Some times the best ideas come from the most unlikely of places. A month or so ago, I received an email from Tacoma’s most infamous City Council meeting personality, Robert “The Traveller” Hill. Emails from Robert are not new to anyone whose address he’s managed to get a hold of. Nor are phone calls with story ideas. Needless to say, I usually glance through his emails, but don’t often find anything worth reporting on The Melon. The email in question was much the same as the others.
“[Sep.21] current stautus on PUBLIC-ACCESS TELEVISION in Pierce county or Tacoma
–The subject of Robert’s latest email. Robert’s email, which had a long list of media and city council recipients, recalled a conversation he had with City Council Member David Boe about how Boe had expressed interest in Public Access Television and further that:
“[A]n active, citizen-led organization *has* to be in existence to administer to the station & studio.”
Robert "The Traveller" Hill
I knew Robert had been fighting for Public-Access Television in Tacoma for a long time. I remember long calls about its importance and about getting on board to help bring it to the public attention.
“Email over some information and I’ll put something together,” I would say.
“Okay, I will,” Robert would reply.
But the information never came, and I never reported. This latest email was archived. Then, almost 10 days later, something miraculous happened. “RE: [Sep.21] current stautus on PUBLIC-ACCESS TELEVISION in Pierce county or Tacoma” read the subject. Someone from Robert’s long list of recipients had replied to his email, and what’s more, it wasn’t an “unsubscribe” demand. The email was from Robert Kam, Public Access Manager at TCTV – Thurston Community Television. Addressed to Councilmember Boe, Kam’s email reads as follows:
“Dear Councilmember Boe,
If you are on the fence about whether or not to start working toward a public access center in Tacoma just take a look at Olympia’s public access network. Your humble neighbor to the south is producing live karaoke and dance programs, faith programs, social justice programs, candidate forums, parade coverage, beauty contests, mental health programs, etc. etc. The list goes on and on. Your city could benefit from such a rich local television diet.
If you are wondering if the demand is there consider as soon as we opened our membership to people outside of Thurston county we had a flood of Pierce county residents going through our training program. I encourage you to speak in favor of a public access channel the next time the cable franchise is being negotiated. I also encourage you to talk with click about the possibility of them providing one.
To learn more about TCTV in Olympia go to our website, www.tctv.net
Public Access Manager
TCTV – Thurston Community Television
City Council Member David Boe
Robert Hill had support. Real support from a proven system. Maybe it was the surprise of such a legitimate response to Robert’s call to action that sparked a realization in me, or maybe it was an abundance of warm feelings from eating too much dark chocolate, but I had realized something. Robert Hill was right.
Public Access Television is a massive community builder, a wonderful creative outlet and an excellent opportunity to hone production skills. Like the abundance of local blogs promoting events, discussing news and sharing art, information and knowledge, TPA (Tacoma Public Access) could do the same while reaching new audiences and providing “live space” for person to person collaboration. Think of how many students could benefit from the video training opportunities (note: I do not personally find the linked video tasteful). TPA could be huge, especially for a city with some much local pride.
As Robert Kam from TCTV in Olympia noted, not only does a public access system work, it is hugely popular among citizens. Up north in Seattle, SCANTV provides the same opportunities for students, community and creatives alike, boasting upwards of 150 active producers, three public-use editing stations, equipment rentals, and an abundance of workshop opportunities. Until recently, all has been well at SCANTV, but 2011 budget announcements have placed SCAN in jeopardy.
Enthused by Robert Kam’s response and a realization that “The Traveller” had perhaps been right all along, I sent a follow up email to Councilmember David Boe. Here’s what I wrote (yes, I talk about The Melon a lot):
I would like to help push the power of public access media. The gift you would help to provide to the people of Tacoma by offering an outlet for creativity, communication and information would be massive. What better way to celebrate the city of Tacoma than to celebrate the unique voices of its people?
My community focused online magazine, The Melon (themelononline.com), produces a plethora of valuable content that has the potential to reach out to so many eyes who are unaware of some of the great events and people in our city. With public television, our service can bring information to tons of new eyes. Some examples:
Imagine a channel that had the true beat of the Tacoma art scene, or provided a local politics discussion or a CLAW-centric cartooning show. All of these things are possible.
With our vast experience and know-how, The Melon would be pleased in aid you and Tacoma in creating public access television for its citizens. Please help us to start the discussion. There’s so much creativity and interest blossoming in Tacoma, let’s give that community a new and important outlet to thrive.
Creative Manager, The Melon
How do we make Public Access Television a Reality in Tacoma?
It’s pretty clear to me, (and in discussions) local filmmakers and educators that Tacoma could greatly benefit from Public Access Television. In fact, it’s essentially the law to have one, says a 1972 Supreme Court ruling which requires all cable systems to provide, at the request of the municipality, an access-channels for public use. Further, the rule was amended in 1976 to require those cable systems provide access to public use studios and equipment at the request of the municipality. [Source: Museum of Broadcast Communications]
Yes, funding is an issue. Tacoma, like many cities in America, is fighting to weather an economic tornado, as the many empty storefronts downtown reflect. Perhaps some outside organization of angel investors, or a series of grants will aid in giving birth to TPA, but first it must be made clear that this is something we, the people of Tacoma, want.
Petition for Public Access Television in Tacoma
In order to show the Tacoma City Council that the citizens of Tacoma want Public Access Television to be on the agenda, we need to organize. There’s already a facebook group with a small amount of support, but it’s important to communicate in ways that are more easily digestible. That is why we put together a petition. Our goal is to have 10,000 citizens sign our petition by February 11th (the birthday of great thinker and inventor Thomas Edison). We want 10,000 members of our community who agree that there’s value to a Public Access Station in Tacoma to help show the City Council that we want this to happen. This is Step 1. First we ignite the discussion. Then we pave the way.
I ask that you please share this petition link. Share it with you friends and family. Share it with your fellow Tacomans. Let’s centralize this call.
Petition Link: http://www.petitionspot.com/petitions/publicaccesstacoma
Starting the Discussion
How do you think TPA would benefit Tacoma? How would you use it? Where can we find funding? Please help us seek these answers in the comments section below.