Cambridge Community Television has scheduled a ‘Brown Out’ of its channels and web site on Monday, October 17, 2005 to draw attention to three bills pending in Congress that threaten funding for public access television.
Susan Fleischmann, CCTV’s Executive Director, explains “These bills would take away our cities’ control over our public rights of way – the streets and sidewalks that telecommunications providers use to run their cables into our homes. These bills might eliminate franchise fees (the rent for the use of that public space), which currently go back to the community to provide public, educational, and governmental access operations. The funding for video production equipment, and other benefits are at risk, either as a result of the passage of the bills, or by subsequent legal action that is sure to follow – in Cambridge alone, the City stands to lose one million dollars each year in revenue! And we may lose the community cable channels as well. We are hoping that the ‘Brown Out’ will show our constituents, the viewers, program producers, and those who appear on our channels what resources might be lost if these bills pass.”
Senate Bills 1504 and 1349 and House Bill 3146 are designed to ease the entry of telecommunications providers into the broadband market, by eliminating the need to obtain local franchises. S1504 would even eliminate existing franchises.
On Monday, October 17, 2005, CCTV’s channels 9, 10, and 22 and www.cctvcambridge.org will simply display a message advising viewers that funding for their local channels is threatened. CCTV is calling upon access centers around the country to join the ‘Brown Out’ and asking concerned citizens to contact their representatives in Congress and their local officials to make sure these Bills are stopped. The following Thursday, October 20 on channel 10 at 8 PM, CCTV’s Board of Directors will present a special advocacy program designed to encourage viewers to take action. A portion of the program will feature Congressman Michael Capuano, Democrat from the Eighth Congressional District, in a substantive discussion of these bills and his understanding of the media consolidation issue and its potential threat to our democracy.
Last year, the Federal Communications Commission attempted to relax the rules that ensure a diversity of media ownership – paving the way for large corporations to own much of the media available in any given market by squeezing out independent operators. Citizens of this country overwhelmingly responded and the courts and Congress rolled back the FCC's rulings. CCTV’s action is part of a larger strategy by media activists who are working to ensure that the public is aware of the threats posed by House Bill 3146 and Senate Bills 1504 and 1349.