On this page
 
Mark Welsch's tracking of lost programming on KPAO
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Repeated messages from Linda Ryan, a concerned viewer. Ryan's questions never received what she considered meaningful answers
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Willie Hamilton's post describing the importance of what is now missing from public access
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Mark Welsch's attempt to persuade CTAC to include the public and to keep Democracy Now! in the lineup
  
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Sources: Omaha World-Herald TV Guide, and Omaha City Council website
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November 17, 2013
 
To:
 
Charles Cogar
John Fullerton
Dennis Lee
Drew Theophilus
Buck Weyerman
 
Gentlemen:
 
Almost one month ago on Oct. 23, 2013, I sent an email to each of you with questions and concerns I have regarding the changes that have taken place with KPAO Ch. 22 since the City took over its management and operation from Cox Cable.  To date, I have not received a reply from any of you except for a "read receipt" from your CTAC board president, John Fullerton.
 
I have no reason to believe that the remaining four of you did not receive my email too, so why hasn't one of you responded and answered my queries?  I put considerable thought and time into my email to you, and I believe my concerns and questions are valid and clearly stated.
 
As members of CTAC, you make decisions that impact the quality of programs on the public access channel, as well as the degree of accessibility that members of the public have to produce and/or present programs on the channel.  It follows that you should seek public input and respond to the public's concerns and questions regarding public access TV in our community.  Currently, correspondence via letters or phone conversations is the only opportunity for the public to have questions addressed.  As you know, at regular CTAC board meetings the public may be allowed to speak before the board, but the board neither responds nor answers any questions.  That definitely needs to be changed so that the CTAC board interacts with the public whose interests it is supposed to be serving.  It works for the Douglas County Board, why not CTAC?
 
Meanwhile, once again I am requesting--and still awaiting--a reply and answers from one of you on the board to the issues and questions I raised in my earlier email.  You may reply by email to me at this address.  For your convenience, a copy of my Oct. 23 email to you follows below.
 
Linda Ryan 
 
(Following letter sent earlier:) 
 

October 23, 2013

 

Cable Television Access Corporation (CTAC) Board

Charles Cogar

John Fullerton

Dennis Lee

Drew Theophilus

Buck Weyerman

 

To the members of the CTAC board:

 

It is almost the first of November 2013, and in my opinion a “new and improved” KPAO public access TV channel (Cox Ch. 22) has failed to materialize in the approximate year’s time since the City agreed to take over its management and operation from Cox Cable.  First a slew of programs of questionable quality and/or relevancy were dumped on Ch. 22 from Ch. 109 earlier in the year.  Then Ch. 22’s live, call-in programs (most prominently, Sen. Ernie Chambers’ show, which I imagine had the biggest following on the channel) were eliminated.   What is going on?

 

I am very much disappointed and dismayed by the direction Ch. 22 programming is heading, and I have a number of questions and concerns that I would like you, as CTAC board members, to address by responding to this email:

 

1) Is live, call-in programming ever going to return to Ch. 22?  Most importantly, is Sen. Ernie Chambers’ program coming back?

            --I’ve heard that the new studio that was built to air Ch. 22 programs has new equipment that would easily facilitate live, call-in programs, but that the new station manager and staff do not know how to use it.  Is that true?  And if it is true, are they taking instruction in how to use it?  It is ridiculous to have a manager and staff incapable of using studio equipment, and the CTAC board should immediately replace them with people who have appropriate knowledge and experience.

            --If failure to adequately use studio equipment is not the reason that live call-in shows have ended, then what is the reason?  Was there a shift in policy to eliminate live, call-in shows?  If so, who originated such a policy?  I cannot fathom that the CTAC board itself would actually formulate such a policy, and I’m suspicious that this decision has its roots in the City Council staff, if not from someone on the City Council itself.  Especially with regard to Sen. Chambers’ show, it wouldn’t surprise me if this policy was pushed through by one Council member in particular in an attempt to censor Sen. Chambers’ live, call-in show.

 

2) In the absence of live programs, Ch. 22 now airs only programs that were taped and submitted at least a week in advance.

            --Who originated this policy?  Again, I cannot fathom that the CTAC board would fabricate this policy, nor have I been able to find any minutes of CTAC meetings that indicate such.  So who was it?  A reply email I received from Tom Mumgaard earlier this year to questions about Ch. 22 makes me wonder if he was behind it, or perhaps Dean Miller?  Was it station manager Jim Nelson?  Or was it someone on the City Council?  Who?  Why?

--I understand those who originally had live, call-in shows have been directed to submit recorded versions of their programs at least a week in advance, just as anyone else who wants to air a program on Ch. 22.  This is insanity.  Do you really think week-old, pre-recorded versions of these shows reflect quality, timely and relevant public access TV programming?

 

3) Now it appears that all programs on Ch. 22 cannot run any longer than 30 minutes in length each, following a “grid” schedule.  When I try to watch a normally hour-long program like Democracy Now, only a half hour of the show is aired.  It would be laughable if it weren’t so totally absurd!  Who originated such a restrictive policy?  The appearance of Councilman Ben Gray at CTAC’s Oct. 21, 2013, board meeting, where he “recommended” that the 30-minute scheduling grid not be altered, strongly suggests that he likely concocted the policy and is pressuring the board to follow it.  Wasn’t Gray the one who also advocated for what is now a City ordinance, fabricated with Tom Mumgaard’s assistance, prohibiting “producers” of Ch. 22 programs from serving on the CTAC board?  Both of these measures are contrary to the purpose and goals of public access TV.  Both appear to be thinly veiled attempts to stifle and control content of programs that Councilman Gray finds personally offensive to him.  It’s no secret to anyone who has watched several of the live, call-in shows previously aired on Ch. 22—such as Sen. Chambers’ show or Frank Brown’s show—that Gray was frequently criticized for his actions and behavior while holding public office.  I think Gray has ulterior motives—and definitely a conflict in interest—in advocating such policies which ultimately have a negative impact on the quality of public access TV the public is getting.  The CTAC board should not be a rubber stamp for any agenda that Ben Gray might have—or anyone else on the City Council or with the City, for that matter.  You are supposed to represent the interests of the public, not politicians!

--Additionally, limiting programs to 30 minutes is even more absurd when you consider that a large portion of Ch. 22 broadcast time is devoted to a series of largely nonsense video clips and poorly produced KPAO station self-promos.  I’ve even seen ads for private businesses (which I thought were clearly not allowed on public access TV).  These continue ad nauseum and many are repeated over and over.  My point is that Ch. 22 obviously has the air time to allow genuine programs, such as Sen. Chambers’ show or Democracy Now, to run a full hour or more.  With all the “filler” material being plugged in between real programs, it appears that the new station manager is not doing his job, which includes assisting people in the community in producing actual, relevant shows.  Isn’t that part of his contract?  You as CTAC board members are not doing your job if you allow the 30-minute program restriction and the mindless filler material that permeates Ch. 22 programming to continue.

 

4) Why isn’t there an accurate and descriptive listing of Ch.22 programs printed in the Omaha World Herald daily and weekly guides for TV programs?  Who is responsible for getting that done?  How can you expect people to watch public access TV programs if their schedule is a mystery?  When I watch TV, I don’t log on to my computer to look up program listings, I check my handy newspaper guide--and I’m positive many other viewers do the same.  The OWH weekly guide still lists repeats of Ernie Chambers’ shows on Saturday nights—which haven’t been on for months!  I personally spoke with the OWH employee responsible for preparing the TV listings for print.  She said that the OWH contracts with a private service that keeps tabs on TV programs viewed in Omaha.  All it should take is contacting this service (I’m sure the OWH would provide contact info) and providing an updated list of programs for KPAO (not CTI) Ch. 22.

--When I do check listings online, I’ve found that they are either not accurate or so vague they are worthless, especially the KPAO Ch. 22 schedule.  While it lists specific half-hour programs by title, it designates the long string of “filler” video clips, promos, etc. generically as Omaha Local Program” which can apply to three or four hours at a time!  A viewer doesn’t have a clue as to what type of programs will actually be aired during all that time.

 

5) Why are there so many religious shows on Ch. 22?  Not that there’s anything wrong with religious programming, but why aren’t they aired on the Cox religious channel, Ch. 2?  Surely, there are many more possibilities for public access programming besides religious programs.  Isn’t that supposed to be the station manager’s job to do community outreach and recruit/assist people in producing good and varied programming that appeals to many interests?

 

6) Why are all the CTAC board members now appointed at large rather than appointed to coincide with the City Council districts as it used to be?  Who drew up that policy?  Was it a CTAC board member’s recommendation or did it originate from someone with the City?  Appointing board members at large makes it too easy to choose members from a “preferred” area or group of citizens in the City, and discourages true diversity reflective of the needs and wants of those in the entire community.

 

7) Why aren’t CTAC board meetings aired on Ch. 22?  They should air live, but should also be rerun at more convenient hours for later viewing.  Attending CTAC meetings at 4 p.m. in Downtown Omaha isn’t an option for many people, myself included.  Please start airing live and rebroadcasts of your meetings and soon.

 

8) Finally, how many of you on the CTAC board have actually spent real time watching any recent KPAO programming for any sustained length of time on Cox Ch. 22?  Have you checked the channel at random times during the day or evening or late at night like I have?  Because if you have, and you still think the KPAO public access TV channel is “new and improved” from CTI Ch. 22, then I seriously question your commitment to advocate in my behalf (as a paying Cox cable customer, I should add) for public access TV in Omaha.

 

I hope you will take my concerns seriously, and that at least one of you will take the time to address them in a response to me, just as I’ve taken considerable time to write about them to you.  Until then, I look forward to a reply. 

 

Linda Ryan

 

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November 18, 2013

 

To: Linda Ryan
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2013 2:59 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Still waiting for your reply about KPAO Ch. 22

Hello Linda,

My name is Dean Miller and I work on the city council staff and the CTAC Board.  You have asked alot of questions and I can answer them for you.  At your convenience, you can give me a call at (402) 444-5519.

Dean Miller
City Council Staff
(402) 444-5519


On Mon, Nov 18, 2013 at 1:03 PM, John Fullerton <FullertonJ@rtbs.org> wrote to Dean Miller:

This was the woman who was supposed to get a response from staff. It was a very long letter. I’m guessing you haven’t had time to do it.

John

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November 18, 2013
From: Linda Ryan
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2013 3:27 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Still waiting for your reply about KPAO Ch. 22

Thank you, but I prefer to get the answers from one of the actual board members who were appointed by the City Council to the CTAC board.  And, I prefer to get them in writing.  In past years, I've received some responses to my other queries (by phone or in writing) from others on the City staff such as Tom Mumgaard, Warren Weaver or Rod Austen.  However, while some of my questions may have been answered, others were selectively ignored or I was given a typically politically evasive reply.  With all due respect, I do not believe that you speak for the board or that you can accurately reflect their views on all of the issues I've raised.  Surely, someone on the CTAC board knows what I am referring to in my email and can address my concerns, without punting it off to a City staff member (it's not as if they are being inundated with queries from the public about the public access channel!).  They are the ones appointed to the CTAC board to oversee and direct the public access channel and are the ones in charge...or aren't they?
 
Linda Ryan
 
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November 18, 2013
 
To: Linda Ryan
Sent: Monday, November 18, 2013 3:47 PM
Subject: Re: FW: Still waiting for your reply about KPAO Ch. 22

The CTAC Board is in charge and have put policies and procedures for the staff to carry out on a day to day basis.  I apologize for the delay but some of this is complicated.  For instance,  (1) I can advise you that Senator Ernie Chambers has sent the "City of Omaha" a cease and desist letter from showing any of his programs on the public access channel. (2) we are in the process of building a new studio and during the interim so we are showing repeats until the new studio is built and producers can get in and start shooting new material, (3) the CTAC Board has implemented a 30 minute schedule with a programming matrix to accommodate the over 130 new producers who have signed up to use the studio, (4) a list of the program schedule can be retrieved by following this link:
(5) not sure about your question on religious shows but the new programming matrix has over 15 new varieties of programming as the CTAC Board wants to encourage programming surrounded around Omaha People, Omaha Culture and the Omaha Community (6) the Omaha City Council passed an Ordinance changing how the Board is selected (7) CTAC meeting could be aired in the future and has been discussed but could not be live since there is not a fiber line to channel 22 (only channel 18) (8) I watch channel 22 all the time.

If you would like more information, I can be contacted at (402) 444-5519.

Dean Miller
City Council Staff
(402) 444-5519
 
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December 9, 2013
 
To the members of the CTAC board:
 
Charles Cogar
John Fullerton
Dennis Lee
Rudolph Smith
Drew Theophilus
Buck Weyerman
Mary Williams
 
First, I want to thank Mr. Smith for actually composing an email to me in which he acknowledged that he had read my questions about KPAO public access Ch. 22 (which I sent for the second time on Nov. 18, 2013, in emails to each CTAC board member).  He was the only member to do so.  He wrote that he had asked CTAC president, Mr. Fullerton, to review my concerns and respond.  However, Mr. Smith must not have known that Mr. Fullerton, upon receiving my Nov. 18 email, had already forwarded my questions to City Council staff member Dean Miller.  It appears that Mr. Miller (or someone on staff) was supposed to respond in behalf of the CTAC board back in October after I originally had sent my queries on Oct. 23, 2013--for whatever reason, it was never done.
 
I then received an email from Mr. Miller saying he'd answer my questions by phone if I called him at my convenience.  I responded back saying I'd prefer that someone on the board respond and in writing.  I explained that I wanted to avoid the kind of typical staff response like I had gotten in previous years when I'd written to the CTAC board on various other public access issues: Too many evasive answers and some questions were ignored outright.  Mr. Miller then sent me yet another email, in which he proceeded to "respond" to my questions anyway.  In no way does his response even begin to address my concerns adequately--just as I suspected it wouldn't.
 
Mr. Miller used evasive tactics and selectively ignored questions:  I didn't ask why Sen. Chambers' shows aren't being rerun (and Sen. Chambers is absolutely right to stop KPAO from running old shows)--I want to know when his 1 1/2 hour live, call-in show is coming back and what you on the CTAC board are doing to bring back the best-viewed program local public access TV ever had.  Don't make excuses that you're still building a new studio blah blah, which began back in February 2013 and I understood would be ready by end of March 2013, then delayed to June 2013, etc.--really?  Don't make excuses for a 30-minute scheduling matrix for some 130 phantom programs (like what?)--which, I wonder, how will 130 producers be accommodated when the KPAO studio is open just a mere 28 hours a week?  And I don't care if Mr. Miller watches Ch. 22 "all the time" (I doubt it)--I want to know if anyone on the board watches Ch. 22 often enough to understand the problems I mention and to make informed decisions?
 
I've copied Mr. Miller's emails to me and mine to him (below), along with Mr. Fullerton's email.  Surely, if the CTAC board asks a City Council staff member to respond to questions such as mine, wouldn't someone on the board--at least the board president--review the response to make sure all of the questions and concerns are addressed?  To make sure the answers are accurate?  Did you see Mr. Miller's response before he sent it to me, and were you OK with it?  You shouldn't be.
 
So once again, I'm writing to the CTAC board.  I am asking once again that all of my questions be considered and each one answered, period.  They are valid concerns for anyone who cares about the direction public access TV is taking in Omaha, and they deserve answers.  I've attached the questions originally sent on Oct. 23, 2013, yet again to this email.  You don't answer questions at your board meetings, so when do you address concerns by the public?  I'm trying to understand why any of you would agree to serve on CTAC--particularly those three of you who have been on the board for a couple of decades--if you have no intention of interracting with the public whose interests you supposedly represent.  Maybe you're just following orders from the City Council that appointed you:  Staff will formulate policies and regulations governing public access TV, and all the CTAC board has to do is be a rubber stamp.  Is that what's going on here?
 
Linda Ryan
 
 

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From former producer, Willie Hamilton

Many of the shows -- Senator Chambers' show and others -- on the old public access are now not being shown.

In the following post from Political Insiders Report, Willie Hamilton, who had a show on the old channel, mentions some of the issues that have been discussed on the old public access programs. Many of these issues are poorly covered, or ignored entirely, by other media outlets.

Is Freedom of Speech at Stake in Omaha, Nebraska? 

By Willie Hamilton
January 6, 2013

Is freedom of speech at stake in Omaha Nebraska? Freedom of speech is the political right to communicate ones opinions and ideas.  CTI Channel 22, Public Access Television has had a long history of programs hosted by those who practice the right of freedom of speech. These individual programs are at stake and their voices are trying to be silenced due to their views and opinions surrounding certain issues.

Some see these program hosts as outspoken activists who have negative views regarding political leaders and organizations, as well as other powers that be that are here in the city of Omaha.

There are current program hosts on CTI 22 who have for many years openly criticized the Omaha City Council members, Omaha Chief of Police, the Mayor of Omaha, Nebraska State Senator’s etc., regarding controversial issues such as; Police Misconduct and brutality, Voter suppression bills (LB239), Police Oversight, The Gang Assessment Report, Immigration, political reasons that a state senator was arrested and not charged properly, illegal guns flowing into the community and the police and fire unions contracts and the attempted but failed recall of Mayor Suttle. I could go on and on with the list of controversial issues discussed on CTI 22 but that would be redundant.  I believe that the content on CTI 22 has many times affected the outcome of local elections, but that is what Public Access Television and Freedom of Speech is meant to do. For such a system to work, an informed electorate is necessary. In order to be appropriately knowledgeable, there must be no constraints on the free flow of information and ideas.

Some in the community believe the possible demise of Public Access Television will have a positive effect on certain individuals running for office who have not been represented favorably on CTI 22.

When this is all said and done, there will still be programming on Channel 22.  Approximately 1 year ago, each city council member appointed 1 person to serve on an advisory board who will be responsible for the new format and the new programming which will be PEG (Public, Education, Governmental Access) programming. This will begin March 1, 2013.

None of the selected advisory board members were hosts from CTI 22. There were hosts from Channels 17, 18 and 109 who were selected to serve on this board.  I would also like to note that there has been no Latino representation on this advisory board even though CTI 22 has 7 or 8 weekly programs that are hosted by persons from the Latino/Latina community.

Because of the lack of transparency on the part of the City and the advisory board and the non-existent community input, it leaves us with the perception that this is politically motivated and this is all about shutting down our voices.

At the top of this article, I asked the question “Is freedom of speech at stake in Omaha Nebraska”? I answer that with a resounding YES. Not only here in Omaha, but across the United States. Evidence will show how public access is being taken away in numerous cities across this country. Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference and everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice (Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political rights). 

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From Nebraskans for Peace Co-Ordinator, Mark Welsch

To: Tammy.Biodrowski@ci.omaha.ne.us

Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2013 8:39 AM

Subject: Keep the Public in Public Access TV

Dear Tammy,

Please make this letter to all of the CTAC board members, a part of the official record of your meeting on Monday, November 18, 2013.

Before you vote on any changes to your Policies and Procedures, I think you should always publish those proposed changes at least a week before you vote. I understand this did not happen before your meeting on Monday, November 18, 2013. No document that shows what changes are to be considered has been given to the public. Only a few people have been given a copy of a 22-page document that does not show what is new or deleted from the current Policies and Procedures.

More importantly, these proposed changes have not been given to all of the Producers and Programmers who provide TV shows to play on your KPAO station. These are the very important people who will be most directly impacted by any changes you make. I think you should do everything you can to get input from the Producers and Programmers on any proposed changes before you vote on them.

I would like Democracy Now! to be returned to its full one-hour time slot five days per week. CTAC staff has taken time away from individual programmers. They have shortened the program time to one half hour, and they propose to limit programmers to one program per week. This has been done in spite of the lack of available programming: Channel 22 only has enough new local programming to fill 18% of the available time. KPAO is filling 82% of their time with reruns and archival footage, some of which is repeated several times every day of the week.

I urge you to turn on KPAO in your home and let it play as you do other things. You will be able to see the same "filler" shows being repeated in one day. This redundancy causes people to turn the station off.

Until there is "competition" for air time on KPAO, you should encourage programmers to submit more than one show per week, allow the church programs to return to their original hour length and allow Democracy Now! to be played for an hour every weekday, Monday through Friday at 4:00 p.m.

In Peace and Justice,
Mark Welsch, Omaha Coordinator
Nebraskans for Peace
P.O. Box 6418
Omaha, NE 68106
402-453-0776
NFPOmaha@nebraskansforpeace.org
www.nebraskansforpeace.org
https://www.facebook.com/NebraskansforPeace