The following is an editorial by Joe Viglione, a freelance writer and citizen activist.
Access Channel 3: Know Your Community Resources
On June 10th this publication re-published my article on public access outreach. As a follow-up this essay will focus on what P/E/G Access is, and how the community co-owns the equipment that it purchases for the use of the access TV volunteers.
Many people in Medford are not aware of the term "Peg" Access - and their rights to these services that are funded by a fee attached to the bills of cable subscribers.
Here's a quick overview:
P/E/G Access - Three access TV channels
There are 3 parts to P/E/G - Public, Educational and Governmental Access. Channel 15 in Medford is Educational Programming that is run out of the high school. Channel 16 in Medford is the Government Access Programming which features a bulletin board as well as meetings at City Hall, usually the City Council or School Committee meetings.
Channel 3 is designated for "Public Access" It is the job of the public access TV station in our community to reach out to the public and allow for a wide range of ideas. According to the
Secretary of the Commonwealth, Corporations Division page on the internet a non-profit named Medford Community Cablevision, Inc. filed its Articles of Organization on October 13, 1983 to, ostensibly, coordinate, offer and teach public access TV in this city.
Many cities and towns keep what they call their "cable book", usually a 3-ring binder, at City Hall in the Clerk's office, or at the Law office and sometimes even at the public library. In that book is usually found the contract between the city and the cable provider(s) (Medford having only
one at this time, Comcast), and the agreement between the City and the non-profit access station - Medford Community Cablevision, Inc. a.k.a. TV3 in our city.
City Solicitor Mark Rumley's excellent February 10, 2008 "Report on present state of Public Access Television in the City of Medford" (a.k.a. "The Rumley Report") has a copy of that contract and additional data on the public access facility that operates at 5 High Street under Congressman Ed Markey's office.
CITY CO-OWNS THE EQUIPMENT WITH THE NON-PROFIT
The contract the Mayor of the city of Medford signed with Medford Community Cablevision, Inc. establishes the co-ownership of the equipment. It is found on page 4, Section 4 of the Definitions section - there is a paragraph on ownership and control of the equipment.
Here is that information:
Section 4: OWNERSHIP AND CONTROL
All equipment and appurtenances in the Access Facilities shall be the joint legal property of the City and MCC. MCC shall provide a copy of all equipment invoices to the Issuing Authority, pursuant to Section 9(B) herein.
The "Issuing Authority" is the Mayor, Michael McGlynn. So even though the access TV station is under the exclusive control of MCC, the station shares ownership of the tangible assets - the equipment. Since the ownership of the most valuable tangible material assets (excluding, of
course, the intellect of the volunteers) belongs to the community, the non-profit has some serious obligations to "we the people", the true co-owners of the tv equipment.
Now is the time for the public to be made aware of its belongings, its holdings, in regards to Access TV. We'd like to know exactly how much money the city gets - and spends - on Government and Educational Access television - and this discussion, hopefully, will open the door to more transparency from City Hall in regards to all three channels.
On January 7, 2009 the Honorable Judge LaMothe called me "logical" in regards to issues regarding Medford Community Cablevision, Inc.
The logical mind says that the public has a right to know what equipment we co-own with the TV station, and also has a right to a Cable Advisory Committee that can field complaints and grievances in regards to issues involving P/E/G access in the city of Medford. As stated above, this isn't just about the public access channel, we'd like to know what equipment exists for the Governmental and Educational Channels and see those contracts the city has.
Malden and Wilmington access stations both issue annual reports. These are hard copy reports printed and made available to anyone in the community. Medford residents deserve a similar hard document for citizens to pick up at City Hall, at TV 3, at the Medford Public Library...at
Congressman Ed Markey's office...at State Rep Paul Donato's office.
Medford needs a vibrant access community like those enjoyed by the towns of Burlington, Stoneham, Wakefield...the cities of Malden, Somerville, Cambridge, Boston and beyond. Our access station doesn't have membership numbers - or a plethora of programming - that our sister stations boast.
And the key point here is this: since the city co-owns the equipment the city has an obligation to let the residents know they have full and fair access to that equipment, as well as an oversight committee that will ensure access to the cable Channel 3.
The residents, being aware of their rights, will have a positive impact on access TV volunteer membership.
Most communities build a resource which fosters imaginative programming...a TV station in your community should be a mecca for creative ideas, no matter how far-fetched, with no intrusion and certainly no name-calling or scorn which could halt the creative process and stifle
If you go to the Massachusetts State Corporation site you will find the "primary purpose" as written by the board of directors of TV 3.
"What is this organization's primary purpose, as written by TV 3 itself on the Corporate documents:
Community Public Access Cable
Training individuals in public access television techniques and the cablecasting of various community events over the public access channels of a cable television system."
This training should be free and open to everyone. There should be a spirit of harmony where volunteers have great latitude to create and air their programs with support from the station and very few restrictions.
Think of public access TV like a public swimming pool. Your city co-owns the pool, the facility, the water. All members of the community are supposed to be welcome.