Public Access TV Eliminated in Seattle/King County
(Seattle, November 10, 2010) Yesterday SCAN TV (Seattle Community Access Network)
announced that they will cease operations as of December 31, 2010. Dian E. Ferguson, SCAN Executive Director, states "It saddens and disappoints me greatly that it has come to this. SCAN has lobbied both the Mayor’s Office and Seattle City Council to reinstate funding, but has been unsuccessful. While public support has been high, the interests of Seattle citizens and SCAN viewers are being ignored. The public support has been overwhelming, but it does not appear that anyone with the authority to restore funding is listening." SCAN also attempted to negotiate a 6-month transition period with the City of Seattle, Department of Information Technology, but was unsuccessful in reaching workable terms.
On September 27, when Mayor Mike McGinn released his 2011 budget, funding was eliminated for SCAN and the budget required that public access be sent out to bid at a level far below what SCAN could operate with. At all three of the City Council budget hearings, SCAN had the largest turnouts of speakers/supporters, who spoke to the importance of public access television and free speech. At the final hearing, SCAN turned over to the City Council thousands of signatures collected in support of SCAN. Additionally, on the IdeaScale website <http://cts.vresp.com/c/?SCAN/bd71ef8a1f/fcd9144354/db05b899d4> that the City Council used to obtain public comment on the budget, supporting SCAN was among the top three issues the public wanted. Clearly, our public officials are not supportive of the concerns of our citizens.
Public access channels come from Section 611 of the Communications Act. They are dedicated channel space on cable systems specifically for "use by the general public." SCAN has operated Seattle’s public access channel since 1999, airing on Comcast channel 77 in Seattle and most of King County and Broadstripe 23 in Seattle. The cable channels pay for public access through franchise fees paid by subscribers; since 2006, those franchise fees are paid by Comcast to the City of Seattle, Department of Information Technology, and are held in the Cable Television Franchise Subfund. The Department of Information Technology contracts with SCAN as the "designated public access manager for the City of Seattle." In 2010, SCAN received $650,000 from the City for this purpose.
SCAN offers two multi-camera television studios, three state of the art edit suites, and camera usage by the community, all at no charge. In addition, SCAN provides video production and editing training to hundreds of individuals and organizations annually. The proposal by the Mayor to fund public access at a level of $100,000 would not allow for funding for these services.
Community producers create the content for the majority of SCAN programs; it is broadly representative of a variety of perspectives and cultures. Many programs are in languages not available on mainstream television networks. SCAN ensures the presence of diverse cultural groups and ideas traditionally unheard, marginalized, or under-represented in the media. Mainstream and commercial media too often fails to tell the stories of diverse cultural groups. When the stories of these groups are told by mainstream and commercial media, they are often told incorrectly and/or with a bias. SCAN allows people to tell their own stories without filters, allowing the storyteller to be an agent of change that can foster dialogue and break down barriers. In this era of media consolidation, it is important that a medium be available for the independent voice. SCAN is a commercial-free station that embraces the notion of free speech.
SCAN currently airs on Comcast 77 and Broadstripe 23. It is unknown what will air on those channels until the City chooses a new public access provider. SCAN programming is not available for re-runs, as the individual producers own the programs, not the public access television station. Additionally, the City is threatening to sue SCAN to turn over its building, which SCAN owns outright. The building was deeded to SCAN by Comcast in 2006.
Lastly, the loss of SCAN will result in 15 individuals losing jobs. SCAN will be working with Employment Security and their health insurance broker to assist employees. More than one hundred community producers will lose the medium for sharing their messages and stories.
1125 N. 98th St.
Seattle, Washington 98103