Yesterday’s business model for mass media is shrinking by the day. It’s frightening how a small group of companies and individuals have taken over control of media, making the collapse of expanding media companies one of the major news stories of our time. While we sit and watch this occur, it becomes all too easy to forget what it may mean to democracy and consumerism.
When AT&T Broadband acquired Comcast in 2002, it took control of well over a third (more than 21 million) cable homes. Over twice the size of it’s rival Time Warner Cable, Comcast Corporation has grown from a single system to one of the world’s biggest communication companies. Today it’s focused on it’s broadband cable services, commerce and of course, content. So what does this shift in power mean for the small community access station like our local community access facility SNCAT? Will our independent community voice be quieted in the face of competition and today’s recessionary economy?
What is this “public access” model? It starts back in the 70’s when a national movement caught fire to be certain that cable operators would provide adequate capacity, services and facilities as a partial compensation to the community for their use of public right-of-ways. This compensation was designed to provide access to media for the entire population, not just those who owned the cable companies.
Today’s pubic access provides a wide variety of programming – civic dialogue, cultural information, as well as civic meetings for those who cannot attend in person – or are just interested in their government’s daily discussions. Who does it serve? Public schools, local Chambers of Commerce, religious institutions, colleges and universities, community theaters, labor unions, veterans groups, second language communities, the disabled, politicians, and political organizations.
To find the community access station in your community, check out The Global Village CAT, which links to 600 public and community access television Web sites worldwide. And for more information on community media, the Alliance for Community Media, a group with the goal of educating and advocating on behalf of community media, provides news on the latest legislation affecting cable and public access.
The real question, and the purpose of this post is gaining your view. -What do you think the future of public access television is today? What type of programming, content development, and operations do you think it should be? Is community access television relevant in today’s economy? If so… how?