Note: Written on 6/6/06
23 years cable companies have reneged
on their obligation to provide public
access television to Philadelphia. Yesterday
members of the Philadelphia
Community Access Coalition asked
City Council to temporarily block a bill
that will give Comcast a full cable monopoly
in Philadelphia until Comcast delivers
on public access. While council waffled
the battle is just heating up.
of the Philadelphia Public Access Coalition
in City Council
is the closest we've been in 23 years,"
Jonathan Stein, lawyer for and member
of the Philadelphia Community Access Coalition
(PCAC), testified yesterday in a hearing
before city council's Public Works and
Public Property committee. The PCAC is
currently in negotiation with the city
and Comcast to fund a public access television
of moving forward Comcast and the city
are locked in a blame game that has lasted
over two decades. Both the City's Joseph
James and Comcast's Kathleen Sullivan
testified to tacit support for public
access. Sullivan described her company
as "ready, willing, and able."
For Philadelphia, the only major city
without public access, progress gets lost
somewhere in between.
PCAC hoped yesterday that City Council
would hold off on Comcast's acquisition
of "Area II" until Comcast promises
to come through. Instead a bill allowing
Comcast to acquire a Philly monopoly passed
through committee by a unanimous vote
and will be heard by the full Council
II is one of four franchise licenses in
the city covering parts of North, Northwest,
and West Philadelphia and including 49,000
impending acquisition is part of a major
shakeup in the cable industry as both
Time Warner and Comcast feast on the carcass
of Adelphia. As the two giants divvy up
Adelphia's franchises they have agreed
to trade licenses in cities which either
has the upper hand. Thus Philly, in which
three of the four franchise licenses are
currently leased to Comcast, will soon
be all Comcast.
is troubling to members of the Community
Access Coalition and others who note that
Comcast funds public access in many other
cities. And since a 1983 ordinance cable
companies have been legally bound to provide
public access here.
fact, the $600,000 a year dictated in
the 1983 ordinance has been collected
by the city but used
ask that you not pass this bill,"
PCAC coalition member and Kensington Welfare
Rights Union staple Joy Butts testified,
"until Comcast make a public commitment
to fully fund public access."
Breitbart, coordinator of the Philly
Grassroots Cable Coalition , also
testified in support of public access.
His testimony focused however on Comcast's
refusal to allow other service providers
to air Philadelphia sports teams calling
on council to close the " Comcast
a commitment to public access from Comcast
has not yet come there are reasons to
be optimistic. The PCAC, the city, and
Comcast are currently negotiating a deal
that would bring 5 channels and a community
media center to the city. After the hearing
Councilman Darryl Clarke signaled he hoped
negotiations might reach a breakthrough
before the bill allowing the transfer
comes to the full council next week.
Access in Philadelphia
to the PCAC
, public access TV in Philly
FIVE public cable TV channels that
anyone can get a show on.
NINE public television studios that
anyone can use to make a show.
by the William Penn Foundation
found that dozens of community groups
would be interested in using public
access. Dozens more who are members
of PCAC are also committed to using
are over 1700 public access centers
in the U.S. Philadelphia is largest
city without one. Most cities have
that far exceeds the $300,000
to $500,000 currently being discussed.
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