Exact Change
g.emil perrine
May 2003

The rape of Iraq has certainly given many in the community reason enough to rail against the small people that run this country. I mention that travesty because at times I felt my activism on the Community Television front was insignificant in the scheme of things. Still I, with my sister, plowed on.

To have a Public Access channel in Gainesville is a right that all of us deserve. We are allowed a voice in this town we call home. The very reason the FCC had instituted Public Access was because it was seen early on that if the cable companies were going to use public land for private capital then the citizenry should be compensated with the ability to do, on a small scale, what the billionaires did in a massive way.

And few here have even heard of Public Access TV. What I'm asking you to do is little day dreaming and imagine that there is no barrier to you creating a video program. The only restriction is that it cannot be used for commercial purposes. The only stipulation is that our city commission must request it.

The FCC has not mandated that the U.S. have Public Access channels, it only gives cities the option to ask the local cable company for it. In our case it is Cox Communications. In Rhode Island Cox has set up an impressive network of Community Television studios. The following is an excerpt from their Community Access web site. You'll see how fortunate we are to have such a giving cable company in town.

'Cox Communications believes that public, educational and governmental access television are all about creating community programming with few or no barriers to the producer. We will provide you with the equipment, the training, the studio space, the airtime and the technical assistance from our support staff to help you make your own program, at no cost. The few limitations that do exist are set by state and federal law, and your own imagination and ambition. Public Access television in Rhode Island - it's television that you make.

In Rhode Island, Cox Communications provides public, educational and governmental access in every town in Rhode Island except Foster and New Shoreham.'

Two cities! There are two cities in Rhode Island that don't have a Public Access station! If they can do that in the entire state of Rhode Island then...

My experience with Community Access for over twenty years has seen nothing but interesting, inspiring and unique programming. From the clergy in the city having religious and philosophical discussions to college students making video art to the Mayor having a call-in show regarding community concerns to a local band making a music video, high schoolers making movies, grandparents doing whatever grandparents do, and of course you.

It's not about watching TV, it's about making TV. This is a great tool as reward for a cable company coming in and making millions of dollars on a limited monopoly.

I have made up a petition for you to sign to present to the City Commission. We must gather a significant number to influence them. It is for all residents to sign, not just registered voters and not just Cox subscribers. Public Access is for the entire community without prejudice. You can sign it when you go to the Civic Media Center or email me: garrperr@hotmail.com. Ask your organization or clergy to help circulate it.

I recently spoke with Chuck Peterson, Station Manager at Grand Rapids' Access channel in Michigan. "We get 2 cents on the dollar. So for every fifty dollar cable bill we get one dollar." In Grand Rapids that equates to about $600,000. They have a full working 3 camera studio, 3 digital editing suites, 8 digital cameras, a remote video production van and a staff to assist in education. We can also improve on the shabby Educational Access channel that has resorted to rerunning Public Television shows. In a town with the Univ. of Florida, Santa Fe Community College and a sizable public school system there should be ample programming from the educators and students.

The City has taken care of themselves in the last Franchise Agreement with the installation of high end cameras for their new auditorium augmented by a control booth with a switcher and CG. This go round when the contract is renegotiated let's make sure that the powers that be take care of us and our students. It isn't easy to exact change, but then it wouldn't be worth it.

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