April 19, 2012

Good News for CAN TV as City Set to Approve Strong RCN Deal

Members of CMA, IPN and CAN TV staff gather outside Council Chambers after Monday's Finance Committee meeting
It was nothing but good news and love for cable access in Chicago at Monday's Chicago City Council's Finance Committee. Members of the CMA were in the gallery, along with many CAN TV producers (including members of the I.P.N. - the Independent Producers Network) as well as CAN TV staff, management and board members. After approving a settlement for some kind of false arrest case the chair (Alderman Burke) moved on to our issues, which were the approval of the RCN contract (an issue that CMA first took on upon our formation in 2010), and the end of the Cable Commission (a budget cutting move). Commissioner Krimbel, Deputy Commissioner McVane, and Jeff Levine, a City attorney, presented the new contract and the changes to the Aldermen. Commissioner Krimbel articulated the CMA's positions without prompting, stating that WOW and Comcast should consider the cable access provisions in the RCN contract as the minimum standard,  promising regular public meetings to replace the Cable Commission meetings, and boldly stating that she saw herself and CAN TV as "partners" in a fight against cable companies for fair public funding.

After Burke went on a tangent about accessing an entertainment tax upon satellite TV providers, the floor was opened up to comments and the love that the Alderman rained down on CAN TV was awesome. Alderman Polk spoke eloquently about our issues, Alderman Laurino suggested that neighborhood meetings on cable issues be considered, Alderman Dowell commended RCN and challenged the other cable operators to make sure things go this smoothly, and Alderman Burnett sent a lot of love to CAN TV (and plugged his TV show). Representatives of RCN were then called, and Alderman Beal grilled them about why this took so long, and challenged them to change the perception that they were against public access television, and Alderman Cochran inquired about minority-owned contractor compliance. Then Barbara Popovic and Michael Manuel from the CAN TV board took the floor and spoke in positive terms about the outcome. Finally, Burke acknowledged Gordon Quinn and Jake Austen of the Committee for Media Access. Quinn and Austen were scheduled to make public comment, but that became moot when all of our concerns were articulated beyond our expectations by the council members and Commissioner. The "ayes" then had it, and the future of public access in television became a little brighter for the next few years, at least. Afterwards allies of access met in the hallway where CAN TV recorded comments by IPN and CMA members, as well as glowing comments from both Commissioner Krimbel and RCN's General Manager Tom McKay (who called this "a great deal for RCN, the City, and CAN TV").

The contract was to be approved in a vote on Wednesday, but some maneuvering involving Emanuel's plans to enlist private investment in public projects delayed all Finance Committee votes until next week (CMA member Grady Davis was in attendance Wednesday).

Overall, very positive news for CAN TV, the CMA and the voice of the public in Chicago. We will report on next week's expected approval.