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Support Builds for Putting Public Access Television Funds to Work

Funds for public access TV, held at city hall, may be loosened up. (File photo)

Funds for public access TV, held at city hall, may be loosened up. (File photo)

Pursuant to a story last month about public access television funds held at Alameda City Hall, community members are speaking out in favor of putting the funds to work.

Sean McPhetridge, superintendent of the Alameda Unified School District (AUSD) told Action Alameda News that use of public access television funds, collected from local Alameda Comcast and AT&T subscribers on their monthly bills, could be used to expand an existing broadcast media career pathway program at the school district.

The funds are commonly referred to as “PEG” funds – money to facilitate the creation and distribution of public access, educational, and government programs on local cable channels reserved for that purpose.

The school district has a joint agreement with Alameda Community radio to make use of an FCC license for a low-power FM radio station, KACR 96.1. A portable at Encinal High School has been reserved for use as a radio broadcast station.

The station is not fully built out yet, pending funding for equipment, but Alameda Community Radio recently secured funding for a transmitter tower atop the Masonic Temple in downtown Alameda. Alameda Community Radio has been broadcasting limited programming on the internet for roughly two years already.

An extension of the agreement with Alameda Community Radio, and the career development program, could potentially leverage PEG funding to create a video production studio in Alameda to replace those lost when Alameda Power & Telecom and Comcast shut down their studios.

McPhetridge told Action Alameda News, “I recently discussed the potential of a PEG partnership between AUSD, the College of Alameda, and the City of Alameda with Alameda city staff after we toured Encinal High School and its AFS School-Based Health Center. So, preliminary discussions are underway regarding how AUSD, the City of Alameda, and College of Alameda can partner to create this as a career pathway for budding broadcast journalists.”

Such a facility could be open to the public when not in use for school programs.

Routing PEG funding to a video studio would also be much welcomed by Nanette Deetz, a local video producer who is also on the board of Alameda Community Radio.

So far, Deetz has been able to produce one episode of “Celebrating Native America,” a news program she hopes will “introduce people to different perspectives, from an indigenous peoples point of view.”

Deetz told Action Alameda News that her first episode captured native American opinions on Jerry Brown’s 2014 water proposition, opinions very different from the Governor’s.

“I have to have studio space,” she said. “I don’t have any camera equipment, and I can’t afford to pay for studio rental time. I do everything on a shoestring budget.”

Deetz said there are other video producers in Alameda that would take advantage of a studio if it was funded.

In early 2011, then-Mayor Marie Gilmore signed an ordinance, approved by city council, that brought the City of Alameda in line with the state Digital Video Competition Act, which established the collection of PEG funds.

However, there was no follow-through from the City of Alameda to direct these funds into the creation of a public access video production studio.

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