By Dante DeAmicis
When public access TV8 was formed it was never meant to be used as a legal designated public forum. Eventually the uninvited public showed up. That’s when the yoke of censorship appeared.
Since we didn’t seem to be going away, one Lake County Supervisor hatched the idea of a “joint powers authority” to “fund” the station. This was not something pushed by the original volunteers. We smelled a rat.
In the first year, the Authority contributed a small amount for TV8 from Lake County and the city of Clearlake. The second year, the Authority “forgot” to submit a budget to the two local governments in a timely manner. So TV8 got nothing. The third year, Clearlake said the use of City Hall’s old vending room for the station was their contribution to the Authority. This was the station’s location before the formation of the Authority.
The County simply forgot that the purpose of the Authority was to fund the station. Very reluctantly, the County Supervisors passed a final “emergency grant” of 5 thousand with the warning that the station will never see another dime from them, though they kept their rep on the Authority and programming over ride privileges, which threatened our distance learning fee.
At the December 9, 2009 meeting of the Authority, the PEG Board reinvented itself as a stealth censorship committee. Three Board Members revealed that they got complaints about the “conspiracy videos” on the channel. These were also the most popular videos, judging by the contributions they generated. The Authority’s import limitation subterfuge trashed TV8’s programming and viewer contributions. Now we had nothing except a “distance learning fee” paid by the local community college.
With programming gutted and funding from government and the public cut, the PEG Authority looked for a new source of income. They decided that implementing a provision in the new state franchising law was the way to go. It allowed a fee to be placed on cable bills to fund PEG channels.
The PEG Authority decided that to collect this fee they would have to axe the channel’s internet connection. The problem is, we live in an internet world. Fewer and fewer people will settle for scheduled video content. They want to see video on their schedule. The internet is not the wave of the future. It is entry level reality of the present. Cutting TV8’s internet to squeeze a few dollars from cable customers is like getting rid of your baby because it keeps dirtying up its baby clothes. But the baby clothes are worthless without the baby, even if now you have Spring fresh baby clothes.
More important, intentionally reducing your functionality and assets to qualify for a check you would not otherwise qualify for smacks of a bunco scam, especially since the Authority freely admits in its meetings the reason for pulling the station’s vital internet connection. If someone crashed into a tree to collect a disability check or burned down their house to cash in on their fire insurance or murdered their spouse because their life insurance made them worth more dead than alive, most people outside Lake County would say these people don’t deserve anything but jail. But PEG Board members are shameless and our government councils seem to accept TV8’s lucrative mutilation as just another form of creative financing.
I’m certain the PEG Authority would look at my analogies dumbfounded. “What’s the problem? The guy who hit the tree really is disabled. The house is really is burned down. And the spouse really is dead. They earned their checks.” Maybe by Lake County standards. I don’t think continuing to foster a faker culture will make Lake County a better place to live or visit. Trading a dead beat PEG Board straight across to get our internet back would be a smarter move.