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Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots

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Mark Suszko
Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 17, 2008 at 4:27:52 pm

This makes the veins pop out on my forehead:

http://www.broadcastnewsroom.com/articles/viewarticle.jsp?id=609758


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Bob Zelin
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 17, 2008 at 10:30:00 pm

hey -
don't threaten my clients. Who watches public access anyway ?

I loves Brighthouse Networks !

Bob Zelin




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cowcowcowcowcow
Mark Suszko
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 18, 2008 at 1:08:03 am

I'll tell you why I am irked. I'll refer to some politics, but really that's not my main thrust here, not only is this not the place, but I don't think this is a left or right issue.

You know PEG and access programming has a stigma attached to it of being low-budget, low-craft, crude stuff with a lot of crazy people interspersed with boring do-goodders sitting on on Goodwill furniture yakking in front of a dark curtain and plastic potted plants. OK, I get that. A lot of access programming is not something I'd want to watch. Make "Wayne and Garth" jokes. It is deserved. But I am a real zealot when it comes to providing that channel to the the community. I'll try to explain why.

This goes back to the founding of the FCC and it's charter, including
the principle that the airwaves (and by modern day extension, regulated bandwidth) are a public resource and must be protected by wise stewardship so they remain accessible to all. Cable franchises madea a deal with their communities that in exchange for this exclusive access to eyeballs and basically a free printing press to make money with, they would give a little bit back to that community and provide these PEG and Access channels and facilities for local citizens to communicate over the system. recent changes in laws are now letting the cable coo's off the hook for this requirement, and those that are not just dropping the access completely are hiding it away in a dark corner by putting it on "channel 99" and then forcing you to go thru several sub-menus to finally find it. What that really is is forcing free non-commercial access programming to act like and compete with commercial channels, and this is completely wrong, in my opinion.

These stations get to have 300 channels on which they can sell you vital products like Chia Pets and Shamwow towels, or charge you a fee to watch programming uninterrupted by such commercial messages. All those channels are trying to sell you something. Access and PEG are trying to TELL you something.

Access is non-commercial speech. That's why it is so important to preserve it. If all communication on these networks is only commercial, with no local voice to counter it, what you get is a world of information colored by commercial interests and concerns. That means a world of information where anything counter to selling you things is actively censored or passively censored by just not finding it. The people selling you the things make the decisions on what you get to see and more importantly, not see. You will wind up in a world where you don't even know what it is you DON'T know.

For real world examples I would give as an example, if all your news came just from Fox News, you would still think (this I am extrapolating from several recent viewer surveys of Fox-only viewers) that Saddam was behind 9/11, that he had WMD's, the president-elect is a foreign terrorist, and things of this sort that have been proven to most people's satisfaction to be erroneous.

Now you can chuckle and change the channel and look at other commercial news networks and PBS and the BBC and etc. and come up with a more rounded view of things and be a better judge of what may be true. But see, you HAVE that choice now. What if you didn't?

What if the PBS and BBC were taken off because they couldn't "compete" with commercial providers? These media companies are combining into ever fewer and fewer, but bigger and bigger ones. A smaller selection of views being sent your way results. As they aggregate markets and reduce stations to robotic repeaters managed from a central source, local input, local information, local control goes away. The community loses it's collective nervous system and local identity. Which is just fine to mas-marketers who want exactly that result, because it makes selling simpler and cheaper if every market becomes generic. Any fans of Clear Channel here?

Access type programming creates a protected space where opposing views and alternate information can still be heard, where people can present their counter-arguments to the public. Congress thought this was vital to a healthy democracy, as well as to maintaining community, and so we have had these requirements.

But a strong push for (I think too much) de-regulation in the past eight years, pushed by powerful lobbies with commercial interests, now threatens to mute this voice and in many places, remove it completely. If we were talking about a different, authoritarian dictatorship, I think most would immediately cry "Foul! You should not quash peaceful dissent or differing views!" The difference is that we're not talking about Castro's Cuba stomping dissdents here, we're talking about commercial broadcasting interests grabbing eyeballs and not wanting to be bothered with pesky public service requirements or messages counter to their selling points.

Where will it end? We lost the fairness doctrine. We lost equal time to everyone unless you're willing and able to buy the time. That's highly undemocratic in my opinion. Public service Announcements only get run for free in the deadest unsold hours, where they reach the fewest watchers. And now cable companies want to get out of a measly PEG and Access requirement? How much profit is enough and where is the give-back to the citizens who own the spectrum?

Time, I say, to draw a line in the sand. Digital conversion of analog channels frees up hundreds of new channels, surely PEG and access can have 2 or 3 easy to find ones per market. Level the playing field between cable companies and new IPTV providers like U-verse that don't want to do ANY PEG service. The Pubblic Access requirement should be shared by all services to a market, not just stuck to one. That's eqaully unfair to the one. Fund the production studios. buy them new and good gear and fund trainign and adminsitration for local Access productions so your paycheck does not determine if you have a voice. Make every competitor in the same market pay into a shared pool fund to run the access operation and put the programming on where people don't need a geiger counter or witching stick to find it.

It's OUR airwaves. You commercial interests are just borrowing it. Free speech is impossible if they charge you to be able to hear it.

I'll try to cool down now and not drag politics into it again, but the policy discussion is I think a valid one. If you all think this is too off-topic, Ron can move it to another forum, fine by me.


Long as we can still find it....... like access programming and PEG channels.


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Mick Haensler
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 19, 2008 at 1:10:38 pm

Hey Mark

For once, I read your entire post!! This topic is near and dear to my heart. Before digital workflow and computers came along, I had given up on video production as a viable means to make a living. Then I got asked by a friend of mine to help with a production for our local PEG channel. Working on that program rekindled the fire and introduced me to digital video production. That was 8 years ago. Today I have a small but successful multimedia production company. I owe a lot to PEG.

This channel is also in a battle because our local government will not stand up to Comcast and demand the fees that they are due, according to their contract, to fund the channel. Not only that, but there is a power struggle now between the station's management and the council over who will govern the workings of the channel. Interestingly enough, you will not hear much about this on the local news stations or in the paper. The only outlets that are carrying it are the blogs and the PEG channel.

While I am not fond of the way the station is run or being represented right now, I feel it is an important part of the local fabric worth preserving.



Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media


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Mark Suszko
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 19, 2008 at 2:58:24 pm

Thanks, Mick, er, I guess, for the compliment that you read my post all the way through. Do you usually just read, like, the first word of every sentence, looking for codes or something? :-)

I'm surprised that more of you folks aren't as burned up by this topic as I am. Making money is important, but this is about the soul of what we do. I'd hate to think I was a lone nut in the wilderness on this topic. The interests that are quashing access count on indifference to help them win.


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Mick Haensler
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 19, 2008 at 4:35:01 pm

[Mark Suszko] "Thanks, Mick, er, I guess, for the compliment that you read my post all the way through. Do you usually just read, like, the first word of every sentence, looking for codes or something? :-) "

I'm jes pokin' a lil' fun Mark. I am in complete agreement with your sentiments concerning the value of PEG stations.


Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media


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Mark Suszko
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 19, 2008 at 5:43:32 pm

Thanks Mack, er, Mike.

;-)



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Mick Haensler
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 19, 2008 at 7:09:23 pm


![Mark Suszko] "Thanks Mack, er, Mike"
Well played Lad!


Mick Haensler
Higher Ground Media


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Chuck Pullen
Re: Hopping mad: cable co's putting PEG in ghetto spots
on Dec 24, 2008 at 1:35:11 am

I came across your topic and was compelled to add my thoughts to the discussion. My background is similar to Mick’s as are my experiences with PEG. Last year after the state of Indiana for whatever reason decided the Comcast was no longer required to pay for a PEG, “poof” it went. I live in Northwest Indiana near Chicago, Comcast offered the channel(s) to anyone willing to take over and be able to program it. There have been a couple of educational Institutions interested, but so far nothing. It’s really sad, as when AT&T ran things before the Comcast Juggernaut took over, they actually produced an evening newscast and lots of coverage of local sports and other events…. Mark; well said, Public Access should be the “line in the sand” for people wanting information on their terms and not having one conglomerate organization tell them what the news is! Instead they are too busy with American Idol, or these days, trying to find ways to pay their bills and keep their homes, to worry about fighting for something like their local PEG!



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