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IN: Comcast facing protests for Closing Access Studios

By saveaccess
Created 09/08/2007 - 11:22am

from: Post Tribune [1]

Comcast facing protests

September 8, 2007
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent

Seven producers from Comcast's public access Channel 21 have formed the United Producers for Public Access to speak out against the telecom giant's decision to close its public-access studios in Hammond and Portage, as well as some of its bill payment centers.

The group will have a news conference at 1 p.m. today in the parking lot of the Hammond studio, Bryan Scott Johnson, one of the group's founders, said.

Johnson is the producer of "Speak Out," which airs 9:30 to 11:30 p.m. Tuesdays on Channel 21. He said the producers of the channel's programs want to inform the public of Comcast's decision to close the public- access studios in Northwest Indiana.

"The second reason is to let Comcast be even more aware of the growing amount of people opposed to this decision they made," Johnson said.

Due to changes in state legislation enacted in March 2006, Comcast is no longer obligated to provide the studio or equipment necessary for local residents to produce public access television programs.

The legislation transferred responsibility of public access studios to municipalities, though Comcast is still obligated to provide public access channels.

Comcast spokeswoman Angelynne Amore said the company has been attempting to work with the local municipalities to transfer operation of the studios. She did not know where that effort stands.

"In the new law, the responsibility of the studio belongs with the city," Amore said.

Juan Andrade, producer of "Nuestra Comunidad" and co-host of "The Truth," said the producers group is upset that responsibility for public access has shifted to local municipalities.

"If they are going to do this, public access could face different issues with new incoming mayors," Andrade said.

"Public access was supposed to be free of government interference."

Andrade said the group also is upset with legislators who voted for this change.

"It has been taken off the back of big business and put on the cities. How are they going to be able to pay for this," he said.

The group is concerned local municipalities will not be able to maintain the studios and public access will end.

Johnson said the cable company informed producers by letter last week that the last day for live programming will be Sept. 28.

Producers may continue to submit tapes of their programs until Dec. 15.

After that time, programming will be transferred to the municipalities, he said.

"The main thing is so many people watch our programs," Johnson said. "Speak Out" has been on the air since 1999, originally broadcasting from the East Chicago studio that was closed by the company three years ago.

"This is the only access medium the public has. We are not just trying to keep it open for current producers but for future producers who want to come in here," he said.

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