Re: Cable Access

From: 40 Frames (email suppressed)
Date: Tue Feb 13 2007 - 11:26:40 PST


I started by replying to all of your points/questions, but decided to
narrow my response to several of your comments. It seemed more convival to
the spirit of conversation.

> On Feb 12, 2007, at 3:49 PM, 40 Frames wrote:
>> More money won't fix the problem for Access, as the current issues
>> have to
>> do with mis-management of resources. More money would make the problem
>> worse.
> This seems like a rather perverse argument. In Chicago cable
> operators have deliberately withheld contributions they were required
> to make to access, more or less with impunity. Obviously having less
> money than you are supposed to have makes any management of resources
> problematic.

How about the example of large institutions, with state of the art
facilities for film/video presentation, that do little to show important
and challenging work on a broad basis (global narrative, ethno, exp, doc,
etc). Does more money mean they will change their tune and start taking
more risks? Perhaps.

If a resource is mis-managed it's not clear to me how more money will fix
the problem. The problems with access do not stem from a lack of money,
but a lack of imagination when it comes to training and programming.

Two people sitting and talking for an hour long TV program might have
seemed a worthy approach in the early 1980s because it could be done,
whereas the first 25 years of TV had prevented public involvement. Funny
thing is, it hasn't changed much for access programming in the last 25
years despite the fact that it is no longer novel.

(As a side note I will say that Cable Access in Portland cablecasts
programs with mono audio, since stereo is not currently an option, and
the signal is also significantly degraded by Comcast. Both of these
technical limitations imposed by the cable provider are good methods for
discourging participation.)

> But then, who would be the agent for change? Is there some kind of
> restriction on people getting involved in cable access in Portland?
> Is it just question of who shows up? Or are you saying that somehow
> access should just change because you don't like its current format
> and protocols?

It's partly a matter of who shows up, but it's also a failure on the part
of the organization to challenge the position of the mainstream media (the
local news affiliates, Oregon Public Broadcasting, etc). Access Centers
could be a catalyst for media reform but too often they become centers for
the application of technology under the guise of "neutrality".

The agent for change should involve a partnership of the access
organization and the community it portends to serve. If the organization
sits back and says here's all these resources and this is what the
community chooses to do with it, then it is ignoring the climate in which
media is created.

Broadcast media has total market saturation, and by extension dictates
what people consume as well as impacts what they choose to create. This
media monopoly has little concern or interest in democratic exchange, and
uses the public airwaves for private gain. Public Access has the
opportunity to challenge this authority, and to bring it into question,
yet its focus has been on providing access to technology without any
consideration for content.

I can see experimental film programs in Portland at the cinema, but
there's only about 35 of those a year (spread between Cinema Project, 40
Frames, NWFC, and various other organizations). None of these programs are
well publicized and NONE of the local press outlets have writers who are
passionate about supporting the work. This totals less than 60 hours of
programming on an annual basis for a city of over a million. The amount of
programming of critical documentaries is not much better, nor for
challenging narrative films. This is certainly not an issue of supply, and
I would also argue not a issue of demand.


Alain LeTourneau
Pamela Minty
425 SE 3rd, #400
Portland, OR 97214
United States

+1 503 231 6548
Skype ID: frames40
email suppressed

For info on FrameWorks, contact Pip Chodorov at <email suppressed>.