Worried About Cable Access

RECEIVED Tue., Aug. 17, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The city council has authorized city staff to begin talks with Time Warner concerning the Austin Music Network and ACTV. This may be the beginning of the process of taking Channel 15 away from AMN, merging AMN with ACTV, and freeing up Channel 15 for Time Warner's own commercial use.
   From all we have heard about the proposed changes, they would completely destroy what makes our current agreement one that upholds our First Amendment right of free speech. Under the proposed new restructuring, there will be limits to what each producer may broadcast, as their message content must be pigeonholed into one of three newly created content formats.
   This is in direct conflict with the present rules established by the Austin Cable Commission which state that the producer, not the city, its officials, or the managers of ACTV is responsible for program content.
   These proposed changes have been presented to us by the ACTV board of directors as a way of enhancing quality programming and making the airwaves safe for the children. But this is a sugar coating on the reality of how it will affect public access TV. It sets up a relationship where the sponsors of public access television may, first, have control over its content, and then ultimately acquire the stations for themselves.
   AMN is being used as a battering ram for Time Warner to acquire more assets while eliminating the dissenting voice of public access television. There will then be fewer public access news programs to expose the corporate corruption rampant in outfits such as Time Warner. If the city of Austin goes along with this, ACTV will no longer reflect the free speech of the citizens of Austin, and there will no longer be true public access television in Austin.
Marie D'Orazio
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