I got a glimpse at history last weekend when I, along with about 30 other registrants, attended the Austin Community Media Forum hosted by the city of Austin and the Austin Community Technology and Telecommunications Commission. Of the registrants, at least three were staff people and nine were invited speakers.
"I was hoping for a few more people outside of the choir," said former Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman, remarking on the dismal turnout. It's a shame, too, because the forum was a well-organized event that offered a bit of context surrounding Austin's community-access TV alongside pending legislation that affects all media.
I took away two vital pieces of information. First, a massive outreach by access advocates into the greater Austin community is needed, as is a reality check for those who carry the torch for public-access TV. You know this is true when folks keep bringing up names like the Armadillo World Headquarters to bookmark Austin's good old days. I do not mean to belittle its significance, but the Armadillo World Headquarters means nothing to me. And saying that access media is open to all, come on down, means nothing to the person who is holding down two or three jobs, is an essential caretaker for children or the elderly, or just plain doesn't want to make TV but needs and would value the information that could be shared there.
The truth is that culture is not static. Culture changes, and Austin has changed. The city is much more culturally, socially, and economically diverse than it was "back in the day," whatever that means to whomever says it. Austin is made up of several communities that sometimes intersect while engaged in a tacit agreement to remain segregated. But I digress.
The second vital piece of information I came away with was that some things shouldn't change: for instance, the understanding that an open and diverse media is essential to democracy. It's one thing to wave the free-speech flag; it's quite another to remind people who may otherwise feel sopped in media saturation of the vital difference between information generated by a media machine vs. that of those living and working in your city or ZIP code. More importantly, what does it mean to see what your neighbors in the next ZIP code are interested in, talking about, and concerned with and why? It goes beyond navel-gazing though the danger of that is evident it goes to the heart of understanding and respecting difference.
I could not stay for the afternoon breakout sessions, during which action plans were created. The outcome of those sessions will be made available to the public, according to Telecommunications & Regulatory Affairs manager Rondella Hawkins. In the meantime, the Austin Community Media forum was taped for airing on access TV. Call 478-8600 to find out when.
Other Local Bits
Knit chick, author, and TV hostess Vicki Howell checked in to say she's going to be knitting it up on The Today Show (NBC) Thursday, June 29. Also, new episodes of her DIY series Knitty Gritty air next month. Catch Knitty Gritty weekdays at 10:30am and 1pm on the DIY network (www.diynetwork.com).
KLRU's June on-air pledge drive canceled! Although public television and radio are targeted for federal budget cuts, local PBS affiliate KLRU has decided to heed viewers' requests for fewer on-air fund drives. But that doesn't mean they don't need help. The summer fundraising goal is $70,000. "Please consider renewing your membership or making an additional gift," KLRU President and CEO Bill Stotesbery asks so very nicely in his message to member supporters. So, how about it? Show your support at http://support.klru.org/site/R?i=1sOAtvgYcXsc58YqUySkBw.
The King of the Small Screen
The most prolific producer in TV history has died. Aaron Spelling produced more than 300 TV series and TV movies from the mid-1950s to the present. Although most of his series were not critically acclaimed, he had a knack for creating and I would even go so far as to say inventing the guilty pleasure. Charlie's Angels; Dynasty; Beverly Hills, 90210; Starsky & Hutch; The Mod Squad; and Fantasy Island are among his series that became part of the pop-culture landscape. Family (1976) was one notable exception, gaining critical praise for its unvarnished look at family life with equal measures of warmth and humor. A Dallas native, Spelling died in Los Angeles last week following a stroke earlier in the month.