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WESTERN ACCESS Winter 1999

As Community Media Grows, So Does Work of the Region! By Laurie Cirivello, Western Region Chair

These are busy and exciting times in Community Media. New, more community friendly franchise agreements are being negotiated as more communities recognize the potential associated with strong franchise requirements. In Northern and Central California, for instance, I receive a number of calls or inquiries each week from communities where the access spirit is coming alive. Cities and towns are working through cable franchises and other methods to create functional, collaborative programs that service a broad range of local needs.

To us in the Western States Region this means an increased need to reach out and support these fledgling efforts. Whether it is a small public access operation or a community fiber optic network, we need to let them know that others are willing and able to provide information, share experience or simply brainstorm new solutions.

As the relatively new chair of this region, it is my sincere hope that we can all make it a goal to help with outreach. How? Here are some ideas.

Participate online through the alliance-announce listserv. There you can share ideas and make yourself available...

When you receive your next conference registration, make a copy for yourself and forward the original (with a personal invitation, of course) to a potential newcomer...

Share articles from your CMR with local teachers or City telecom folks...

Sponsor a young producer's entry into the WAVE awards...

These are just a few of the ways you can help. Have other ideas? E-mail your plans to support new efforts: lcirivello@communitymedia.org and we will share them in an upcoming edition.


Western Regional Newsletter...It's Back!

After a period of inactivity, the regional newsletter is back; with a fresh look and a renewed sense of mission.

At the October conference in Reno, it became clear that better communication topped the wish list of regional members.

With a new info services chair and a re-energized Board, we all look forward to a useful and informative quarterly publication.

Additionally, advanced web design students at the Santa Rosa Junior College have taken on the Western States Regional website as a semester project. This should mean online newsletters by summer!

Interested in contributing to Western Access? Contact info services Chair, John Luvender at (707) 569-8785 ext. 22.


Public Policy Update

Recently the Alliance Public Policy Committee drafted a position statement on the issue of unbundling services to give access to various internet providers. This general statement would apply in other merger situations, but has been prompted by the recent events in Portland, Seattle, Los Angeles etc. The statement is below. Our position was carefully considered, and I believe reflects a good position on what is a complex and difficult issue. Please use this statement however you see fit. Consider sending it to your local franchising authority or using it as a resource for a letter to the editor, etc. We welcome your comments on this matter and as always, please feel free to call us if there is anything you need. Thank you.

Bunnie Riedel
Executive Director


A Position for Internet Access
February 1999

In the past few years, media and telecommunications companies have been merging at a break-neck speed. Deregulation within these industries has created fewer and larger corporations, each providing a multitude of services across and within telecommunications technologies. Corporate control of these industries and these portals to information pose a challenge to public space, public dialogue and the public interest.

The recent merger of AT&T and TCI, highlights an emerging trend toward exclusionary corporate control of the broadband infrastructure, the closure of access to information and the selective confinement of this access to affiliated internet service providers.

The Alliance for Community Media opposes any effort to stifle and limit the public's access to technology, information or media. Additionally we oppose defining proprietary control and ownership of transmission systems in ways that limit access of users to, and providers of information.

Our advocacy of this position is rooted in a historic mission to uphold the First Amendment guarantee of free speech, a dedication to community control of local resources and a commitment to complete access to the widest diversity of information sources and services. This position is punctuated by our organizational emphasis on localism and the decentralization of communications media.

We advocate for a national policy which encourages the broad dissemination of information and knowledge to all people. Such a national policy spurs economic development, creates equal opportunity for all citizens and strengthens our democratic traditions. Experience has proven that the inequitable distribution of telecommunications widens the disparity of education, civic participation, economic growth and opportunity among our nations' citizens.

In any given locale, there is a danger that a single telecommunications delivery system will operate as a monopoly---limiting the development of multiple user options, suffocating competition and a free market structure. This free market structure warrants the defense of producers and consumers of communications services that are not affiliated with the operator or its parent corporation.

As a local franchise issue, the Cable Act provides that cable companies are to be responsive to the needs and interests of the local community. The Act assures that cable systems provide and are encouraged to provide, the widest diversity of information sources and services to the public. The Act recognizes and upholds the First Amendment rights of the public as viewers and as speakers.

Additionally, the Act permits municipalities to disapprove of any acquisition of a cable system that would eliminate or reduce competition in the delivery of cable services. This provision would include the power of the local franchise authority to place appropriate conditions on such an acquisition.

Decisions about internet access through the cable systems can be made at the local level as a matter between the franchising authority and the cable system operator. This focus on localism ensures that cable services reflect local interest and meet local needs.

Non-discriminatory internet access to cable systems is no different than other access provisions in current federal law, such as "must carry" provisions, leased access, program access and Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) access. The Alliance for Community Media views these provisions and local franchising as a simple and effective regulatory model which should be applied to all entities providing direct video services, regardless of federal regulatory status.


What's Happenin' at National?
By Ron Cooper, National Board Rep

On November 12-14, 1998, the National ACM Board met in the 1999 conference city, Cincinnati, Ohio. The July conference will be held downtown in the beautiful Nederlander Hotel. The hotel is a classic art nouveau style with lots of mahogany, unique lighting fixtures, and located in a downtown mall for easy shopping. The conference should be lots of fun and the local access organization is planning a great event including twenty international representatives.

Once we began business, new Board members were seated, including yours truly.

Alan Bushong, outgoing Chair thanked the organization for all the help over the years of his term and welcomed Rob Brading of Multnomah, Oregon as the incoming National ACM Board Chair.

Upcoming conference sites were decided upon including the year 2000 conference site. The ACM conference planning committee recommended the Westin LaPaloma in Tucson, Arizona. La Paloma is a beautiful resort with $300 room rates dropping to less than $100 for the ACM conference.... It will be July in the desert but there are three pools, total air conditioning and amenities galore... make your plans to attend and plan to bring the kids. The Board of Directors also approved Houston, Texas in the year 2002 subject to more specific hotel arrangements. 1999 is in Cincinnati and 2001 will be in Washington, D.C.

Information Services appointed the following for two year terms on the CMR Editorial Board: Jeffrey Hansell, Independent Videographer, Broadcast One Teleproductions of Luxembourg Jennifer A. Krebs, City TV & Internet Coordinator for the City of Enumclaw, WA. Dirk Koning, Executive Director GRCMC, Grand Rapids, MI.

The Grass Roots committee wants a scholarship fund to assist with national conference expenses for volunteers. In Cincinnati a room will be set aside for Western States volunteers on limited budgets (up to four). We need to decide how best to "award" this room to deserving volunteers... ideas are welcomed.

Public Policy: The Alliance For Community Media supports the mission of the FCC Chair, William Kennard, to increase Minority Broadcast and cable station ownership. You are encouraged to forward your comments of support to the FCC in Washington.

The budget is in the black and the regional accounts are being paid back at least $10,000 per year until all back debts are paid. Last year at this time, the national office was deep in debt and the regional accounts were used to settle up but this year is all good news thanks to national treasurer John Donovan and new Executive Director Bunnie Reidel. She is doing a fantastic job in Washington and deserves our support. The Western States regional account is in the black as well, thanks to the great Reno Regional Conference.

That's all for now... the next national Board meeting is in Washington, D.C. in March... till the next report... this is Regional Vice-Chair and Regional Representative Ron Cooper, signing off. If you have any comments or suggestions you wish to express to the national board, e-mail them to me at rcooper444@aol.com and I'll share them with your representatives on the regional and national levels... thanks for your interest and support of ACM.


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