The future of public access television in Indianapolis will be a serious topic of discussion at this month’s Cable Franchise Board meeting. The meeting will take place Monday, June 16 at 2:30 p.m. in Room 260 of the City-County Building, 200 E. Washington St. “What we’re trying to accomplish is to show that the current arrangement promising for the community to have a voice in cable access is not working,” said Andrea Price, founder and president of Public Access Indiana (PAI), a not-for-profit group dedicated to improving local cable access in the area.
Under franchise agreements signed by both of the major cable operators in the city, Bright House and Comcast, the operators are required to provide a minimum of 25 hours a week of local community interest programming (LCIP). Bright House has stated to the board that their partnership with WDNI-65 fulfills that obligation.
Price said that she and the members of PAI believe that the music video-heavy format of WDNI-65 does not fulfill these needs. Price pointed to the dwindling number of local producers as proof of the problem. She said that according to her research, 53 separate groups were producing regular local programming for broadcast in 1993. It was 26 in 2001, and currently nine.
The specific issue on the agenda is the establishment and continuation of an advisory committee to oversee these issues. The agreement signed by Bright House further calls for an LCIP advisory committee made up of cable operators and not-for-profit groups to meet at least twice a year “to discuss and resolve programming and operational issues related to the presentation of Local Community Interest Programming.”
Price said that in the seven years since the agreement was established, the advisory group has only met once.
According to the minutes of the April 21 board meeting, board member Peter Blum proposed to convene the Local Community Interest Programming Advisory Committee under the umbrella of the cable agency. “I think what’s going to happen is a committee is going to be formed by the cable operators,” Blum said. “This has been an issue at several of our board meetings. We had to ask the operators to form this committee.” Price said PAI intends to present a plan to establish a not-for-profit organization to administer public access on the cable dial using space at the city’s disposal.
Price said she intends for this meeting to be a strong opportunity for supporters of public access to speak out. “At the last meeting, the cable operators said, ‘We haven’t heard anything about this from the community,’ and it was kind of a challenge to the community to come and speak out,” Price said.
Public Access Indiana: www.indyaccess.org
Cable Franchise Board and Cable Communications: www.indygov.org/cable