Public Access – Whats in store for us?

There is a problem facing a segment of the independent producing community in Los Angeles.  


Beginning January 1st 2009  the City of Los Angeles has notified independent producers that 1220cable access channels and production facilities  will close. These studios and channels have been financed and maintained for the last 20 years by  Time Warner cable in leiu of a 2% franchise fee in Los Angeles.


These studios and channels also serve as public access community media centers; checking out portable mini-DV production kits and providing non-linear edit bays for hundreds of producers free of charge. The physical loss of equipment, personnel, and channel air time, will be due to the fact that the City of Los Angeles has failed their obligation to provide the public access facilities when Time Warner opts out under the new State Franchise Law.  


The obligation of the City to continue operations of public access studios and channels, were originally created by the Federal Communications Act that was later amended to give local authority for their operation. 


 Under the new State Franchise system now in place, the City’s failure to exercise the operation of the channels and replace the studios, in a timely manner may jeopardize public’s use of the cable access channels, and by default, allow Time Warner to take them over for commercial use.  


This would be the loss of a valuable PUBLIC ASSET.  These public channels have provided an open forum where producers are free to display their creations and more importantly, inform the public as a balance to the government cable channels that are operated by the City.


Beginning January 1 a new State law, called DIVCA or the Digital Infrastructure & Video Competition Act, transfers the responsibility of maintaining access studio operations to the individual ci ties throughout California.  We see an unfortunate trend unfolding across the country where many cash strapped cities are choosing to abandon their access systems rather than refit them for the digital age. 


 At best only a few cities have had the courage and insight to tackle these problems head-on while maintaining their commitment to the Public and Independent producers.  It seems fitting that Los Angeles California, the entertainment capital of the world, should be leading the fight for the rights of individual producers to have an outlet to 20 share their creations.  Unfortunately this is not the case.


I have not seen one story in Los Angeles concerning the loss of access television in either print or on our local TV news.  Our city leaders seem at a loss as to how to use this protected resource while big cable is glad to see it finally out of their hands.  If someone doesn’t speak up for this resource that is not directly associated with its operation, how can we expect it to survive?  


In a report regarding the future of access, the ITA or Information Technology Agency warns that if the city does not find a way to use its access channels they may be lost forever.


Though viewing options are ever expanding, we may be set to lose one of the most important and often ignored choices.  The choice that means; local creative individuals are what make up the bedrock of any community and protecting their right to create is something that will benefit us all.


As the access system waits in limbo, it is important that advocates step forward to remind our political and corporate leaders of their responsibility to maintain open and free outlets of communication.  By monitoring the quickly moving battle for a vital and productive access system, we can ensure that at the core of our

great country lies the freedom of the individual to create and share ideas.