|L-R: Phyllis Logan, Jeff McCarter, Commissioner Rosemary Krimbel, Deputy Commissioner Jim McVane, Carole J. Herhold, Leroy Jones, Velma Ringo, Jake Austen|
In advance of next week's vote on the new RCN contract CMA met last Wednesday with Commissioner of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection Rosemary Krimbel, Deputy Commissioner Jim McVane, and Jen Lipford, a young woman from the information office who was documenting the meeting and giving input. Representing the Committee for Media Access were Jeff McCarter, Leroy Jones, Phyllis Logan, Jake Austen, Carole J. Herhold, and Velma Ringo.
The tone of the meeting was very positive. After introducing ourselves and giving a summary of our group’s history of activism, action, and influence (particularly in regards to RCN), Ms. Krimbel identified herself as a supporter of public access television and a guilty pleasure fan of Dale Chapman’s access show “We’re Geniuses in France.” We expressed concern about the future Comcast contract and let her know that although we were not opposed to the reforms that will dissolve the Cable Board, we had concerns about transparency with the loss of televised meetings and opportunities for public comment.
Deputy Commissioner McVane promised that by the end of this month he would set a schedule of quarterly hearings that would take place in the hearing room on the 8th floor of City Hall. We hold out hope he and Ms. Krimbel will consider bi-monthly meetings as a valuable forum for public comment. These meetings will not be videotaped or televised by MUTV (the City’s channel) but we are welcome to tape them and cablecast them on CAN TV.
We were told that work on renegotiating the Comcast contracts that expire in 2014 and 2015 would begin after next week’s RCN contract signing. The only difference of opinion we seem to have with the Commissioner is that she seemed to imply an optimistic belief that the Mayor’s close relationship with Comcast’s David Cohen was a good thing as it will help speed along negotiations, which truly would be a good thing from our perspective if Mayor Emmanuel was so committed to CAN TV that he insisted that it was non-negotiable. Otherwise, having connections (including many generous donations) with a company that could increase profits by cutting out the public (as has been done many places across the country) is worrisome.
That said, the tone, responsiveness and dialogue of this meeting were positive and in the future we look forward to working, with and not against, the City of Chicago to make sure the public has a voice on cable TV in our great town.