And now for a subject near and dear to all of our hearts: public access cable.
For decades now, we’ve cracked jokes about the production values of public access shows and snickered at the off-the-wall subject matters of various public-produced programs. And yes, I once saw (on a California public access cable channel) an episode of Star Trek acted out using sock puppets. It was epic.
In later years, though, gentle ribbing has given way to outright political destruction. Or, at least, a severe tightening of funding. I’m speaking about Akaku, Maui’s public access programming outfit. Executives there say the channel may die off entirely if a new bill becomes law.
I’m writing of HB2652. Introduced by Robert N. Herkes (D-Hawaii Island) a few weeks ago, the bill would chop up Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) funding into three separate entities. Oceanic Time Warner Cable loves the bill, and company President Bob Barlow testified on Jan. 30 that the bill will “help to ensure greater transparency, accountability and accessibility in PEG operations.”
But according to Akaku president and CEO Jay April, HB2652 would starve the neighbor island public access channels to death.
“The bottom line is that it is a very bad idea to split Hawaii’s marketplace of ideas into thirds,” April said in written testimony he submitted to the Consumer Protection and Commerce Committee on Jan 31 (click here to read all the written testimony submitted concerning this bill). “It will diminish the open exchange of ideas between government and it’s [sic] people, stifle the voices we all need to hear and damage local electronic democracy.”
The state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs agreed with April and opposes the bill.
“The bill, as currently written, will adversely impact the neighbor islands, with Kauai and the island of Hawaii suffering the most,” said Donn Yabusaki, the DCCA’s cable television administrator in written testimony. “For the neighbor island franchise areas, splitting the current level of access funding three ways would severely limit the capabilities of access organizations.”
In any case, on Feb. 6 Herkes’ committee deferred the bill until Feb. 13. What happens then is anybody’s guess.