On November 7th at 9pm eastern-standard time (8pm central, 7pm mountain, 6pm pacific, 5pm Alaska, 4pm Hawaii) the ACM is calling on access TV centers nationwide to stop their regular programming in unison and for one minute to air “snow” on their channels. ACM executive director Anthony Riddle says this gesture will draw attention to the seriousness of current anti-access legislation in Washington. And show viewers what their cable-box could look like without the programming offered by access TV.

Riddle commented “this snowstorm is to remind communities what could be lost if new cable legislation before Congress is not fixed to protect the wonderful community channels we have all come to know and love”. The ACM represents the interests of thousands of individual public access, educational and governmental TV stations to legislators in Washington.

Public access TV – along with its educational and governmental TV brethren – is an essential part of the community in thousands of cities, towns and regions around the country. Often compared to a public park or a public library, public access TV is a space where everybody and anybody can exercise their freedom of speech; where people can build their community by communicating with their neighbors and townspeople; and where they can do this for little or no money.

At a time when huge media corporations dominate the media landscape and pump homogeneous programming into millions of homes, access TV is one of the last bastions of localism, of genuine diversity, and of real commitment to the democratic circulation of ideas and information. Access TV supports a diversity of local programming unseen elsewhere in the media. Including targeted programming for youth, seniors, the disabled, faith based organizations, immigrants, minorities and many other constituencies or communities.

All of this could change if Senator Ensign and McCain’s “Broadband Investment and Consumer Choice Act” (S.1504) or the “Video Choice Act of 2005” (S.1349, H.R.3146) are passed. Speaking in New York at a recent update session on the progress of these anti-access Bills, Riddle told public access TV practitioners that while defeating these Bills is an immediate goal, the larger issue is making sure that all present and future telecommunications legislation upholds broad principals that guarantee the future of access TV, and thereby guarantee the public has access to the channels of communication.

Riddle noted that the current Bills are likely to be followed by others as the cable and phone corporations seek to develop legislation that suits their interests in the emerging ‘broadband’ age. Indeed he noted that there is already another unnumbered Bill, known only as a “House Staff Draft”, circulating in Washington. Clearly immediate activism is needed to make sure the three already drawn up Bills do not pass, but advocates for access TV are going to have to plan for the long term, and think strategically about the future of access TV in a changing media landscape.

Calling for immediate grassroots activism in response to the current Bills Riddle stated, “we don’t think PEG can exist in a strong way without a local advocate”. He encouraged members of the public to call their congressional representatives and say simply “we like access, there ought to be bandwidth for access TV now and in the future, there ought to be money to support access TV, and we want the ACM to be a part of the conversation in the House and Senate about community television”.

In a recent statement Tom Bishop of Cincinnati’s Media Bridges noted the future of access TV is in hands of its supporters and their allies around the country. He said, “this literally is all up to you. Your efforts to rally your local organizations. Your efforts to influence your legislators. Your efforts to build coalitions with other organizations who see the need for the public interest to be served. This is what will make of break us: YOUR efforts”.

Call your local access TV center and encourage them to participate in the “snowstorm”. And call your elected representatives to let them know you support access TV!

By Lyell Davies


For more information on these Bills visit:
Free Press -  http://www.freepress.net/defendlocalaccess/
Alliance for Community Media -  http://www.alliancecm.org/
Manhattan Neighborhood Network – www.mnn.org/saveaccess/