Tuesday, May 03, 2011
A win for public access television in Hawaii after a five year struggle
by Larry Geller
It's nice when something difficult finally works out. The struggle of those who supported public access television's struggle against attempts to eliminate the current providers by putting the services out to bid has taken five years, and for those who submitted testimony to the Procurement Policy Board at a hard-to-find dark room underneath Aloha Stadium through to the Legislature, a huge sigh of relief must have gone out when Governor Abercrombie reversed the Lingle administration’s bulldog attack by signing legislation today. For background, see this Google search.
Had services (which do not involve public money, by the way) gone out to bid, Olelo or Akaku or the other providers could have been replaced with a religious broadcaster or some political group. It would end the freedom of speech that we now enjoy that was designed into the system originally in 1989. I know a little about the values and principles that direct Hawaii’s public access providers because I served for a time on the working group that set it all up.
Akaku circulated a celebratory email today. With their permission, here it is for your reading pleasure.
"could have been replaced with a religious broadcaster or some political group."
And nowadays it is very difficult to tell the difference.
Actually a mainland corporation has taken over the Government portion of PEG access here on Kauai and Ho`ike our PEG access provider is subcontracting with Granicus.
I thought Granicus takes care of web access (on demand). If you know more about what they are doing on Kauai, please do post another comment.
Granicus has a contract with the County of Kauai to provide live internet streaming, captioning, archiving and access on demand. Hoike has a contract with the county to provide video acquisition for "delayed" analogue cable-castcast of county council meetings, etc. Ho`ike is getting paid THREE TIMES for the same video acquisition. 1) They are paid by cable subscribers PEG access fees (Disappeared News may not call this "public money" but if you want Cable TV on Kauai your are mandated by the State of Hawaii to pay this PEG fee). Hoike is paid a second time by the County of Kauai to record and delay cablecast the same meetings, and Hoike is paid a third time by Granicus to acquire the video and provide the live feed to Granicus. Granicus also subcontracts with a company in Mumbai, India to do real-time captioning of gov meetings. This captioning was previously done by a Honolulu company (in real-time) for "delayed" cablecasting on Hoike. Ho`kie could have bid on this contract, but decided to subcontract with Granicus, a mainland corporation using an out-of-country caption provider. Really looking forward to the "innovation" Jay April talks about from Hoike. One such "innovation" would be to feed the live Granicus stream to the analogue gov channel in real-time, but they probably would want to be paid a fourth time for that service. A local Kauai production company (Hawaii Stream http://www.hawaiistream.com) did use the County procurement process to bid against Granicus, but Hoike would not work with them, and did not bid against Granicus themselves. Hawaii Stream could not compete with Granicus who used a state subsidized subcontractor (Hoike), and the Honolulu captioning contractor could not compete with the captioners in Mumbai India. It seems fears about a mainland corporation taking over has been realized, but few thought our local PEG would be the one to facilitate such a takeover that hurts local production and captioning companies. I suppose the County of Kauai is not concerned about losing their free speech to this mainland company, nor is the state concerned about Hoike re-selling state mandated subsidized services, for a profit, to a mainland corporation. Praise Jesus we still have our free speech on the public access channel. The "good-guys" really won big here on Kauai!
The Kona station has been taken over by some religious broadcaster, I guess the new rules do not apply to the big island.
Lucky ex-Time Warner employee, and ex-Ex Dir of Olelo Lopez was appointed by Abrecrombie as director of DCCA. I sure a gung-ho free speech advocate like Keali`i will be extremely accountable to the people and being exempt from the procurement process should give her the power to end this morass of incompetence, favoritism, and lack of transparency endemic to PEGs in Hawaii.
This "win" is a prime example of what a handful of Democratic Party insiders with little history or understanding of what has taken place before (ignorance) can accomplish to support people who take care of THEM and treat the rest of us like S...t. Very Democratic! Time-Warner is the real winner here folks. Why do you not understand this? Not one of you, not a single one of you showed up to testify on anything related to cable regulation BEFORE this issue came up. No, in your great ignorance, you have given away the entire farm. Shame!
Amazing how the real news behind this story has "disappeared" on this site and mainstream media. The 6 analog channels 'Olelo had have been increased to 14, but are digital not analog which can carry 30 "video streams" or 5 High Definition (HD) channels each. That means 180 "video streams" or 30 HD channels have been exchanged for 14. Not a good deal unless you are Time Warner.
The State Procurement Law was put into place to foster innovation and excellence, but for some reason you and all state legislators believe it is a good idea to have 'Olelo, which was created by the state, be our only choice in perpetuity. Community Producers are allowed "one and only one" elected seat on the board, and those elected for some reason do not show up for board committee or full board meetings. Thus, the board is made up of elites who never contribute to the organization other than the minimal hours they put in, In exchange they get programs created for them or their favorite non-profit or school function (not Free Speech by any stretch of the imagination), and they get free round trip tickets and hotel & meals to attend conferences on the mainland on a topic they have no experience with. The real contributors to Public access are lucky to get a T-shirt or minimal rewards for their sometimes hundreds of hours of their time.
'Olelo's innovations are all geared around keiki in schools whose state oversight forbids them from exercising true free speech, and for politicians whose speech is considerate of the campaign contributing corporations. With their 6 million a year budget, 6 times that of Akaku on Maui, they pale in comparison to Akaku who provides TV, a channel Maui residents can program themselves, community radio, media literacy, was the first to allow for program submission on DVD, a video server that clients can upload their programs to via the internet, and many other real innovations.
Mr. Foster's comment above is right on the money!!! The letter from Governor Abercrombie (then Congressman) is intentional disinformation that was provided to decision-makers. He was at City Council when Act 301 1987 was being considered, and nowhere in any committee report does it state that it was the legislature's intent for the PEG contracts to not go out for competitive bid. Quite the contrary. The Law, HRS 440g, clearly states that rules were to be promulgated for purposes of the chapter, which PEG was part of, but for 20 plus years now our government officials have been in violation of the law and the intent. Likely why Congressman Abercrombie did not respond to my request for records verifying the purported intent to not have PEG contracts go to bid. The letter was sent to the HCR 358 Task Force (all gov & PEG folks) to come up with this ridiculous outcome of no competition, thus no incentive to improve. :-(
More "Disapeared News" is the reality that 'Olelo has spent one and a quarter million dollget out from under accountability laws (open records and procurement), while DCCA let them even though they had authority to stop them. Up to a quarter million dollars a year has been spent on "promotions", but not one penny on TV promotions. Strange that an organization charged with teaching the use of that very medium has yet to use it to promote their services don't you think?
I could go on, and on, and on, but it will fall on deaf ears that are already filled full of unsubstantiated "sky is falling" propaganda by the PEGs, created and distributed using public finds.
We could do much better than this, but now the opportunity is gone unless someone sues the state for their "state actor for the purpose of the First Amendment" 1st & 14th amendment violations, in Federal Court.
"The conditions of survival, let alone justice, require rational social planning in the interests of the community as a whole, and by now that means the global community. The question is whether privileged elites should dominate mass communication and should use this power as they tell us they must—namely to impose necessary illusions, to manipulate and deceive the stupid majority."
"It is not enough for a handful of experts to attempt the solution of a problem, to solve it and then to apply it. The restriction of knowledge to an elite group destroys the spirit of society and leads to its intellectual impoverishment."
Passive acceptance of the teacher's wisdom is easy to most boys and girls.
It involves no effort of independent thought, and seems rational because the teacher knows more than his pupils; it is moreover the way to win the favour of the teacher unless he is a very exceptional man. Yet the habit of passive acceptance is a disastrous one in later life. It causes man to seek and to accept a leader, and to accept as a leader whoever is established in that position.
Bertrand Russell (1872 - 1970)
The HRC 358 Task Force was charged with articulating a precise definition of the "first come, first served" policy, but oddly never did! Hard to have compliance oversight over the undefined. I guess as long as the "right" people get served and are happy the public can be pushed to the back of the bus and out the back door. No matter anyone with a modern cell phone has more innovation and freedom in their hand than public access with their millions of cable subscriber mandated dollars and now complete monopoly will ever offer members of the public. No convincing answer ever given why such an exemption was necessary. I guess it is similar to James Bonds "license to kill". In this case the innocent victim was innovation and free speech. It just occurred to me that no innovation has ever come out of public access. Public access is a halfway house for the lame on the road to obscurity. RIP
Public access television provides thousands of people here and throughout the country with the opportunity to get their message out on the airwaves. It's generally considered a large success in that regard, an antidote to the commercial-ridden pap on the rest of the vast wasteland.
It also comes with those who disagree, either at meetings, or in political action, and apparently in blog comments, with how those who run it conduct their mandate.
Sure, Akaku is the technical innovator in Hawaii. That doesn't negate the great work that Olelo has done in bringing access to those who would like to do video.
When PEGS were in formation back in 1988-1989, states took various tacks in getting their systems up and running. In Hawaii, the deliberative method seems to have resulted in a long-running success.
Even if some disagree.
All that was accomplished would have been thrown out by the bidding system. The numeric ratings in the Lingle administration's RFP did not even emphasize (or if memory serves, even require) experience in public access broadcasting. Probably that was done to help exclude the current contract holders from winning bids.
DCCA can still assign contracts.
I am amazed that the dissidents think things would be better for them if some arbitrary Mainland company won the bids to replace current providers.
You said "When PEGS were in formation back in 1988-1989, states took various tacks in getting their systems up and running." FYI, the mainland states began establishing PUBLIC access centers back in the early 70s. You also said "In Hawaii, the DELIBERATIVE METHOD seems to have resulted in a long-running success." The problem with that statement is the fact that the most important part of the deliberations were omitted, even though the CABLE TELEVISION SYSTEMS ACT of 1987 (Act 301 aka HRS 440G) was quite clear of its intent in Section 16 where it states "The director SHALL ADOPT RULES pursuant to chapter 91 necessary for the purposes of this chapter." This deliberative process was not done until 20 years after the law was in place and the PEGs were already created by the state (cart before the horse). When the rules were finally out for comment, the PEGs used Public Funds to shepherd & bus their chosen voices to the hearings. You and I both know that few if any went through the history and Law to formulate their own opinions. Rather, they were equipped with "sky is falling" scripts, which sadly even you bleated.
What I have found most upsetting throughout this whole process is that those who defend the status quo have yet to provide a compelling reason for why competition, which provides for innovation and excellence according to our procurement law, is not good for a state created, Free Speech provider. Thanks for providing for this discussion.
HRS 440G: http://capitol.hawaii.gov/hrscurrent/Vol10_Ch0436-0474/HRS0440G/HRS_0440G-.htm
I guess you don't read the comments to your own posts. An "arbitrary mainland company" did win the County of Kauai bid over local bidders and Hoike helped them do it by offering to subcontract with Granicus (with already paid for services) instead of bidding against Granicus themselves. The local company (here on Kauai) and the captioner (Honolulu)could not compete with Granicus with Hoike as a cable subscriber subsided sub-contractor. The PEG entity (Hoike) facilitated exactly what you fear. If by long running "success" you mean the best funded PEG in the United States I guess `Olelo is a success. If you mean being a viable source for free speech and the free flow of ideas upon which a democracy rests give me some proof. If one compares`Olelo with Wikipedia, Internet Archives, Creative Commons and Wikileaks all whom have provided free speech opportunities far more successfully than Olelo and all with less of an annual budget. It is also of note that these entities are TRUE non-profits in the sense that they receive no government mandated monies and exist purely on donations freely given. As Scott Foster said those getting that "special" service are blind to the plight of the disenfranchised. They assume everyone is being treated like they are. As a white man down south once told me "I've lived here all my life and have never seen any discrimination". BTW the FCC issued its Third Report and Order, which required all cable systems in the top 100 U.S. television markets to provide three access channels, one each for educational, local government and public use In 1972 not in 88 and 89 as you write. Oahu was 1 of those top 100 markets but it took State of Hawaii Gov 16 years to comply although the 1984 Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act "allowed local governments to require "public, educational or government" (PEG) channels" Finally you try to make this a partisan Dem/repub issue, but it was the Dems who were in charge when they drafted and approved such sloppy legislation assuring that PEG in Hawaii would be a propaganda tool of the government and industry. Try having fewer opinions on subjects you know very little about and perhaps you will see your own confirmation bias staring you in the face and avoid this http://tinyurl.com/429l2wc
Akakū, 'Olelo and the other public access stations in the state are celebrating because they have great job security with little accountability. The downfall of PEG access in Hawai'i was that too much money (more than any other PEG access facility in the nation) attracted hoards of adept money grubbers. Those dedicated to democracy and media, like Sean McLaughlin, were driven away. An entire generation could have been better served had we been offered open, participatory access instead of trickle down democracy. Now the party in charge gets to manipulate the millions of PEG dollars for pet projects.
This is disappeared news because the world has moved on. The youth have moved on (as well as those who saw the writing on the wall years ago) to the Internet. If these so-called designated abcess centers can keep out of the way of those who actually have something to communicate in the future, that's all I ask.
Larry said "The numeric ratings in the Lingle administration's RFP did not even emphasize (or if memory serves, even require) experience in public access broadcasting." Try thinking about this a minute. If only current PEG entities were granted the opportunity (by virtue of being created and appointed by DCCA) to be the sole provider of public access broadcasting in Hawaii) then how could any other local non-PEG entity compete? None would have enough experience. Only the current DCCA created and appointed PEG entities would have the "experiences in public access broadcasting". No other local entities (profit, non-profit, whatever) could compete because they were denied the opportunity by being excluded from gaining experience by DCCA. There is also no doubt that this exclusion by DCCA was in violation of state procurement law. If no violation of law occurred, then no exemption from the law would have been necessary.
Larry said, "I am amazed that the dissidents think things would be better for them if some arbitrary Mainland company won the bids to replace current providers." Whom are you talking about? No commenter here made such a claim. This comment "We could do much better than this, but now the opportunity is gone" only says things "could" be better and the "opportunity is gone". No one but you ever said it "would be better" but only that an "opportunity" for improvement was possible. I am amazed that fear driven propaganda can so cloud peoples thinking that they act against the best interests of the public. As Scott Foster wrote "Why do you not understand this?"
This is getting to be a re-hash of what is largely now settled.
Granicus, by the way, does Olelo's video on demand. When I look at back legislative sessions, it's their URL. I don't know if it makes sense to reinvent the wheel. Should they be building their own cameras too?
I haven't followed Kauai. It sounds like the same contractor as before, despite comments that they are now a Mainland provider.
Oh, the new law settles the procurement policy board's likely erroneous and politically-motivated decision, made at meetings some of which were of questionable legality. And no, no state funds are involved.
An equitable procurement process gives credit (in the case of Hawaii's system, points) for experience. That is why PEG providers should have their success recognized. Instead, it has been argued and I agree that the RFP process was designed to eliminate them. There were restrictions placed on their use of resources to respond to the RFPs, restrictions that did not apply to other bidders. Had the process gone forward, that alone would likely be grounds for a challenge.
I've also seen these Internet arguments over and over again. I myself spend far more time on the web than in front of a tube, but I recognize the importance of TV and of the PEGs and support them. If you want to make video for the Internet, fine, and it is reasonable to also expect evolution in PEG services provided. But the PEGs were not set up or intended to crank out YouTube videos. It's a TV thing.
On admin rules, Hawaii is chronically lax in setting up rules to correspond to legislation. The Office of Elections did not have rules to cover its use of voting machines. The rules they had were years old. In Babson v. Cronin, attorney Lance Collins used that chronic failure to win his case. I stole his method by suggesting a lawsuit against the Department Of Health because they had no admin rules covering the discontinuance of services they were providing under statute. The lawsuit happened and the DOH had to do what it should have done before. There are probably other great examples of this, I can think of one or two. So while I think there should indeed be rules, and the law requires that they be, it's not much of an argument to say that there aren't rules.
No need to comment more here, nothing will be gained. Also, assertions about what I or anyone else knows are in your own heads. This is not a newspaper comment system and won't deteriorate to that point.