June 30, 2014

Literacy Group Calls for Support of Public Access TV

Through creative storytelling and media, Elephant and Worm Educational Theatre Company builds literacy skills through the use of CAN TV in Chicago.  In this video, Joe Lewis shares the company’s work, and tells Comcast not to downgrade its support of the public’s channels.


June 13, 2014

Protect the public’s channels as a condition of the Comcast merger

Since the inception of cable in this country, the federal government has required cable companies to be responsive to the needs of the local community. The cable industry profits from use of public infrastructure to deliver its services. In exchange for that, Chicago and other cities require those companies to support public access television channels and services like those offered by CAN TV.

But as Comcast renews its franchises, it is attempting to get out of its public obligations. Many cities served by Comcast report closures and downgrades of public access channels and services, most recently in Skokie, Illinois. And in Chicago, Comcast has yet to commit to meet the CMA’s critical concerns for support of the public’s channels.

Now Comcast wants to increase its market dominance nationally by taking over Time Warner in a $45 billion dollar merger. CMA members recently wrote to a number of national organizations that supported the Comcast/NBCU merger, addressing the importance of protections for public access channels and services as part of the Comcast/Time Warner. Comcast wants people to believe the merger is a winner. But the public can end up the loser.

CMA recommends the Comcast’s Time Warner merger be conditioned on:

1. Direct and unrestricted funding to preserve the independence of local public access television channels and services.

2. Funding and capacity agreements that allow for local public access television channels to grow and evolve as cable grows and evolves.

3. Technological equality for local public access television channels to keep the public’s channels equivalent to broadcast channels in signal quality, functionality, and accessibility.

June 5, 2014

WBEZ’s Tony Sarabia Interviews CMA Member Gordon Quinn

This morning CMA member Gordon Quinn, who is also the Founder and Artistic Director of Kartemquin Films, was interviewed by Tony Sarabia on WBEZ’s program The Morning Shift, along with CAN TV Executive Director Barbara Popovic, to discuss CAN TV and Comcast’s franchise renewal and the potential effect it could have on public access television in Chicago.

Gordon recalled the formative days of public access in Chicago, when residents from a wide range of backgrounds came together to advocate for a public space on cable. He said that the Committee for Media Access today reflects a similar diversity in terms of the groups that participate in and have a stake in Chicago’s public access center. 

Gordon also expressed concern about the closures and other downgrades to public benefits that result when corporations like Comcast are able to wiggle out of their obligations, noting how those obligations stem from their use of the public rights of way. He said that mega mergers like the proposed Comcast-Time Warner union would embolden already powerful companies like Comcast, even when dealing with major cities like Chicago, not to mention smaller municipalities whose bargaining power would be further diminished. 

Barbara Popovic of CAN TV pointed to Portland Oregon, where Comcast has met standards much higher than the terms being discussed in Chicago. She said that so many Aldermen in Chicago have pledged their support because they have seen the benefits of CAN TV’s work in their local wards. 

In March the City Council granted a 3-month extension to Comcast’s franchise as negotiations over CAN TV were unresolved, that extension will expire June 15.  Gordon speaks for the Committee for Media Access when he said, “We want to see this settled, it’s been delayed already, and we think it’s time for them to settle this so that CAN TV can be planning for the future.” 

Click here to listen to a recording of the interview.


June 4, 2014

46 Aldermen Pledge Their Support of CAN TV

According to this news alert from CAN TV, last week Alderman John Pope of the 10th ward took the lead in securing the support of 46 Alderman for a letter to Comcast, telling it that they will oppose any franchise renewal that does not meet CAN TV’s needs. The letter also pressed Comcast to expediently finalize the negotiations and provide public benefits that “meet or exceed” the terms of RCN’s franchise renewal, passed by the City Council in 2012. 

A full text of the letter has been provided by CAN TV and can be found here

Needless to say, this is VERY good news! We are glad to know that so many Aldermen have recognized the value of CAN TV and stand behind this important community institution. 

CMA members will be watching this process closely over the next month or two in anticipation of it being brought to a positive conclusion that serves the public interest.