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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

New Bill Would Preserve Access Television

There is new legislation being proposed that would preserve and codify community access television. This is good news. Here is the text of the bill:

CAP Act (Introduced in House)
HR 3745 IH
111th CONGRESS 1st Session H. R. 3745
To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for carriage and display of public, educational, and government channels in a manner consistent with commercial channels, and for other purposes.

IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
October 7, 2009

Ms. BALDWIN introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce

A BILL

To amend the Communications Act of 1934 to provide for carriage and display of public, educational, and government channels in a manner consistent with commercial channels, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,

SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Community Access Preservation Act' or the `CAP Act'.

SEC. 2. AMENDMENTS.
(a) In General- Section 611 of the Communications Act of 1934 (47 U.S.C. 531) is amended--
(1) by redesignating subsection (f) as subsection (h); and
(2) by inserting after subsection (e) the following new subsections: `(f) Equivalence-
`(1) IN GENERAL- In the case of any franchise under which channel capacity is designated under subsection (b), such channel capacity shall be--
`(A) at least equivalent in quality, accessibility, functionality, and placement to--
`(i) channel capacity used for required carriage of local commercial television stations, as defined in section 614(h)(1); or `(ii) if no such stations are required to be carried, the channel capacity used to carry the primary signal of the network-affiliated commercial television stations carried on the cable system; and
`(B) provided to and viewable by every subscriber of a cable
system without additional service or equipment charges. `(2) SIGNAL QUALITY AND CONTENT- A cable operator shall--
`(A) carry signals for public, educational, or governmental use from the point of origin of such signals to subscribers without material degradation and without altering or removing content provided as part of the public, educational, or governmental use; and
`(B) provide facilities adequate to fulfill such requirements. `(3) WAIVER- The requirements of paragraph (1) may be waived by a franchising authority if the franchise contains an explicit provision that such requirements shall not apply and such provision was adopted after a proceeding the conduct of which afforded the public adequate notice and an opportunity to participate. `(4) ENFORCEMENT- The requirements of this subsection may be enforced by a franchising authority or by the Commission. `(5) ADDITIONAL REQUIREMENTS- Nothing in this subsection prevents a franchising authority from establishing additional requirements with respect to the quality, accessibility, functionality, placement, and provision of channel capacity designated for public, educational, or governmental use.
`(g) Preservation of Public, Educational, and Governmental Use- `(1) STUDY- Within 180 days after the date of enactment of the Community Access Preservation Act, the Commission shall submit to Congress a report containing--
`(A) an analysis of the impact of the enactment of State video service franchising laws since 2005 on public, educational, and governmental use of cable systems; `(B) an analysis of the impact of the conversion from analog to digital transmission technologies on public, educational, and governmental use of cable systems; and
`(C) recommendations for changes required to this Act to preserve and advance localism and public, educational, and governmental use of advanced communications systems.
`(2) SUPPORT- In States that adopted legislation affecting cable system franchising requirements relating to support for public, educational, or governmental use of a cable system that became effective after May 31, 2005, a cable operator shall, notwithstanding such legislation--
`(A) pay to any political subdivision in which the operator provides service the greater of--
`(i) the historical support that the operator, or its predecessor, provided for public, educational, or governmental use of the cable system in such subdivision in accordance with this subsection; or
`(ii) the amount of any cash payment that the operator is required to pay to such subdivision under such State legislation affecting cable system franchising requirements;
`(B) carry signals for public, educational, or governmental use from the point of origin of such signals to subscribers and provide facilities adequate to fulfill such requirements in accordance with subsection (f)(2); and `(C) provide at least the number of channels for public, educational, or governmental use that it was providing as of May 31, 2005.
`(3) CALCULATION OF HISTORICAL SUPPORT- Historical support includes the value of all support provided for public, educational, or governmental use, including in-kind support and free services. The cable operator shall pay support equal to the greater of--
`(A) the value of the support provided in the most recent calendar year prior to the effective date of such State legislation affecting cable system franchising requirements; or `(B) the value of the annual average support provided over the term of the franchise pursuant to which it operated prior to such effective date, taking into account the time value of money.
`(4) PAYMENTS- The amounts owed to the political subdivision under paragraph (2)(A) shall be paid annually, in quarterly installments, with the first payment being due 30 days after the date of enactment of the Community Access Preservation Act.
`(5) USES; DISPUTES- `(A) USES- Support provided to any State or local political subdivision under this subsection shall be dedicated to public, educational, or governmental use of channel capacity. `(B) DISPUTES- If there is a dispute as to amounts owed under this subsection, undisputed amounts shall be paid, and the Commission shall determine on an expedited basis what, if any, additional amounts are owed.'.
(b) Franchise Fee Definition- Section 622(g)(2) of such Act (47 U.S.C. 542(g)(2)) is amended--
(1) in subparagraph (B), by striking `in the case of any franchise in effect on the date of the enactment of this title,'; (2) by striking subparagraph (C); and (3) by redesignating subparagraphs (D) and (E) as subparagraphs (C) and (D), respectively.
(c) Cable Service Definition- Section 602(6) of such Act (47 U.S.C. 522(6)) is amended by striking `means' and inserting `means, regardless of the technology or transmission protocol used in the provision of service'.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Comcast East Bay PEG Cable Lineup

This post is primarily for future reference. It is a list of communities with Comcast cable franchises and their local channels. Some of these franchises are organized under the Statewide Franchise Law (DIVCA) and others are local agreements worked out with local cities: (this list is courtesy of Cheryl Chambers, Government Affairs Rep. for Comcast):

Alameda DIVCA

15 Government Access

27 Peralta College

28 The Alameda Channel

Alameda Ct/San Lorenzo/Unincorporated DIVCA

15 Government Access

27 Chabot College

28 Local Programming (M-F 3:45PM – 9:00AM)(S-S 24 HRS)

Alamo /Concord LOCAL Danville - DIVCA

24 Leased Access

26 Local Programming excluding Concord

27 CCTV

28 Govt Access (Concord)

32 Educational Access

Albany DIVCA

24 Educational Access

27 Contra Costa TV

28 KCRT (Local Govt)

33 KALB (Albany)

Antioch DIVCA

27 CCTV

32 Educational Access

Berkeley/Hercules DIVCA

24 Educational Access

26 Leased Access/Bay Vison East

27 CCTV (Hercules/Parlata College (Berkeley)

28 BTV Access (Berkeley)/HCTV (Hercules)

33 Public access (Berkeley)

Brentwood LOCAL

27 CCTV

32 Educational Access


Clayton LOCAL

24 Leased Access

26 Local Programming excluding Concord

27 CCTV

28 Govt Access (Concord)

32 Educational Access

Contra Costa/Castro Valley LOCAL

26 Community Programming

Dublin DIVCA

26 Community Programming

27 Contra Costa TV

28 Community Programming

29 Community Programming

30 Community Programming

Emeryville LOCAL

10 KTOP – Government Access

27 Emeryville City Channel

28 Peralta College

Fremont DIVCA

26 Fremont USD

27 Government Access

28 Ohlone TV

29 Community Access

Hayward DIVCA

15 Government Access

27 Chabot College

28 Local Programming (M-F 3:45PM – 9:00AM)(S-S 24 HRS)

Lafayette LOCAL

24 Local Programming

26 Local Programming

27 CCTV

28 Rossmoor TV (Rossmoor Only)/Local Programming (all other cities)

32 Educational Access


Livermore LOCAL

26 Community Programming

27 Contra Costa TV

28 Community Programming

29 Community Programming

30 Community Programming

Martinez LOCAL

24 Leased Access

26 Local Programming excluding Concord

27 CCTV

28 Govt Access (Concord)

32 Educational Access

Moraga LOCAL

24 Local Programming

26 Local Programming

27 CCTV

28 Rossmoor TV (Rossmoor Only)/Local Programming (all other cities)

32 Educational Access

Newark DIVCA

26 Government Access

27 Public Access

28 Educational Access

Oakland LOCAL

10 KTOP – Govt Access

27 KDOL

28 Peralta College

Oakley DIVCA

27 CCTV

32 Educational Access


Orinda DIVCA

24 Local Programming

26 Local Programming

27 CCTV

28 Rossmoor TV (Rossmoor Only)/Local Programming (all other cities)

32 Educational Access

Piedmont LOCAL

10 KTOP – Govt Access

27 KCOM

28 Peralta College

Pinole DIVCA

26 Leased/Local Access

27 CCTV

28 PEG Access

33 Educational Access

Pittsburg LOCAL

27 CCTV

32 Educational Access

Pleasant Hill LOCAL

24 Local Programming

26 Local Programming

27 CCTV

28 Rossmoor TV (Rossmoor Only)/Local Programming (all other cities)

32 Educational Access

Pleasanton LOCAL

26 Community Programming

27 Contra Costa TV

28 Community Programming

29 Community Programming

30 Community Programming

San Leandro DIVCA

15 Government Access

27 Chabot College

28 Local Programming (M-F 3:45PM – 9:00AM)(S-S 24 HRS)

San Pablo DIVCA

24 Educational Access

26 Leased Access/Information Channel

27 CCTV

San Ramon LOCAL

26 Community Programming

27 Contra Costa TV

28 Community Programming

29 Community Programming

30 Community Programming

Richmond/El Cerrito DIVCA

26 Local/Leased Access

27 CCTV

28 PEG Access

33 Educational Access

Union City LOCAL

15 Government Access

27 Educational Access

28 Local Origination

Walnut Creek LOCAL

24 Leased Access

26 Local Programming excluding Concord

27 CCTV

28 Govt Access (Concord)

32 Educational Access



Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Coronation of Spring

This is a video test. What do you think?
Can you make a 100mb or less video?
This may be what Contra Costa gets for public access.
At least it's better than a sharp stick.

The video below is h264, 30fps, 320X240, best settings, 88mb.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Where are the PEG Funds?

The old Preacher told a story once about a frog in a saucepan full of water. The heat was applied slowly and the frog just adjusted to the water temperature and swam around until he cooked himself to death.

This might be a good description of that 71 cents a month you pay Comcast for Public, Educational and Government television. Since you pay a lot more for other channels like MTV and ESPN, the PEG fee is a good bargain.

$.71 is not a lot of money even when paid out each month. But it does add up and should provide a quality and valuable PEG service to subscribers. That’s the whole idea. So imagine my surprise when I am told that there is “no money for PEG” or that “we already spent the money.”

What is that bubbly sound I hear in my little hot tub?

Five years ago I obtained some numbers about Comcast subscribers in Central Contra Costa County. Today I asked Christine Wampler at Contra Costa Television for more current County information, which she had at her fingertips. The numbers reflect a 18% reduction in subscribers. So in the great tradition of voodoo math I submit to you an approximation of how much money has been paid for the PEG specific fund by Comcast. That would be the 2004 subscribers minus 18%. These figure are for astonishment and comparison only. They are definitely close but not quite reliable.

City ...................Subscribers....Estimated PEG fund payments

Clayton .................. 2,728........... 63,917.04..... 1,936.88 mo.
Concord ............... 18,021......... 422,232.03..... 12,794.91 mo.
Danville................. 9,597.......... 224,857.00...... 6,813.70 mo.
Martinez ................8,556......... 200,467.08...... 6,074.76 mo.
Pleasant Hill.......... 9,110.......... 423,422.35...... 6,468.10 mo.
Walnut Creek...... 12,180............285,377.40.... 8,647.80 mo.
Contra Costa Co...32,313............757,093.59... 22,942.30 mo.

Totals.................. 92,505........... $2,167,392...... $65,678.45

Access Contra Costa advanced a preliminary proposal to provide public and educational access from a capital funds budget amounting to 4.6% of the available funds. This amount is less than 10% of the funds that would accrue to public and educational access if the PEG funds were split four ways. (There is a separate category in “PEG” that provides for metropolitan area networks, INET).

When the franchise was signed Comcast also paid $2Million dollars of the PEG payments up front. The money is paid back through a reduction in monthly PEG payments. There was also an unrestricted grant that could have funded PEG start-up operations that was appropriated for other purposes.

According to the representatives present on the August 10 meeting of the Contra Costa Cable Consortium there is very little money available and that much of it has been spent. Some there made it perfectly clear that their cities did not support or want public and educational access television.

What happened to two million plus dollars? Are we cooked?

Friends, Access Contra Costa needs your help. We are small and socially powerless. Yet we offer the skill and expertise to create a valuable community service that empowers those of us who yearn to communicate with our neighbors.

Monday, August 10, 2009

ACC Access Deployment Plan Summary

Dear Reader,

This is a revision of an earlier posting. Today I present to the Contra Costa Cable Consortium. This is a group of city officials from Central County who created the current franchise with Comcast.

Today's presentation should begin the process to creating a community media center here.


This is the first stage of a plan to deploy public access and educational television services as provided for in the current franchise agreement with Comcast Cable and the Cities represented by the Contra Costa Cable Consortium.

Under the current franchise agreement Comcast provides a countywide public access channel and transmission services on Channel 26. This will conclude sometime in September 2009. At present there is no entity or organization ready to operate the public access channel. Without such an entity it is entirely possible that Comcast may want to reclaim the channel. This would represent a considerable loss of a public resource.

The Contra Costa Educational Television Consortium (CCETV) temporarily transmitting from Contra Costa College provides educational television services throughout Contra Costa County. Unfortunately Central County educators must travel to San Pablo to post programs on the server there. It has long been a goal of CCETV to locate a server in Central Contra Costa County to rectify this problem. This is an intelligent plan to address these two issues.

Access Contra Costa is a group of educators and community media professionals determined to retain all of the PEG channels and to especially help public and educational television thrive. Each of us is an involved stakeholder in those protracted negotiations for the current Central County Comcast Franchise. Each individual involved in this plan has lengthy front-line experience in the production and distribution of live and taped programs throughout Contra Costa County. [This writer has roots in public access television as past president of Diablo Video Arts, Inc.] Access Contra Costa is prepared to reactivate that organization’s 501.c 3 for the purpose of creating a PEG community media center. The by-laws of this organization are the type necessary to create a community media organization. Since reactivation is easier than starting over, that first important hurdle has been removed.

Access Contra Costa (ACC) proposes to operate the public and educational access channels, and eventually the overflow channels provided for in the current Central County Comcast franchise agreement. Programs would be transmitted via a two-channel server into two of four existing and active fiber lines. There is no doubt that an assertive drive now to keep the public access channel, rid it of infomercials and open up its use will yield a future bounty well worth the fee Comcast subscribers pay each month. New programming and delivery methods will make it easy for people to post local videos as well as more sophisticated programs. New production methods make television much simpler and far more localized.




In many previous models for public access, and especially public access operated by incumbent cable companies, the process to make a television program was exasperating. Access Contra Costa would devote its entire suite of services to making access to new media as easy as possible for everyone. Too often, public access is dominated by the technically astute. Often this creates barriers to access by the less technically inclined. ACC will find ways for citizens to effectively use local television with no other skill than knowing what they want to get their needs met. And for the more intrepid videomakers, ACC plans to offer a regional audience with much improved picture quality – a quantum improvement from blurry YouTube® images.

The result of this plan will be a fully operational community media organization that, like many similar across the country, serves well and has a constituency that feels it is getting its money’s worth from their franchise fees. The only difference is that this one might start out using somebody’s garage for a studio.

Access Contra Costa is aware that funds available from the PEG Fee each subscriber pays can only be used for capital expenditures. ACC also realizes that PEG capital funds may only be spent on video enterprises that are eventually screened on the appropriate PEG channel. ACC asks only for a small proportion of the funds already paid by Comcast. Access Contra Costa is also aware that no other funding for operations will be appropriated from the 5% franchise fee paid by cable providers.

Access Contra Costa welcomes the opportunity to operate the old fashioned way. We will earn our keep and pour the rest into community service. We are asking the Contra Costa Cable Consortium to help us get a start.

The first operational program of Access Contra Costa would be to engage the non-profit community through local citizens. Residents of Cable Consortium Cities would be invited to sponsor in non-commercial videos produced by non-profits. ACC would not play any program not first sponsored by a resident. Programs produced locally would be greatly appreciated. ACC plans to employ advanced technologies to greatly increase the number of program replays – something valuable and important to the success of community media.

The ultimate goal is to have a vital and popular community television presence complementing the other successful community communication endeavors. On the way to that goal are some difficult issues such as operational funding, scope of services, perceived value, and sustainability for at least five years.

The success of this operation will depend upon its ability to effectively engage viewers and provide programs they would choose to view. It would start with a public solicitation of residents to sponsor the videos from non-profit organizations. Wherever possible local branches or agencies exist they will be offered professional services to significantly extend their outreach.

Access Contra Costa would assertively engage local industry in offering workplace learning via television. California does not reimburse educators for distance learning television without a substantial infrastructure contribution. The “run-up” now is simply too expensive and unattainable. Therefore ACC wishes to create a three-way partnership with industry and their needs and dollars, the television audience of Contra Costa County, and educators willing and able to serve any kind of learner given the necessary resources.

Like all technology venues there is a need for equipment to operate. Access Contra Costa wishes to apply for equipment that would provide direct cable services and access video production, digital post-production and sophisticated distribution of programming. In short Access Contra Costa will have to pay for public access out of the proceeds from professional services. ACC will need to start with that equipment and use that acquisition to leverage additional grant funding for specific projects.

At the heart of this plan is the use of server technology to automate many of the functions of television playback. Inexpensive video servers are combined with fiber delivery to the Comcast head end. With web-based switching apparatus located at Comcast and a server and fiber link located at Mt Diablo Adult Education it would be very economical. If a fiber link needs to be established elsewhere the cost would be about $20,000.
Having a server system makes it possible to earn operating income

During this early phase partnerships will be cultivated with community organizations to produce low-cost community videos. This will be expressed in educational partnership course offerings and special seminars. This author would like to see the Bay Area Video Coalition come here and provide some advanced training in video production.

In the next phase ACC would partner with corporate outreach programs to assist learners via television. Such programs would be produced by ACC and paid for by the sponsor. There are many businesses that would be willing to sponsor a program that prepares people to function in the workplace. These businesses decry the current state of employee education. From an educator’s point of view this solves a dilemma: there is no reimbursement for direct television distance learning. So if the production costs were borne by industry it would be easier to obtain partnerships with public education.

While production services begin so also should public access advance. At present the idea of streams of video clips provided by resident s would be laced together and played in sections. With a server and the easier programming methods it would be possible to create playlists of special videos, say all sports contributions, or all religious themes; and play them out over a period of time. Those programs can be just as easily regrouped into a general playlist. A schedule for each playlist would be publicly available and easily accessible.

During all this time a Board of Directors will be seated. The board will be drawn from individuals who while not necessarily television industry professionals would be informed community leaders.



The architecture for this center leaves open many possibilities for development. The actual outcome might be different than first imagined because of advancements in both technology and the thought about their use.

Turning back to the first necessary steps, here is what Access Contra Costa desires from the City of Concord and the other cities that comprise the cable consortium:

Become a principal sponsor of this public television initiative. Contribute ideas and add to the potential. Help show residents what good community television looks like and how it is easy and convenient to be part of a local video network. Actively assist in forging lasting productive television partnerships.

Share the city channels for demonstration projects as done in previous years with the Gallery Concord Project. Also some use of the channel to promote public access.

An agreement to provide PEG services for five years.

Capital funding consideration for first stage operations:

4 channel video server, fiber link, ingest equipment, one edit workstation, two
field cameras and related accessories. These items total about $100,000.

Equipment replacement fund of $20,000 per year.

The path to success here is to begin small, be at all times self-sufficient, possess the necessary tools to realize production commitments and strive at all times to include as many people as possible in the day-to-day operations of Access Contra Costa.

Respectfully Submitted

Robert Rothgery
Executive Director
Access Contra Costa

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Local Journalists Trump Big Media Again and Again

Yesterday afternoon I started my cyber-ablutions with quick peeks at Facebook, Craigslist and Claycord.com. Claycord.com is the local news blog for the area and it is very good. I was saddened to read that there was a vehicle fatality that resulted in the closure of a major commute artery. I read and moved on.

Then the phone rang. My friend called me because he was stuck in traffic near the accident and wanted to know what was going on. He didn't listen to KCBS or any other traffic report because he knew that if I was home I could access Claycord.com and probably get the story. He was right. I read him the post about the crash including an important update posted seconds earlier. Having this information helped my friend avoid the worst of the traffic.

I had to be somewhere an hour later but in that time KCBS did not report the road closure or anything else about the incident. Claycord was the only news source for over an hour.

This is pretty good journalism for communities that have little or no television coverage, a vapid newspaper with precious little local reporting. My hat is off to Mr. Mayor and those folks who contribute to Claycord.com. They not only filled a void. They created a new community standard. They declare that the value of an idea is not necessarily based on its ability to pay its way.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

700 MHz Wireless Microphones

A brief diversion.

Many organizations use cordless microphones. These include churches, performance venues, hotels and the like. Many of these microphones are expensive, costing up to $2,000 each. Most microphones use frequencies associated with the old analog TV spectrum, with many in the “700 mhz.” range, (former channels 52 – 69).

Now that we have digital television which uses the former ch 2 – 51 range, the remaining spectrum has been sold off to telecom providers such as Verizon and AT&T, (4G Networks), and emergency services providers, (764 – 776 MHz and 794 – 806 mhz).

Wireless mics were permitted to operate in these frequencies without license and therefore without recourse when the frequencies were auctioned off for over 12 Billion dollars last year.

The only options or wireless mic users is to have the frequency changed or buy new mics. Some undoubtedly run their mics to the bitter end. Imagine a homily interrupted by the police on a vice raid. Or just imagine the range of your $2000 mic system diminishing to 10 feet. Not good.

One would imagine there would be lots of written material on this topic but there isn’t much. My latest document search this morning yielded nothing newer than December 2008. Not good. Not much else available through search engines like Google and Dogpile.

So, dear reader, I will add this topic as a thread on this blog. I will return to the topic as soon as I can find new information for you.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Core Values of Public Access

Media Alliance recently presented a document that contained "core values" for public access television. They pretty much explain themselves and are at the starting point for Access Contra Costa communications policy:

• Public access content is supposed to originate in and meet the needs of local publics as determined by citizen-producers. The role of the public access operator is to provide training and technology resources to enable local content..

• Cable franchise owners derive massive benefit from using a public utility. Switching the public access funding model largely to user fees and philanthropy shifts the funding base from one of guaranteed corporate responsibility onto access users and public philanthropy.

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Value of An Idea

Early this month The City of San Francisco awarded a contract to the Bay Area Video Coalition. The reason is that the cable providers have reorganized under California State Cable law, (DIVCA ), and that the money available for Public Access had been so reduced that the incumbent public access provider threw in the towel.

Several groups submitted proposals including a group of access producers who were already frustrated with Access SF, the former provider. By any standards their proposal was weak which is too bad because they had a succinct vision.

The Bay Area Video Coalition weighed in with the winning application. It is not only forward thinking – it contains rhetoric that will only become ubiquitous in two years and overworked before their PEG contract runs out. My favorite word is “curated“ videos. That means some individual or methodology decides whether or not you ever get access. BAVC proposes to post public access submissions on Miro.com to be viewed on computers by the digital cognoscenti who then vote on the popularity of the submission. Winners get their video played on the public access channel. Twice. I can just imagine my program on the robotic treatment options for prostate cancer being trumped by some malodorous 250 jump cut viral epic because its author sits on his computer all night pounding the “vote” button. ☺

Actually the BAVC plan is forward looking which is really too bad. They were the only organization to submit a workable business plan and they will most likely increase some of the diversity of television which isn't hard, even in a city like San Francisco.

It’s really too bad because increasingly cities are take money from cable companies sometimes including PEG funds and using them for their own purposes while marginalizing public access. Citizens don’t care because they have absolutely no idea of what they are missing. The cable companies did a great job of that. That is the best possible context for cities receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars that are not accounted for lack of basic interest.

The most likely municipal excuse for behavior that ultimate restricts citizen access to television is the ridiculous notion that winky blinky technology from Web 2.0 obviates the need for public access television.

Ron Cooper, executive director of Access Sacramento and a gigantic voice for access describes these dismissive deflections as “making sweet lemonade.” Cooper sees this as “aggressive actions that diminish free speech in these communities, deny access to much needed training and public access facility support, and further silence those who need our support the most – minority languages, cultures and points of view. “ Ron Cooper speaks the truth.

Here in Contra Costa public access faces the same dilemma that BAVC faces. There isn’t enough public money to do the job, and that money can’t be used for operational support. So Access Contra Costa is eventually going to have to earn an income in order to provide services and operate in a responsible manner.

It really sucks that the value of an idea is based on its ability to pay its way.

Friday, July 17, 2009

What is at Stake Here.

My first visit to Contra Costa County was thirty years ago when I met with a gentleman about television. At the time the very last UHF TV Channel was operated by a commercial religious broadcaster. Channel 42 was supposed to be a regional station for all of us and he wanted to change that quotient. Not to be. Eventually, when it all faded away at Contra Costa's own local station, it was taken over by Azteca Television and is now a Spanish language station. At least somebody is getting served in Contra Costa.

So the last resort is what a lot of people have worked for and that is a regional television presence such as the public access channel 26 that serves a potential audience of 144,000 people. Do the numbers- 144,000 is a major market folks and it is about to be dumped for no good reason at all.

A major market station is probably worth 5-10 million dollars. The County Cable Commissioner has suggested a multimillion dollar valuation to a PEG channel.

And it is not only headed for the trash bin. Its preservation is not seen as being very valuable - not a big priority. What better excuse could a city have for hoarding PEG funds than to dismiss the whole thing as unnecessary because 'there is the Internet for public expression.'

Excuse me. If that is so then why do Comcast subscribers pay $.71 a month, (times lot and lots of folks) for PEG channels if the people that take our money don't believe it themselves.

The value of community communication is evidenced by the rise of so many blogs and postings on viral sources like YouTube and Blogspot. There is more than a little yearning for community awareness. Its a big yearning and more and more people are learning that no one will inform them better then they inform each other.

Television has a place in that infrastructure and cable access television may be the remaining way to actually have a television presence worth calling our own.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Meeting With Concord Officials

Last Friday I met with two people from the City of Concord about public access. I presented my plan as succinctly as possible. The response was polite but colored with a reminder that public access television really wasn't a priority in light of the current economic woes Concord faced.

I expect to hear basically the same thing when I visit with other city officials.

It is patently obvious that if anything gets done in public access television it sure will have to be spectacular. The way I see it, a successful community media presence in this county will be built on a triad of great service, a demanding public and a sound business plan.

Lots of hard work ahead.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Community Media in Novato

This is the kind of community media I would like to see here in Central County. Log on to this link and get a pleasant surprise: http://tv1.npat.org/index.html

Friday, July 3, 2009

Why Now Public Access TV

Why now. Plans were formulated in Y20000. People were ascertained in 2000 and 2004. Yes, they wanted local PEG channels. The franchise negotiations took nearly six years. After the franchise took effect, it took six months for Comcast to initiate the Education channel. This, months after the educators said they were ready to transmit programs. Comcast continued to "manage" public access by intercollating the most vapid infomercials conceivable with the few public access programs being produced. In September Comcast is going to halt that too. It seems to me a time to step up.

Public Access is a real political football. The cities that negotiated as a group insisted for providing for PEG channels but really did nothing much after the franchise was struck. During the negotiations (2000-2006) there was a lot of city support for public access television. City officials in Concord and Walnut Creek actively informed stakeholders in public access and education.

After the negotiations most dealings with public access revolved around playback services and the like administered by the County, (Contra Costa Television). Their lawyers told them that there could be some serious problems with such an arrangement and thus bailed.

The County Cable Commissioner, Patricia Burke has said more than once that there needs to be someone to be the "visionary" to rescue "P."

So folks, I'm tryin to stuff myself into my Captain Video costume so I can do something to keep a public voice on Contra Costa cable systems.

Why am I doing this? Because I have seen how communities really benefit from an informed citizenry and I want to provide yet another popular pathway to that end; our own local television.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Legacy Television Still Alive and Kicking

Here is a great article about legacy television and why it should not be counted out in current times.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/08/business/media/08digi.html?emc=eta1

Naked Nazis Hiding Under Your TV Set

In the last thirty five years I have heard just about every excuse for not wanting public access television. Public Access has been assaulted from just about every angle, but the worst to me is what I call the Naked Nazi Syndrome, (NNS). NNS holds that if you let public access television into your community, all manner of despicable producers will assert their First Amendment Rights and pummel us with right wing, (or left wing, or middle of the bird), screeds that will undermine our communities or at least make them vulnerable to takeover by the Taliban. If that doesn't strike fear in your heart then there are the soft porn purveyors who will steal our children and assault us with exposed body parts and innuendo.

What public access television detractors, especially those in government, will rarely admit about their public access phobia has nothing to do with nudity or political speech. It has much more to do with the expression of differing opinions.

Naked Nazis wither in comparison to an informed citizen with a camera. I hope to see a lot of informed citizens out there expressing themselves and growing a vibrant community in the process.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

A Vision for Community Media -Part Three

I have seen a lot of community media over the years. I’ve watched programs, judged videos in competitions and even made a few programs. I have seen trends that scare me because they point to the demise of local media and I have seen examples and venues that contribute visibly to community growth. Here’s to the latter.

One of the best examples of community media I have witnessed is www.claycord.blogspot.com and it performs a grand community service.

Claycord.com is a digital river. The daily events of Concord, Clayton, Walnut Creek, Pleasant Hill and Martinez pass by like little boatloads of information. Claycord.com is a forum for local news that is supported by citizen reporters, gossipers, and other local commentators. It works. Yesterday as I parked my car I noticed a ConFire Supervisors car followed by a pumper moving in a big hurry towards the City of Clayton. When I got to my computer a minute later I logged onto Claycord.com for their scanner feed. The blog opened to a posting made while I was walking up the stairs indicating that a second alarm had been called on a local house fire. Five minutes later the first picture was posted and on and on. Fact is that this kind of coverage is commonplace on Claycord.com.

In addition to content there are other things that distinguish Claycord.com. The most important is that it is independent. Sure, Mr. Mayor is the archon extirpator of the entire enterprise. But he doesn’t seek grants or other things with strings. It is just pure citizen journalism. Well he has some ads. Big deal.

My hope and ambition for community television is to mimic the independence and citizen centricity evidenced in Claycord.com. The news gathering/contribution process is quick, simple and egalitarian. The folks who post news events on Claycord.com do appear to know just what they are doing. So that doesn’t have to be replicated in community video.

How nice would it be to create a river of feature television similar in method to Claycord.com or even Facebook. With current video server technology it is easy to fill community channels with many streams of programming. That same technology makes is easy to post schedules as well as RSS feeds such as Claycord.com. This opens a potential new audience. Providers need not be forced to produce whole productions but could place segments or other short clips. Their choice.

Video on television is generally better to look at than on YouTube and the like. The picture size, framerate and compression is bigger, faster, etc., making for better pictures. Back in the day one had to copy tapes onto a longer reel or play tapes one at a time. Now it’s a few clicks after the video is ingested into the server.

So, friends, what I am proposing and seek support for is a community media presence that functions a lot like Claycord.com with its independence and citizen base. But, also one that functions like a technology center. Where people can make a cable program, place a cable program for transmission, or communicate in other media platforms. But especially such a place will have valuable features in five years that have not yet been invented.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Vision for Community Media -Part Two

It would be foolish to write about growing a public access television presence in Contra Costa if such a presence was just a hope or some other fantasy. I remember at a Concord City Council meeting a resident uttered his demands for the city to “provide” a public access channel with sufficient staffing and a satellite receiver to retransmit “Democracy Now” over the channel. OMG. It was an idea that once framed presumed its rejection.

The plan and subset of policies I present to you is reasoned, makes possible wide and easy participation by all citizens and results in a product that educates and edifies each of us. The purpose of this blog is to connect with like-minded people who can help construct this real-life media nexus.

Some background information first.

Please forget about “Wayne’s World” as anything other than a tired old joke that served only to trivialize access television. Think, perhaps, about the two well informed veterans talking about obtaining benefits and other dealings with the V.A. This blog is a serious conversation about a substantial community service.

Community media traditionally means television programs produced and prepared by local folks. Various groups in the community would communicate via video. Making a public access program requires numerous skills and at most places much more trouble than it is worth. Imagine an enterprise that involves several people, lots of planning, audio and video recording, CG, editing and post production to obtain a product that would be shown twice.

You gotta really wanna make TV to enjoy volunteering in access television.

So, surprise! The gotta really wanna folks seem to dominate access television.

There is a better way. It is a process that includes many more people and a much wider variety of interests.

Simply put: 1) Encourage all not for profit organizations to offer their already produced video programs and fill the channel with these messages. 2) Offer professional training in public relations and marketing to leverage effect of telecasts. 3) Offer professional video services in several tiers leveraging savings due to PEG grants but explicitly avoid using the access center to, in any way, compete unfairly with professional providers or organizations.

It’s the old fashioned way. This would be the first of many baby steps.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Vision for Community Media -Part One

Most of us are familiar with community television in one-way or another. Mostly we skip by the PEG channels on our way to more entertaining fare. However, if the city council is considering action that would affect us directly then the “G” channel becomes important. If I am an English learner and I pass by an educational program called “Entering English” I would want to ring that “E” doorbell. And, if I were a veteran and came by a public access program with valuable information for veterans I would stand and salute.

Most of the time the PEG channels are like somebody else’s hometown newspaper and so we keep clicking.

And so we land at our entertainment destination whatever it is. We watch our program and move on to something else. But, if you have stopped by a PEG channel then you were able to see television presented as a utility and not necessarily as entertainment.

Now I am not going to harp on the vast potential of PEG television, or even whine about the less than vast actions of our local governments regarding PEG. I just want to think with you as a citizen. Look at your cable bill from Comcast. Near the bottom there is a .71 fee for PEG.

That’s it. You pay 71¢ a month for your PEG channels. That fee will be there until 2021. The purpose of this blog is to help make sure you get your money’s worth.

Please subscribe to this blog, make comments and participate in the growing of community media in Contra Costa County.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Access Contra Costa

Access Contra Costa is about locally produced cable television in the cities of Concord Clayton, Pleasant Hill, Walnut Creek, Martinez and others in Central Contra Costa County, California. In these communities Comcast Cable has negotiated a franchise that expires in 2021. It provides both TV channels and capital funding for community television enterprises in government, education and public access. These monies are not gifts, grants or a tax. It is a portion of the rent Comcast pays for access to the public right of way.

In the City of Concord. Comcast pays 5% of their gross (non-Internet) revenue to the City general fund. Comcast also pays an additional $.71 per subscriber per month for equipment to operate the community (PEG) channels as well as operate community data networks (INET).

If you compare these amounts to other franchises, Comcast seems to be getting off pretty easy.

Consider the garbage company in Concord. They pay a franchise fee of 6%, and provide free trash pickup at most city operations. Apparently they are putting out more resources than the cable company and at a lesser profit.

And, if you compare the cable franchise itself to other recent franchises in California it should be obvious that Comcast got the wheat and the rest of us are receiving the chaff.

This blog is about using these television channels to edify our community. To permit each citizen an opportunity to know what is happening. As our newspapers fail to deliver local news, we turn to the Internet and local blogs like www.Claycord.Com. These venues help us learn what is happening in our communities.We migrate from the television oligopoly to community media an open pathway to see and hear the events around us.

This blog will voice support for a system of local public and educational television that addresses both public desire and the fiscal realities of this enterprise. This blog will put forth credible, workable and innovative solutions. And finally, this blog will offer ways of improving the communication of those who serve their community and give them a greater voice.

In future postings there will be background information about cable access television, who is who in community media in Central Contra Costa County. This blog will be joined by other contributors who will create both a lively dialog and some serious action.