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Media Democracy - Fresno Style
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] Comcast.net)
Saturday Mar 13th, 2004 4:35 PM
A diverse task force, working on a new cable franchise agreement in Fresno, recently visited community media centers in Santa Rosa, Giroy, and Monterrey. The task force included representatives from education, government, and community groups. This article is about what the new franchise agreement will do to democratize the media in Fresno.
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MEDIA DEMOCRACY - FRESNO STYLE
By Mike Rhodes
March 13, 2004

TV worth watching is coming to Fresno. Efforts to bring Public, Education, and Government (PEG) channels to our local cable network are starting to bring more local programing and media democracy to the area. Last month, the City of Fresno and several education organizations presented a proposal that is likely get the go ahead to use channel 96 on Comcast cable. The proposal will bring government and education programing to the community. While this development does not yet give us public access on the cable network, it is a step in the right direction.

Big changes in community access on the cable network are coming because the City and Comcast are re-negotiating the contract that gives the cable company the right to operate in this city. The current franchise agreement in Fresno expires on December 31, 2004. There are also franchise agreements with Clovis, Madera, and the County of Fresno which also expire at the same time. The last franchise agreement in Fresno, which was agreed to over 20 years ago, does not give the community PEG access.

Public access will give any resident who wants to produce a show for TV the ability to do it for free. Franchise agreements in other communities where Comcast provides cable service also include a community media center. In the community media center there are production studios, digital editing equipment, video cameras you can check out, skills training, and more. All of this is provided for free by Comcast as negotiated in the franchise agreement. The ability for individuals and organizations to produce and broadcast their own programs will help democratize the media, improve communications in the community, and empower community activists to Be the Media. A public access channel will also give the community a vehicle to get programing, like Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! on the public access channel and onto the cable network. Democracy Now! and other free speech TV shows can then be seen by thousands of viewers in this area every day. Currently you can listen to Democracy Now at 6 & 9 AM on KFCF 88.1 FM in Fresno.

There has been some concern expressed that the current proposal for an education/government channel leaves out public access. While that is true, the turning on of the E/G channel is not a part of the franchise agreement that is being re-negotiated. The channel is a part of the old agreement but it is not currently being used to broadcast E/G programs. Now that education and government groups know that the channel is available, they have put forward a proposal to the Fresno City Council to begin using it as soon as possible. Having an E/G channel will provide important information about what is going on in local government and in the schools. The new E/G channel could be on the network as early as June 1st of this year. Negotiations for the new franchise agreement will begin soon and will include a proposal for PEG channel(s), a community media center, and an I-Net.

The I-Net is a cable fiber network which will link numerous government, education, and possibly non-profit organizations. The advantage of including an I-Net in the final franchise agreement is that it will improve communications for participating groups, lower communication costs, and provide multiple areas where live events can originate from. For example, the I-Net could connect City Hall, CSUF, Roosevelt High School, and the Ted Wills community center. An event held at any one of those locations could then be broadcast live on a cable channel. Some communities have 50 “live” sites in their communities.

PEG cable access will improve media democracy in Fresno. It will provide training, equipment, studios and an almost unlimited amount of bandwidth for community members to share their ideas with others. This will be the biggest change that has happened to local television in the last 50 years. If you want to find out more about the franchise renewal process and PEG access go to http://www.buskegroup.com/ . There is also a local listserve that will keep you up to date on developments about the franchise renewal process and PEG access. You can join the listserv by sending a message to
Alliance_for_Community_Media_in_Fresno-subscribe [at] yahoogroups.com
§Buske photo
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] Comcast.net) Saturday Mar 13th, 2004 4:35 PM
sue_buske.jpg
Sue Buske is the consultant working with the City of Fresno in the franchise agreement negotiations with Comcast.
§Gilroy
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] Comcast.net) Saturday Mar 13th, 2004 4:35 PM
gilroy_edit_booth.jpg
This is an digital editing booth at the Gilroy community media center.
§Santa Rosa
by Mike Rhodes (MikeRhodes [at] Comcast.net) Saturday Mar 13th, 2004 4:35 PM
laurie_cirivello.jpg
Laurie Cirivello, director of the Santa Rosa Community Media Access Center, displays hard drives used for digital editing.
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TITLE AUTHOR DATE
PEG accessMike RhodesWednesday Mar 24th, 2004 7:21 AM
Get A LifeConcerned CitizenTuesday Mar 23rd, 2004 11:45 PM

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