In a previous post, I wrote about a plan by Time Warner Cable to shut fourteen public access stations, in Los Angeles, on Wednesday, December 31st.
Anyone who thinks that public access television exists simply to provide a soap box, and that there are other, more effective ways for the community to participate, must be advised that the uncontested, and unopposed closure of one means of access threatens all others down the line. If a cable behemoth is allowed to eliminate public access, what next, viewer-supported programming?
As the Caucus for Producers, Writers, and Directors, the only group that includes all four guilds (WGA, DGA, PGA, and SAG) writes, in a letter to California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown, Jr., " Since the wave of media consolidation that began after the deregulation of the media in the early 90's we have been prime advocates for media issues that affect the creative community....Public Access has been an important step for many young filmmakers and independent producers and access studios have provided training for countless individuals now working in the entertainment industry. Public Access is also a vital community service that we need now more than ever."
Importantly, the City of Los Angeles has done nothing to preclude Time Warner from doing away with the public access system in what is the hub of the media industry. Indeed, the only person empowered to prevent this closure is state Attorney General Edmund G. (Gerry) Brown.
Los Angeles, as a municipality, is responsible for operating public access channels, and no cable company has the right to shut them down until, and unless, the City has the opportunity to replace the channels.
In the words of actor, and activist, Ed Asner: "The studios should not close until the public's rights are secured and replacement of the lost facilities are in place."
Stanley Sheinbaum, another longtime opponent of censorship, writes "Cable operators pay franchise fees from revenue generated by cable subscribers who will be harmed when public channels are taken away."
The response from those who abhor monopolies, and the ability of media conglommerates to strongarm the community must be swift, and decisive. Whether you live in Santa Monica, New York City, Boston, or Des Moines, Iowa, should Time Warner prevail on December 31st, what happens in Los Angeles will affect you eventually.
Those who are concerned about protecting the integrity of the First Amendment, independent programming, and preventing a media shark from swallowing all the little fish, must act quickly by contacting California Attorney General Brown at: email@example.com, and urging him to seek injunctive relief under the California Business and Professions Code 17200, Section 3, Unfair Business Practices.
Unless we act to stop it, Time Warner will pull the plug on fourteen public access studios, in California, on Wednesday. First public access channels, what next?