TV not 'Made in Berkeley'

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Made in Berkeley?
L A Wood, Berkeley Voice, April 9, 1998

This idea is certainly foreign to any viewer who has searched the airwaves looking for local programming on Channel 25, Berkeley's experiment in public access. Beyond the dim images of the City Council and the repetitive community calendar, what the viewer is most likely to see is a spectrum of dated or imported shows like Free Speech TV and Bay Area Country Videos. Today, these imported programs constitute a majority of Berkeley's broadcast schedule, while giving BTV the appearance of being local.

Made in Berkeley is about facility-generated programs. The term often used in the industry is "narrow casting." This is the real image of Berkeley and should be the measure of success for Berkeley Community Media's (BCM) public programming contract. Recently, both the city's contract compliance officer and auditor were asked about this aspect of BCM's contract cable provider, yet has shown an absolute unwillingness to investigate BCM's contract. This has been the response from both the City Council and the school district, after being asked publicly for the last two years for such a review.

BCM obscures these program production issues by promising another Berkeley channel. Unfortunately, more channels will not mean that more of Berkeley will be seen. The current move towards relying on outside programming to fill our TV schedule will mean only that more of some other community will be seen in Berkeley. And if this weren't enough, two months ago, BTV independent producers watched as BCM instituted reductions in their available time for editing suites and studio use. This should be further evidence to any skeptics that the BCM crisis is far from over.

Like the fable of the emperor's new clothes, BCM has been successful, so far, in convincing our community that the "P" of public access exists, while reducing its public critics down to this single voice. Moreover, BCM has been unwilling to stand up to the city or school district to insist that they contribute their fair share. It is time to convene a community task force and give new direction to local media and to BCM. Berkeley's vision for public access should be more than a multi-stacked tape machine at the high school playing back the recorded images of another community. Berkeley deserves more.

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