OK, I’ll admit that I consider most community access television shows to be a joke, especially Rabbi Mordechai Friedman’s “Judaism, The Series” where I once watched him explain that the New York City blackout started in Ohio because Ohio is the home of Reform Judaism. He then proceeded to curse (in the biblical sense) the Reform Jewish Congregation — it somehow involved him putting out a candle in the most violent fashion while his slouching sidekick looked on. You can read more about Mordechai Friedman here, and here.
But I also believe strongly in the right to community access television. Not everyone has access to broadband internet and, besides, I consider the airwaves to be public property. The TV stations and cable companies should give something back for the monopoly they have been given by the American people. Not to mention that it is the only way many people get to watch Democracy Now!. If anything, we need more community access, with better funding so that we can have better shows, like they do in Canada.
So I’m shocked that nobody is talking about the host of bills now before congress which threaten to end the approximately $3.50 per year each cable subscriber pays to support public access. Commonly called P.E.G. for “Public, Educational, and Governmental” TV, Community Access Television could soon disappear altogether.
three — count ’em, three — bills in the Congress threaten to put an end to this contemporary form of grassroots democracy. Backed by the powerful telecommunications lobby, which has donated millions to politicians of both major parties, House Bill 3146 and Senate Bills 1349 and 1504 (the latter, most famous, sponsored by John McCain and John Ensign), would streamline negotiations and lower operating costs for the telecom industry by abolishing cable franchises with individual municipalities all across the nation.
The results would include not only cutting off financial support and access to the cable television system for PEG programs — produced freely by members of the public, educational institutions, and local bodies of government — as well as I-net communications — between local institutions (as for emergency services!) — but also most likely infringing on local governments’ rights of way (that which the taxpayers provide and the cable companies pay now to use, in accordance with local regulations), allowing large areas to go without cable service, and allowing “redlining” or other forms of discrimination — service could be denied based on such factors as race, ethnicity, or sex.
Please, take action. Even if you think Community Access is just a joke, remember the principles which are at stake. And please help spread the word…