PA: Public Access TV Coming To Philadelphia

Posted on September 19, 2007 - 8:38am.

from: The Bulletin

Public Access TV Coming To Philadelphia

By: Jenny DeHuff, The Bulletin

Philadelphia - With combined efforts from Comcast Corporation and the Philadelphia Community Access Coalition (PCAC), public access television is one step closer to staking a claim in the airwaves.

Mayor John F. Street made the announcement yesterday from the podium inside his reception room in City Hall, joined by Managing Director Loree Jones.

"This project is nearly a quarter of a century in the making," she said, citing years of negotiation battles between the city and television companies.

The public access television agreement requires approval of two ordinances that are expected to be introduced in the City Council within the next two weeks. Specifically, the ordinances outline the franchise agreement between the city and Comcast and for a long-term lease on a new public access television headquarters.

If approved, Kathleen Sullivan, regional director of government and community relations for Comcast, said they pledged an initial one-time capital grant of $1.8 million and a second grant of $900,000 due in two years. The capital grant will pay for the outfitting of a new studio and to purchase equipment for the newly established Philadelphia Access Corporation, which would oversee the programming.
"Public access television promotes and engenders democracy and public participation in government," Street said at the press conference.

Comcast also agreed to afford a stipend of $500,000 per year in annual support for operating expenses for the access corporation. Comcast will provide one analog channel, four digital channels and video on-demand programming for promotional public service announcements.

Street said the city would help furnish the now-vacant Widener Branch Library at 25th Street and Lehigh Avenue for a studio and will pay for utilities on the property for the first five years. An interim facility in City Hall will be used for functions in the meantime.

"The fight for access is sometimes contentious, but now it is very rewarding," said Danielle Ridden of PCAC, the decade-old non-profit entity that represents more than 80 organizations within the city.

"This will be a great opportunity to communicate less traditional views," Street said when asked about censorship issues. Some people raised concerns over censorship rules with regard to profanity and obscenity on public access television.

Since its origin, public access television has come under fire from many local government bodies and special interest groups, including the Federal Communication Commission, for allegations of pushing the legal boundaries of pornography, sedition and slander.

"There have to be limits consistent with the law and with common sense," Street said, but he could not confirm how it would be regulated.

PCAC, which has been at the forefront of the 25-year campaign for public access television, described its vision as creating a virtual "electronic green space for community involvement."

Programming would consist of channels for youth, faith-based groups, public forums, community affairs and arts and culture.

Sullivan said that, with approval by the city council, public access could hit the airwaves as early as the beginning of next year.

The Philadelphia Public Access Corporation will conduct business through a 15-member board of directors comprised of the president of the city council, the commissioner of public property, six mayoral appointees, six city council president appointees and one PCAC appointee. This board will serve until October 2008, when a new 19-member board will be selected at the Philadelphia Public Access Corporation's first annual meeting.

Jenny DeHuff can be reached at

( categories: Comcast | PENNSYLVANIA )