Wednesday, December 24, 2008

On Dec. 31: Time Warner will pull 14 California public access stations

An open letter to California Attorney General Jerry Brown:

On December 31st, Time Warner Cable plans to pull fourteen public access channels and fourteen studios, in Los Angeles, a city whose name has, for generations, been synonymous with media and broadcasting. This move will act to solidify recent gains in media consolidation, as well as set a dangerous precedent for television programming nationally.

Those of us born on the cusp of the McCarthy era, who are old enough to remember both McCarthys, also recall a time when another administration whose high crimes and misdemeanors would have gone undetected were it not for the free flow of information, and the ability of newspapers to pursue diverse paths in investigative journalism, a prospect which would be nearly impossible today.

Active dissent is greatly diminished in a climate in which independent programming is not enabled to survive. Allowing a cable behemoth, Time Warner, to eliminate more than a dozen public access channels means, in effect, green lighting standardized programming that exists solely to feed the corporate coffer at the expense of creative, community participation.

Bottom line, Mr. Attorney General: there needs to be diversity for the First Amendment to thrive. There needs to be citizen participation in a democracy, and no monopoly can be allowed to defeat that which is intrinsic to individual growth.

The Caucus for TV Producers, Writers, and Directors, Ed Asner, and all of us who are concerned about the life expectancy of an intellectual environment that embraces independence of thought, and diversity, call upon you, as chief law enforcement officer in your state, for injunctive relief, and a temporary restraining order against Time Warner to prevent them from pulling the plug on public access channels in Los Angeles this New Year's Eve.

A people without access to their airwaves is one without access to their government. On this, I know we agree.