October 23, 2013
Cable Television Access Corporation (CTAC) Board
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.
November 18, 2013
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.
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).
From Nebraskans for Peace Co-Ordinator, Mark Welsch
Sent: Saturday, November 16, 2013 8:39 AM
Subject: Keep the Public in Public Access TV
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