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Montague Cable Advisory Committee
mik - Thu, Aug 26, 2004, 12:00 A
MCAC Minutes 8/24/04
Minutes from the Montague Cable Advisory Committee (MCAC) Meeting on 8/24/04
Present: John Reynolds, Mike Naughton, Roy Rosenblatt, Chris Sawyer-Lauçanno
Absent: Sophie Libby

Chair, John Reynolds, called the meeting to order at 7:05 p.m.

The first item on the agenda was approval of the minutes from the 8/3/04 meeting. Mike offered a correction, stating that he did not recall saying that he would speak to members of local access organizations. Instead, he said that he would email representatives from GCTV and MCTV. With the correction, the minutes were accepted unanimously. In addition, all agreed that the minutes should be posted on the website, and, when the town finally has a viable website, on the towns site as well.

The second item on the agenda was a report by John Reynolds regarding Comcasts response to his request for 1) information on the feasibility of new drop and uplinks; 2) a cable map; 3) mailing as enclsure in Comcast bills of subscriber survey. John reported that Mr. Fitzgibbons was taking all matters under advisement, and would respond shortly.

The third item on the agenda was a report on Chris house counting of the Chestnut Hill roads to determine whether there were a sufficient number of houses to request Comcast to install cable. Chris reported that his survey revealed that there were not sufficient houses within any one aerial mile stretch of road but that if East and West Chestnut Hill Roads were combined it might be possible to make a case. His report is attached (Appendix A).

The fourth item on the agenda was a report by committee members on their research of information related to local access issues.

John noted that Sophie had had no success obtaining information from the schools regarding what they desired from the local access provider.

Mike emailed and received responses from board members and producers at both GCTV and MCTV, as well as input from corkboard users. He noted that there was general agreement from both GCTV and MCTV that local access meant PEG (Public Education Government) access, and that the role of local access stations was to train the community in the use of equipment, production techniques and to provide a forum for programming of community issues.

In addition, Mike surfed the net to determine what the government mandate for local access was, and what other local access providers were doing. He reported that he discovered few real guidelines beyond the importance that local providers provide PEG access. He did, however, add that many of the local stations cited the first amendment as a rationale for not censoring material beyond generally accepted community standards, and that, most stations considered local access to be a soap box for airing ideas and issues. How these stations run, who runs them, and their links to town government were questions difficult to determine. Most of the local access providers he looked at seemed to be 501C corporations, but in some cases the towns themselves ranor at least oversawoperations.

In response to Mike, Roy noted that South Hadley ran its own station. In this connection he noted that the Cable Advisory Committee itself could, in fact, run the local access station. No one on the committee seemed eager to take on this task.

Further discussion centered on who develops policies and procedures for local access providers. Roy stated that in most cases with which he was familiar the provider developed these, with advice from town government or cable advisory committees.

Mike stated that the FCC mandate for local access was very open as to what policies, programs and procedures should be. Jeff Singleton, present in the audience, took exception to Mikes notion that the FCC mandated local access, and said that, in fact, the mandate from the 1970s had been overturned by a ruling in the late 80s. In response, Mike suggested that even if the mandate had been overturned, local access was already firmly in place; however, he believed that the 94 or 96 Telecommunications Act restored the mandate. The conclusion was that local accessmandated or notwas in place all over the country, and that despite many government guidelines, most local access stations subscribed to the PEG ruling.

This discussion then spiraled into the relationship between Comcast and the local access provider. Roy stated that Comcast does not oversee local access, the town does. John , however, pointed out that the Comcast contract with Montague does contain some general provisions regarding local access, that are not in the standard Comcast contract. In response to Chris question as to how these got there, no one was sure, though John stated that these were not part of the original agreement and had been added presumably by the Selectboard.

This then led to the question of the Letter of Intent that the Town signed with GCTV. John asked if anyone knew what the common practice was in other towns. Again, no one could offer much information, though Roy did state that Amherst had a contact with Amherst Community TV, not a Letter of Intent. He also noted that ACTV was awarded this contract through an RFP bidding process. Mike went on record stating that he felt Montague should follow Amherst in this regard, noting that for an assignment worth $65,000 to $70,000 the Town should have a contract with the provider. Chris agreed, noting that there was a major difference between a Letter of Intent and a contract. A contract, Chris said, is authored by the town; a letter of intent is authored by the provider. John and Roy concurred with both Mike and Chris that a future assignment should be by contract rather than letter of intent.

Chris next reported on his surfing of local access web sites to discover what these stations put forth as their mission statements. His report is attached (Appendix B). In general, he echoed Mikes findings that most local access stations expressed a commitment to PEG programming, as well as training the community in production techniques. He agreed to pass on to CAC members his electronic links to local access sites.

In response to Chris report, John brought up the issue of the CAC writing a mission statement. Roy stated that he thought this was not the CACs job; rather, the provider should write its own mission statement. John agreed, but suggested that the CAC should provide some specifications as to what the mission statement should contain. All agreed, with Mike noting that he felt the CAC should develop a two-tier approach. The first tier should consist of general specifications; the second could involve more detailed requests.

The next item on the agenda was a response to Chris draft of the Cable Subscriber Survey. Mike said he felt some additional questions were necessary involving level of service and type of connectiondigital or cable. He said he would send on his specific suggestions to Chris by email. There was also considerable discussion of format and type size so that a fairly long survey could fit in the Comcast bill. Mike also asked John if he would contact Comcast to see whether a one-page survey could be included. [Since the meeting John learned that Comcast will not be able to send out a survey.]

The last item on the agenda was a discussion of the charge from the Selectboard regarding setting criteria for a possible RFP. Jeff Singleton, present in the audience, asked about a timetable. Roy responded that bidders generally had 30 to 45 days to respond to an RFP; that at least 6 weeks were needed between the time of issuing an RFP and making a decision on which bidder should be awarded the assignment. He also noted that the AGs Office had RFP forms. He felt that the CAC could and should, at the very least, develop the specifications for what the town wanted from its local access provider, and that public hearings should be held to help determine these criteria. John asked whether these hearings should be held before or after the CAC had done its initial formulation. A consensus was reached that the CAC should come up with a set of draft specifications that would be presented to the public. The question then arose as to whether the bidders would be able to make public presentations. Roy cautioned that the Town had to be careful about not deviating from the specific regulations contained in MASS Law Chapter 30B if public presentations were to be allowed. Mike noted that he felt public presentations were needed, and hoped that we could have them without violating any of the provisions of Chapter 30B. In the end a general consensus was reached that the CAC draft at the next meeting a set of specific guidelines for what we expect from a local access provider. In this regard, Mike had some specific suggestions: 1) that the future provider report to the CAC; 2) that if the CAC were to recommend an RFP and if the Selectboard agrees, and if the contract should be awarded to someone other than GCTV, that GCTV be given ample time to disengage; 3) that a new contract should be put in place to coincide with the quarterly payout from Comcast.

The next meeting of the CAC will be held on September 14, at 7:00 p.m. in the Great Hall at the Discovery Center in Turners Falls.

The meeting was adjourned at 8:57 p.m.

Respectfully Submitted,

Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno, Recording Secretary, MCAC

APPENDIX A to 8/24/04 MCAC Minutes

Chestnut Hill Roads Residence Count

On August 10th, my granddaughter, Imogene Pruitt-Spence, and I made a count of houses on the various Chestnut Hill Roads (East Chestnut, West Chestnut, and Chestnut Hill Loop) to determine eligibility for cable. According to the Comcast contract, the criteria is that there be at least twenty residences within one aerial mile.

Our findings:

East Chestnut: 23 houses over 1 and 5/10 of a mile.

West Chestnut, from Spaulding Brook Road to the intersection of East Chestnut, and Chestnut Hill Loop: 9 houses within 8/10th of a mile.

Chestnut Hill Loop: 8 houses within 9/10 of a mile.

Our conclusion is that only East Chestnut is perhaps eligible for cable hookup. Even then, the problem is that within a one-mile segment, there are not sufficient houses to make this road clearly eligible. Again, the need of a cable map is essential, as its unclear who, where the cable line ends. As for Chestnut Hill Loop, because it does not seem to fulfill the stated criteria of aerial mile, it would not seem to qualify for tabulation purposes as an additional connecting point to any of the other Chestnut Hill Roads. If West Chestnut was counted along with East Chestnut, a better case could perhaps be made, but again density is still an issue

I feel the best strategy to pursue would be to ask Comcast to do a count. Because of the cluster of houses at the intersection of West Chestnut, East Chestnut and Chestnut Hill Loop, they might feel it worth running cable into the area.

Christopher Sawyer-Lauçanno
MCAC member

Appendix B to MCAC Minutes of 8/4/04

A Compilation of Local Access Mission Statements

Over the last couple of weeks I have compiled the following series of mission statements from a variety of local access stations. Although there are differences between each providers statements, there are also many similarities. The salient points seem to be these:
Local access is localby and for the citizens of each of the towns.
PEG programming is a major emphasis for all these stations.
Training is a key element to encourage, retain and foster citizen participation.
Diversity in views and programs are essential.

I begin with a dictionary definition of public access, then provide a collection of mission statements.
Public Access: The availability of television or radio broadcast facilities, as provided by law, for use by the public for presentation of programs, as those of community interest. (American Heritage Dictionary)

Mission StatementInternational Open Channel Organization
Community or public access television is still a quite unknown alternative to privately or government run commercial or public service television. However, this local television "run by the citizens for the citizens" is now expanding in several countries. Some of the reasons might be that fully-professionalized television has become too much streamlined with a heavy load of an one-way information and entertainment output depriving the viewer of the communication process. Community channels provide an electronic forum to express social and political concerns, as well as the opportunity to share valuable information with friends and neighbors. There is a need to put television in the hands of the common citizen.

Amherst Cable Television operates Public, Educational and government access television channels serving Amherst and Pelham. It is an organization dedicated to meeting the communitys interests and needs for the arts, education, community events, local government and informational programming through access to community media, training in the use of that media and the transmission of programs over appropriate technologies. The public access channel is based upon the publics right to freedom of speech. The Public, Educational and Government Access Television channels are Amherst and Pelhams only local television channels.

Our Mission...
FCTV (Falmouth Cable TV) is an independent, non-profit corporation, governed by a volunteer Board of Directors drawn from the Falmouth community, whose mission is to help all Falmouth citizens and institutions realize their potential through the medium of cable television, and to encourage and facilitate their fullest participation in the production and distribution of quality programming by and for the Falmouth community.
FCTV is committed to fostering a welcoming and empowering environment where Falmouth citizens may obtain hands-on training in video production techniques and media literacy, and enjoy free access to professional television equipment for the purpose of creating community programming that provides a unique, valuable, and locally-relevant option in non-commercial programming.
Public Access television can be an invaluable tool for strengthening expression, communication, understanding, and appreciation of diversity in a community, and to this end FCTV is especially committed to providing non-discriminatory access to the television medium to all Falmouth citizens and institutions.

Athol"Orange Community Television, Inc. is a nonprofit cablecasting corporation that is dedicated to community improvement and enrichment through responsible, diverse and informative programming. It is the commitment of the corporation to involve and train people of all ages who live or work in the Athol or Orange communities to become members or program producers, bringing issues and happenings of the area to all Athol and Orange viewers.

BATV General Information:
Billerica Access Television is a non-profit, non-commercial access television facility whose mission is to encouorage open extensive communication through BATV while promoting diversity and responsibility. BATV provides production resources, training, and time on the Public, Educational, and Governmental access channels. The facilities are provided exclusively for the production and presentation of non-commercial television programming of interest and / or benefit to the residents of Billerica. BATV’s Community Bulletin Board is available to individuals and organizations to publicize non-commercial activities and events.
You’ll have access to change what is viewed on TV. Use the power of TV to meet goals that are important to you.

Easthampton Community Access Television, Channel 5, offers the resource to anyone who lives or works in the town of Easthampton to learn to produce their own television program, airing on our own local cable channel. Whether you want to present an oral history project about Easthampton, document local sports, present a theater or music production, the only things which limit what you can learn and do are your time and your imagination. So, stop complaining about what television is and help make it something you want to see!

Somerville Community Access Televisions mission is to provide a public access media center that enables a vibrant, diverse, and evolving community to express its creativity, explain its ideas, share its cultures, and embrace the individuals right to freedom of speech. SCAT supports and promotes television and other multimedia productions, with community-driven content, through education and training, facilities and equipment, and production assistance. Through SCAT, Somerville becomes a stronger, better-informed, and a more open community.

Greenfield Community Television, Inc is the public access station serving Greenfield and Montague, Massachusetts. GCTV is currently seen by viewers in Greenfield, Montague, Gill, Buckland and Shelburne. Celebrating 12 years on-the-air, with an ever-growing list of volunteer producers from throughout Franklin County, GCTV produces weekly live coverage of the Montague Selectmen’s meetings, live coverage of the Montague Town Meetings, bi-weekly live coverage of the Greenfield Town Council and Greenfield School Committee, and quarterly meetings of the Franklin Regional Council of Governments. GCTV offers a variety of equipment for use by Community Producers in two locations. In Greenfield, equipment and facilities include:
- A fully equipped three-camera main production studio with 24 channels of audio;
- A/B Roll editing with NewTek’s Video Toaster (Edit 1);
- Cuts editing with SCALA titling software (Edit 2);
- Digital non-linear editing using DVRex RT by Canopus (Edit 3);
- Field production equipment including S-VHS and MiniDV cameras;
- Portable light and sound kits, as well as portable production units.
Additionally, GCTV operates Crocker Studios in downtown Turners Falls, providing residents of Montague and Gill with
- A 3-camera studio with 12 channels of audio;
- Cuts editing using Newtek’s Video Toaster for titles;
- Variety of field equipment available for check-out.
Training classes are held on a regular schedule in both Montague and Greenfield -- please drop us an e-mail for more information, or to sign up for a class.
Greenfield Community Television is building a brand new, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Greenfield. The new "Victoria Studios" will be built on the site of the historic Victoria Theater, which was razed in 1998.

Cambridge Community Television is a public forum for all Cambridge residents, businesses and organizations. CCTV provides training and access to telecommunications technology so that all may become active participants in electronic media. CCTV strives to involve the diverse population of Cambridge as producers and viewers, and to strengthen its efforts through collaborations with a wide variety of community institutions.

Cable Advisory Calendar
Story Time
Wed, December 7
10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

Montague Libraries
Thu, December 8
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Montague Libraries
Story Time
Wed, December 14
10:00 AM - 10:45 AM

Montague Libraries
Thu, December 15
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM

Montague Libraries
Gingerbread Houses
Sat, December 17
10:30 AM - 12:00 PM

Montague Libraries