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Carroll County Maryland public access competes with us

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Wayne Grauel
Carroll County Maryland public access competes with us
on Dec 14, 2008 at 12:10:22 pm

I was under the impression that local public access could not charge or do any production that was not "community freebies like parades.. personal projects, etc.

I find it quite offensive to read that my local government and cable company has poured ton of money to into equipment, looking at live streaming, etc..

The real bite in the rear is that they have "value added services"

Value-added Services

The Community Media Centers' mission is to provide the means and training for the public to produce non-commercial programs or P.S.A.s but we realize that not everyone has the time or the staff to take advantage of these resources in the same way.

Value-Added Services fill this gap by providing a service to the non-profit community at a reasonable rate for the production of a project. The cost is calculated at an hourly rate for staff time and use of the facility. This is an alternative for non-profit organizations that have money in their budget for publicity or outreach or are willing to write a grant that covers the cost of renting the studio and hiring the station to produce a particular program for them.

These services are by request and are worked into the calendar year around other priorities. The summer is generally the most available time for project production. We accept proposals at any time of the year; however, and start with an initial meeting with the Director to discuss the idea. The station then provides a written proposal for services based on discussion of a particular project with a timeline for completion. We also will consider partnering with individual producers to obtain grant funding for projects we think meet the mission to "Make Television Matter".

So.. does this mean that non profit organizations get free pens, billboards, etv.

I can understand the local channel offering them air time, but allowing them to pay the people that my tax dollars are paying under the guise of one non profit helping another has got to be illegal, if not unethical.

Has anyone else run into this.. is their any president?.. I'm planning on a call to the state's attorney tomorrow

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walter biscardi
Re: Carroll County Maryland public access competes with us
on Dec 14, 2008 at 12:51:19 pm

[Wayne Grauel] "I was under the impression that local public access could not charge or do any production that was not "community freebies like parades.. personal projects, etc.

Depends on where you live and who exactly pays to construct the space and who is using it. You generally have to pay for anything above and beyond the studio space.

We have one entity here in Atlanta that is completely free as long as you live in the Atlanta City Limits as it's wholly funded by Atlanta tax dollars. If you live outside the city, you must pay to rent the facility and do a production.

Now the primary Georgia PBS group built a huge facility in downtown Atlanta with the intent of renting out their 8 studios, production truck, etc... to the local production market. However that was completely killed because they receive both local and federal funding through tax dollars so they are completely prohibited from competing with local production companies and renting anything to anyone. It was a local group of production companies who raised the red flag on that one and the Governor agreed with them.

In the case of your area, you are correct to raise the question of is this fair for them to be able to charge for services. It might be yes, it might be no depending on exactly how the studio space and equipment was funded. Of course, reading the part about Summer time being the best time tells me that it is primarily staffed with high school and college students on summer break so the rates are probably quite low.

Definitely prepare an inquiry for the appropriate person in your area, but remember to do it professionally. Simply write a letter or make the phone call, but do it in a factual and very professional way. Do not let emotions jump into the conversation or you'll look like an angry whiner.

The basic point you want to make is that it's your understanding that this is a tax payer funded entity and as such, it should not be allowed to directly compete with commercial business entities by charging money for their services. If you know someone who is an attorney they can probably help you properly draw up a letter.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Biscardi Creative Media
HD and SD Production for Broadcast and Independent Productions.

Read my Blog!


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Ron Lindeboom
Re: Carroll County Maryland public access competes with us
on Dec 14, 2008 at 3:54:08 pm

Here in San Luis Obispo County, California we had a similar situation wherein the university launched a company a few years back with major equipment and backing that competed heavily in the local area. It rankled the established business community so much that there became so much backlash against it that they pulled the plug on it in a year or two. This, as they found that no one in the related business community wanted to lift a finger for the school anymore. It was quite ugly and thankfully the school came to its senses; after all, if all universities set out to pillage and plunder their local business communities, then where are the graduates going to get jobs when they leave school?

I would second Walter's suggestion that you keep to the facts and keep emotion out of it. The more that you keep your head, the more your words may find favor in your circumstances.

Best always,

Ron Lindeboom

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grinner hester
Re: Carroll County Maryland public access competes with us
on Dec 14, 2008 at 6:14:50 pm

They do it all the time. Our PBS station here rents their post suites just like as if they were not a non-profit.
They take a good 50k from my family'ss supper table every year and about once a year, they try to hire me for union wages.
go figure. I should have set up as a non profit before billing for profit, I guess.

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Nick Griffin
Re: Carroll County Maryland public access competes with us
on Dec 14, 2008 at 9:19:45 pm

Do you have a studio with soundproofing and a lighting grid? If anything I'm inclined to see them as more of a potential resource than as a competitive threat. And judging by their "sample PSA" I don't think many of us should feel threatened in the least.

Here, one county away in Maryland, TV studio space is tough to come by. There are the TV stations and, I believe a couple of production company facilities, but other than that, not much else. Flite III used to have a fairly impressive, Hollywood-class soundstage, but they closed a few years back.

So unless they're actively going after the same clientele you are, it doesn't seem like you should have too much to worry about. But yes, I can see how it's a little irksome to have an organization supported by our tax dollars in the same marketplace.

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Mark Suszko
Re: Carroll County Maryland public access competes with us
on Dec 15, 2008 at 3:02:32 pm

I'm conflicted about this; it sure sounds like they have overstepped their charter. You are well within your rights to challenge that unequal competition.

OTOH I am a huge proponent of Public Access and such stations across the country are under considerable threat right now. In my state a new law apparently has given the cable providers a loophole to legally abandon their requirements to provide PEG channels and access programming. Some who provide digital cable services are taking the access channel and putting it in a "ghetto" spot accessed thru "channel 99". So you can no longer call it up with a simple single click up or down the dial like any paid commercial channel. That is he kiss of death, as far as viweers go. ATT U-Verse may not offer any PEG or access at all. Now, if you are a cable provider, that's also unfair competition with your cable service. My slant on this is that all providers to a city have to either provide a studio space and technical support for access, or pay into a common fund that supports the one access studio, and all the services must take and run their programming. A very small price to pay for a franchise that amounts to a license to print money.

The access channel definitely should not be trying to break your rice bowl, that's not their aera to play in, but at the same time, they are clawing for their very lives right now. I think for the sake of a healthy democracy and community identitiy, we need to preserve non-commercial channels of community communication. Maybe you should try to go after the specific management that's breaking the rules, rather than the organization as a whole. You certainly have a valid grievance.

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