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FL: Public Access Loses Battle in Hillsborough County

By saveaccess
Created 09/21/2007 - 4:36pm

from: Fox Tampa Bay [1]

Public Access Loses Battle in Hillsborough County

September 21, 2007

An ongoing battle over public access television ended Thursday night at the meeting of the Hillsborough County Commission on balancing the budget. The cable channel lost all its public funding from the county, but those with their own shows are trying to stake a claim on the cable programming.

With its unique mix of characters ranging from Christian ministers to a dominatrix to Tampa Bay strip club king Joe Redner, public access television has provided the platform for the unedited voice of the people — at least that’s what many fans who tune in told Hillsborough County Commissioners at a standing-room only public meeting Thursday.

“Personally, I have learned and gained a wealth of knowledge from watching public access. It’s a powerful educational tool,” said one speaker, who came to address the Commissioners to plead for public access.

“We’re talking about an opportunity here to continue with free speech — that’s what public access is all about,” explained another.

“The facade that’s being presented here is that times are tough, budgets must be trimmed… it’s funny how that becomes the company line when the opportunity to squelch free speech presented itself,” yet another argued.

Even before the Thursday night meeting, Hillsborough Commissioners had been making noises about cutting the money stream to the public access cable channel, which currently receives about $355,000 in public funding.

“Don’t you want to live in an interesting place?” one man hollered, trying to get the audience to applaud for cable access.

He was one of dozens of people who turned up in a last-ditch effort to stop the cuts to the channel that Commissioners say are required to balance the Hillsborough County budget.

“TBCN [Tampa Bay Community Network] has helped me to gain experience in the field in which I plan to pursue a career, so as a proponent of diversity and free speech, I ask you to please re-instate the funding of Tampa Bay Community Network,” added one on-air personality on a cable access show.

The arguments were to no avail. Late Thursday night, the Hillsborough County Commissioners voted to stop giving money to public access.

On its website the station says that means even as early as October 1 of this year, when you change the channel, you won’t have public access as an option in Hillsborough County.

However, before they voted to eliminate the public access cable channel, commissioners decided that the education access channel would be spared and given most of the money requested to keep the channel going.

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