Friday, January 30, 2009

LA Rips Red Carpet Out From Under Public Access Television

Not long after Los Angeles stopped being a farming community and became “Hollywood” the competition was on to outdo New York City. But now, even a century later, LA is still just the ugly stepsister that never can quite attain the sophistication, style and intellectual heft that is Manhattan. I say this as a former Angelino, who came to love all that is LA and who still misses the crazy laid-back attitudes and colorful demeanor.

Of course I look at LA and shake my head. Under the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act (DIVCA) passed by the California State Legislature, Time Warner was able to go to the city and let them know TW would be shutting down all the public access television studios, twelve in all. However, Los Angeles would still receive $5 million a year for Public, Educational and Government access from TW (or roughly $1.7 million to be split evenly between the P, E and G). If LA were willing to split it evenly, which it ain’t. And of course, Public access has gone from eleven channels to just one, LA 36.

To really understand this, I need to provide a bit of history on LA 36. Sometime in 1999 (I think) I was in Los Angeles to garner support for Public access and for LA 36, which at that time was the city-wide Public access channel. A producer of a show called “Colin and His Sleazy Friends,” was creating porn and getting it on access. In my opinion at the time, I felt Colin could easily be banned as obscene, not because he had naked ladies running around the set, but because those naked ladies were engaging in inserting various objects into their bodies. It seems the then Mayor woke up in the middle of the night, caught the show and immediately set off to shut down LA 36. I visited council offices, I pleaded with the City Attorney, don’t eliminate LA 36, prosecute Colin. This was to no avail, LA 36 became the “educational” channel and frankly has done an exceptional job as an educational channel.

The access channels run by Time Warner are separate and apart from what LA 36 became. Now those channels are being eliminated and all public access programming will have to fit on LA 36. But LA 36 is the educational channel and that is its culture. So to get it, you have to read this:

“Until further notice, LA36 (LACTAC) will carry the “Best Of” Public Access programming in the City of Los Angeles. “Best Of” will be decided by an advisory committee who will review content on a quarterly basis. Approved content will then be schedule on a First-come, First-serve basis in the station’s allocated time slots. The remainder of submitted content will be housed on a website hosted by LA36 (same submission rules apply). The City will be unable to provide Public Access studios due to changes in state law. In addition, LA36 does not have studio capacity or equipment for loan. However, LA36 does provide production services for a minimum fee of $500 dollars per show. Please contact the LA36 offices for more information.”

Is the city begging for a lawsuit? T’would seem so. And I don’t get how if you dedicate one third of the money to Public access, like you should do, you can’t provide a studio?

Back to New York. Unlike Los Angeles, New York has a robust Public access facility and channels. They even have a channel dedicated to nothing but youth programming, run by youth, how amazing is that? Four channels just in Manhattan (never mind the boroughs who all have their own operations and channels) and I believe they have a $4 million budget, just for Public access. That’s the sophistication, style and intellectual heft I was talking about, the stuff that LA just can never quite get to.

Shoot, you don’t even need to compare to New York, in a short amount of time Fresno (where I grew up) and Clovis (where I went to high school) in the middle of the San Joaquin Valley, will have an all new Public access facility, studios and channels. So LA is woefully inadequate compared to their plain-Jane neighbors north of the Grapevine. Maybe Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (LA) should pick up the phone and ask Mayor Bob Whalen (Clovis) how it is a cow-town in the middle of the state is about to best the metropolis of the south. And maybe Mayor Whalen will be able to ask Mayor Villaraigosa why he is so bent on shutting down community voices and free speech?

Is there more we should know about Los Angeles politics? Stuff that Mayor Villaraigosa doesn't want Public access producers like Leslie Dutton (Full Disclosure Network) talking about? Mmmm.

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