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The so-called cutthroat “Cable Wars” of the early 1980s throughout the Metro Twin Cities as core cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul – along with clusters of groups of suburban cities banded forming joint powers –issued requests from proposals for the essential exclusive franchise to supply municipal huge new systems offering upwards of 60 channels of television programming.
The several cable company competitors for each of these franchise awards begged, hired local power figures and promised the moon to the cities or joint cable commissions – PEGs (public, education and government) channels anywhere from three to seven channels of community and public access programming. Even after all the cable company investment, they actually received a license to print money and to string their cables alongside telephone and power lines throughout the service areas under the jurisdiction.
This came with huge annual funding and capital equipment supplied by the winning cable company – and with at least a guarantee of 15 years of a franchise. With time, channels added to the tiers of cable television and more money came in – and still they want to take back those channels they “gifted” to the cities and communities – except that these cable outfits pass through their costs assessing per-subscriber fee. That tells you how profitable each of those public access channels could be if they brought back into the commercial corral – while the cities and nonprofits and just plain folk would lose their ability to program to supply the meager information and services over the channels. Why must they re-capture those channels?
Now, most cable commissions and cities are in the throes of second and third rounds of re-franchise negotiations – and again they want to reduce the number of channels, stop funding these channels altogether and/or stop supplying the production and transmission equipment to sustain these important community links to the cities throughout the Metro and well beyond.
TTT’s ANDY DRISCOLL and SIOBHAN KIERANS talk with some of the Metro cable access organizations ad advocates to highlight the importance and future of community programming channels and nonprofits serving our local cities.
CORALIE (COR) WILSON, Executive Director, CTV North Suburbs Community Cable Programming, Roseville (based)
CHAD JOHNSTON – Executive Director, St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN)
MARK HUGHES – CTV Staff & “Disability Viewpoints” – Roseville Channel 15
AND YOU! Call and join this conversation – 612-341-0980 – or Tweet us @TTTAndyDriscoll or post onTruthToTell’s Facebook page.