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Public Access May Mean Do Access by Barry Forbes

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Risque programming coupled with the Internet's growing penetration of homes may soon force public access television out of the picture.

Los Angeles city officials and cable company executives will soon renegotiate city franchise contracts and are considering dropping the requirement that cable companies offer public access programming. Some suggest the Internet has become the modern-day public soapbox, replacing public access cable that began in Los Angeles in 1984 -- long before the Internet was available. That year, Los Angeles city officials demanded public access channels as a condition of awarding exclusive cable TV franchises. One of two citywide channels eliminated all public access programming Jan. 1 after receiving complaints that some shows -- including one featuring interviews with porn stars -- were too risque.

``We went all educational -- we had to save the channel. And that's the truth,'' said Dyke Redmond, director of the Los Angeles Cable Television Access Corp.

Century Communications, which serves west Los Angeles, the Eagle Rock area and parts of the San Fernando Valley, moved its public access programming from Channel 3 to the more isolated Channel 77 after viewers complained, said Bill Rosendahl, senior vice president of operations.

Time Warner Cable in the western San Fernando Valley began airing all adult programming late at night after the company received complaints, said Alan Popkin, the company's director of production. Because Los Angeles officials have become skittish about adult programming on citywide Channel 36, there's a possibility the city won't force cable companies to set aside channels for public access when franchises are renegotiated beginning Aug. 1.

Ed Perez, an assistant city attorney who works with the city's Information Technology Agency, said Wednesday that public access ``has never been mandatory. It's something that can be negotiated.''


The SJ Merc "reports" that "Risque programming coupled with the Internet's growing penetration of homes may soon force public access television out of the picture." The local angle is that "Los Angeles city officials and cable company executives will soon renegotiate city franchise contracts and are considering dropping the requirement that cable companies offer public access programming." The reason given is that "Some suggest the Internet has become the modern-day public soapbox, replacing public access cable that began in Los Angeles in 1984 -- long before the Internet was available."

Even given the political slant of the SJ Merc, this underscores the impact of evolving technology and "deregulatory" public policy on traditional access media -- and the critical need for local and national organizations to work together.

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