A U-verse system that is responsive to the public interest would open windows in communities: enhancing distance learning programs in disadvantaged school systems, generating economic potential in rural and urban areas by offering career advancement in IT and media fields, and by connecting families to valuable health and medical care not offered locally. However, U-verse amounts to a universe of untapped possibility. AT&T could construct a U-verse environment that works toward a long-term vision instead of being based around fleeting profits, but in AT&T’s U-verse - advertisers mean the world.