Comcast to Chicago’s Public Access TV Stations: Just DIE Already…Like the Other Thirteen We’ve Killed Off

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by Legendary Lew

The deadline has now passed for the extension of Comcast’s contract for CAN-TV and no agreement has been reached. This means that CAN-TV is in great danger of being shut down like thirteen other stations in Illinois that Comcast allowed to die.

Executive Director of CAN-TV Barbara Popovic and Kartemquin Film‘s Gordon Quinn were recently on WBEZ’s Morning Shift discussing the conflict:

Comcast is not doing you a favor by providing public access TV stations. It is fulfilling an obligation. This is most important to remember when discussing the issue of funding these low-fi stations. Comcast is candy-coating their press releases with the usual language of how they are best working with local communities to provide crucial programming for them while at the same time allowing stations to close in Illinois over the last decade.

This attempt to veer away from public responsibility is nothing new. I’ve produced and directed public access TV shows in Rochester, NY back in 1994 and I can tell you the major cable company there at the time,Time Warner, fought tooth and nail to keep from their commitments to provide public access TV stations. They finally had to relent to public pressure due, in part, to the public’s low opinion of their service. Sound familiar?

Adding insult to injury, the conglomerates, when they finally did oblige and provide stations, routinely saddled them with outdated equipment prone to constant breakdown and insufficient staffing for training and public outreach. These are money-stuffed giants willing to provide only the bare minimum for local communities to have active voices on the air and then claiming they exist to provide “choices” for subscribers. It might be cute and quaint for public access TV shows to look like “Wayne’s World,” but the lack of technical aesthetic with the stations is not an accident. It’s by design. Cable conglomerates do not want public access TV shows to compete with paid programming, because they think what Honey Boo Boo does is much more important to you than what your local elected officials do.

With today’s technology, independently produced media can muster up great and important television on public access. CAN-TV provides such programming. I’m a proud board member of Elephant and Worm TV, a public access show that was nominated for a local Emmy last year for outstanding children’s programming. An Emmy-nominated public access TV show may seem extraordinary, but it could become more common if stations were allowed to upgrade. All of Elephant and Worm’s videos presented to CAN-TV actually had to be downgraded for television broadcast.

Would it really cut into Comcast’s massive profits to help upgrade stations to HD, instead of keeping them more than a decade out of date? They’ve done so in Portland, OR. Why not here? Does Comcast think public access TV stations are part of the ratings game? Comcast is gutter-dwelling in customer service rankings and taking on an evil reputation for their bids to “fast-track” the internet. You would think they would want to do right by the public after we allow them to run their infrastructure in our communities and pay nothing to us for the privilege. But then, you may be thinking more of your local community than Comcast is.

 

 

 

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