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News-Sentinel.com Your Town. Your Voice.
Opening Arguments

Access channels still needed?

Public Access Michiana Inc. wants a share of cable franchise fees collected by South Bend so it can bring back Channel 99, the public accesc channel they once had there. Fort Wayne gets a good mention:

Nearby public access stations receive much more financial support than PAM is requesting. Kalamazoo's Public Media Network (www.publicmedianet.org) receives $600,000 a year in cable/telecom franchise fees and provides more than $1.2 million in services through three stations of 24/7 programming and its strong internship arrangement with the school system there. Fort Wayne receives about $400,000 in franchise fees to run three stations (www.acpl.lib.in.us/afw/purpose.html).

Are public access channels still needed, and is demanding franchise fees still justified? When cable first came to town, the reason given for the franchise fee was that the city was giving the cable operator "exclusive rights" to operate here, which would encourage the company to invest enormous amounts op money for the needed infrastructure. There's no exclusivity anymore -- we have two cable companies and two satellite operations -- but the fees are still collected. And providing access so members of the public can make dreadful productions no one wants to watch doesn't seem as urgent now. Anybody with an inexpensive video camera and access to the Internet can be a TV producer these days. Just look at the video on some of the local blogs.

Just asking. I don't have an especially strong opinion one way or the other. But public spending like this should be at least debated occasionally instead of just taken for granted.