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Stop the destruction of Community Access TV in San Francisco

November 28, 2009

“I’m in full support of the effort to save Community Access TV. As of now, our live broadcasts will end Dec. 20. The last program of Freedom Is a Constant Struggle (broadcast Fridays at 7:30 p.m. on Channel 76) will be Dec. 18 – until further notice.” – Kiilu Nyasha

by Coalition to Defend Free Speech and SF Community Access

San Franciscans have struggled long and often for Community Access TV. This is a demonstration in April 2005. – Photo: Steve Rhodes
San Franciscans have struggled long and often for Community Access TV. This is a demonstration in April 2005. – Photo: Steve Rhodes
The City along with its handpicked operator, Bay Area Video Coalition, are planning to close the Community Access Television Center on Dec. 20 without another location where programmers can produce their shows. A picket and press conference will be held on this attack on community access and free speech on Tuesday, Dec. 1, 4 p.m., at Channel 29, 1720 Market St. at Valencia, San Francisco.

End privatization of our community television channels

The City of San Francisco has handed over the operation of the Community Access Stations, Channels 29 and 76, to the Bay Area Video Coalition. BAVC promised to protect community access television in San Francisco and work with the producers and programmers. Instead it has done the opposite.

BAVC, with a multi-million dollar budget, has told producers and programmers that the station will be closing down on Dec. 20, despite the fact that the lease for the property does not expire until April 30, 2010, and it does not take four months to disassemble the equipment and studios. This means all productions from the Flash Studio and Main Studio will be shut down. BAVC has also said it does not plan to rebuild a main studio at its current location next to KQED. This takes place in San Francisco, a major center for media and communications in Northern California.

Instead, the corporate driven BAVC is requiring producers of community access programs to have their own equipment to develop and produce the shows. They are essentially saying poor and low income users of community access will be locked out unless they pay exorbitant fees. This is a violation of the principle of community access that it will not discriminate against low income workers and others who do not have their own equipment.

This also violates the promise of the San Francisco Department of Telecommunications and Mayor Newsom that they would protect community access in San Francisco. Many other communities, including smaller cities, have fully staffed community access stations with main studios. These include Berkeley, San Jose, Sacramento, Pacifica, Santa Rosa and San Rafael. Why is it that San Francisco, which is a large city, cannot do the same?

BAVC promised when they submitted their bid and after their takeover of the stations that they would work to protect the production and producers of programs. This has shown to be a false promise. Producers are abandoning Community Access shows that have been established by much volunteer labor over many, many years. BAVC has not even provided written notice about its plans to an elected community board of advisors for the station. Is this how BAVC does business in San Francisco at San Francisco Community Access?

Community producers and supporters of San Francisco Community Access demand that the City of San Francisco require that the studios stay open at 1720 Market St. until another station is constructed if there is to be a closure. We call for the cancellation of the contract with BAVC and the establishment of a democratically elected board that represents the community and labor to run the community access stations. The board of BAVC does not represent the interests of community access and refuses to even meet with producers and programmers.

The city has millions of dollars in capital funds that could be used to maintain the station. Instead, the City Attorney and Mayor Newsom want to close our studios and destroy public access in San Francisco.

Initial endorsers of this statement by the Coalition to Defend Free Speech and SF Community Access include David Miles, Steve Zeltzer, Ace Washinton, Kazumi Torii, Julian Lagos, Pam Sauer, Ken Johnson, Ellison Horne, Peter Kurtz, Raymond Hong, Stu Smith and Mary Ellen Churchill. To endorse the action and for further information, contact (415) 867-0628.

How you can help

Call the San Francisco Supervisors and ask them to hold hearings and to stop the closure and privatization of Community Access Television. Contact information is at www.sfbos.org.

Let the San Francisco Department of Telecommunications know you are opposed to closing the station. Contact Principle Administrative Analyst Fraser Berry at (415) 581-3976, barry.fraser@sfgov.org or 1 South Van Ness, Second Floor, San Francisco .

Also contact the BAVC Board of Directors and ask them why they are destroying Community Access.

This story first appeared on Indybay.

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