Restore Public Cable Channels to L.A.

A very diverse and dedicated group of Los Angelenos have come together to submit a proposal to the City Council. A plan was developed specifically to serve the diverse community of Los Angeles, "to encourage better communication among the residents and to share the cultural and informational opportunities to makes our City so great."  For […]

Last Updated: April 29, 2009 @ 10:38 AM

A very diverse and dedicated group of Los Angelenos have come together to submit a proposal to the City Council. A plan was developed specifically to serve the diverse community of Los Angeles, "to encourage better communication among the residents and to share the cultural and informational opportunities to makes our City so great."
 
For years the city funded and operated CityView Channel 35, the government channel, and LA 36, a combination education and community-affairs channel. Time Warner Cable and its predecessors had agreed to provide public access cable channels and studios in their franchise agreement with the City. They provided all the operational and capital costs for fourteen community channels and studios.

But on Jan. 1, 2009, when the State of California Public Utilities Commission took over the responsibility of the Time Warner Cable and Cox franchises, the studios were closed and dismantled, and the channels went dark. Suddenly the homespun cable shows that covered every imaginable topic and issue were gone from the TV screens and the community began to show signs of disconnect.
 
The local approach to independent television coverage of issues and events disappeared, and First Amendment advocates became upset at what they had lost.

By March, the independent cable producers realized they would have to fight to regain their local platform. And so, the Public Television Industry Corporation (PTIC) was born, and the plan to restore the channels started to take shape.

PTIC unveils the plan on Wednesday, April 29, at the Los Angeles City Council Budget hearing. It will be proposing to restore a four-channel system with studios that include 56 hours of programming per channel — all to be operated by the nonprofit public benefit corporation.

The organization will be supported by every segment of the community, especially the business community because of the necessity of the funding component.
 
Stating the Case for Four Channels
PTIC points out the City of LA. faces a financial crisis that makes communication to the diverse population very important — and that’s why we’re proposing that one of the channels is to be focused on government and community issues.

Our City also has a diverse religious community that needs to come together during difficult economic and world-wide political times, and therefore we propose to have one of the channels focus on the wealth of religious and spiritual programming that is generated in the City so that every one has a voice.
 
Los Angeles also is the center of music, culture and film in America, and we recognize the importance of this by focusing our third public channel on the arts and music.
 
No other city has produced the number of stellar athletes as we have as well as the major intellectual contributions made by the community our resident scientists, doctors, and lawyers. Therefore the fourth channel will focus on sports and education.
 
Where Will the Money Come From?

Under DIVCA legislation, a 1 percent Public-Educational-Government fee will come from cable-operator franchise fees paid to the City annually and is estimated to be about $5 million per year. These PEG funds are designated for capital costs, which is the largest portion of costs set forth in our proposal.

The City needs to approve these PEG funds for capital improvements and for the equipment required to run the four proposed studios. Operational costs are the biggest challenge, which suggests a plan for private and public support.
 
The PTIC Board of Advisors is made up of people from the business, financial, nonprofit, legal and entertainment communities. Our support base is large and representative of the city’s diversity, with outstanding leaders including former Police Commission President and UC Regent Stanley Sheinbaum, Emmy Award-winning actor and activist Edward Asner, former California Attorney General John Van DeKamp and Scott Minerd, CEO of Guggenheim Partners Asset Management, just to name a few.
 
The board has attracted many of Los Angeles’ leaders who are willing to join forces to support restoring four public channels. The City Council will be urged to take this one-time opportunity as elected officials to improve community relations between very diverse people, ethnically, religious, politically and economically.

At the same time, do it in a way retains revenues for the city and encourages our large base to actively fund-raise to sustain these four channels for decades to come.

The proposal describes the organization’s hopes and enthusiasm to work with the City Government to help make L.A. a better, brighter, stronger and safer place to live and where we all know each other through the magic of public television.