I just stumbled upon this message from a couple of days ago by an organization called Full Disclosure. As their written materials and accompanying video indicate, apparently, the Los Angeles City Council is set to vote tomorrow, November, 25, to ratify a plan that would eliminate most cable television Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) access facilities serving the city. According to Full Disclosure, the principal cable operators in Los Angeles, which they name as Time Warner Cable and Cox, switched from a citywide franchise to a statewide franchise in 2006, which became effective last year. Under the previous franchise agreement, which, says Full Disclosure, had been in effect for at least 20 years, the City’s cable operators had been providing 14 PEG facilities, including studios and equipment, for the production of this local access programming. Under the new plan, which Full Disclosure states was adopted by the City Council’s Committee on Information Technology Agency & General Services on November 11, the cable operators may eliminate all of their PEG facilities support by the end of this year, and the City would be left with only 4 PEG channels to finance and run itself, if it chooses to foot the bill. According to Full Disclosure’s video, Time Warner has already stated that it intends to eliminate all 14 of its PEG facilities. Full Discloure states that, not only would Los Angeles residents lose valuable PEG facilities, but the remaining facilities would be fully controlled by the City, which would stifle local voices.
Normally, I would research this story more thoroughly to find out if it was accurate, but the time frame prevents this. I would welcome any information from readers who know more about this. What I did find out was that, according to the City’s Information Technology Agency website, Full Disclosure appears to be correct: “Pursuant to new State law, the City’s incumbent cable TV providers, Time Warner, Cox Communications and Charter Communications, will no longer be obligated to provide free in-kind services such as free Internet and cable TV services to City departments, facilities, libraries, and schools, and operate and financially support Public Access TV studios” (emphasis added). The website also indicates that “the new State law provides that the City of Los Angeles may assume financial responsibility for all such services commencing January 1, 2009″ (emphasis added). Which apparently means that the City could decide not to provide such support.
The pragmatist in me thinks that, if the cable operators lawfully converted from a citywide to a statewide franchise, and if the new franchise no longer requires them to support PEG facilities (how informed and involved was the public when all that happened?), then it’s probably too late to change things now. Nevertheless, underneath Full Disclosure’s video is a link to send an email letter to Mayor Villaraigosa, the City Council Members, and other city officials, asking them to prevent this elimination of PEG channels and/or facilities to take effect. If you care about preserving the full slate of cable PEG channels and facilities in Los Angeles, then it seems to me a good idea at least to lay down a last-minute marker and sign the letter written by Full Disclosure.
UPDATE: According to the City’s Information Technology Agency website, “The Los Angeles City Council will consider the Board of Information Technology Commissioners’ and Municipal Access Policy Board’s Report on the Future of PEG Access in the City of L.A., that will include a discussion of the recommendations and options for Public, Educational and Governmental Access commencing January 1, 2009. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, December 2, 2008 at 10:00 AM in Council Chambers, 3rd Floor, Los Angeles City Hall located at 200 N. Main Street, Los Angeles, CA. 90012.” So perhaps this is not yet a done deal, and there is still time to influence the outcome. According to the website, “If you have any questions, please feel free to call the Video Service Regulatory Division of the Information Technology Agency at 213.922.8370.”