Back in the good ‘ol days of the 60s, we only got three TV stations. Two, CBS AND NBC, from Roanoke, VA and one, ABC, from Oak-Hill/Beckley. The airwaves were free and all a person had to do was get a TV and an antenna from Jack up at the Western Auto and you were good to go. Everything from Walter Cronkite doing the evening news to Roy Rogers and Sky Ranger on Saturday mornings. It was all free.
Then cable TV came along. The airwaves were still free, but no someone had to pay some access fees for the physical cable that was run from the station to the house. Since these cables were run through public property generally following the right-of-ways an answer was proposed…and accepted.
The cable company would pay an “access fee” to the local city and county government. This “access fee” would give the cable company the right to bury the cables along side public thoroughfares. Problem solved.
Now that cable was around, everyone could see the news in New York, Chicago and Miami as well as other places. But there was nothing left for local programming. Another proposal was tendered.
Take a portion of the money that the cable company pays for access to the right of way and use that money to support local programing…or “public access” television. Problem solved again…for a season.
The county and city governments would set down with the cable company and determine how many subscribers lived in each jurisdiction. The cable company would pay an agreed upon amount per subscriber and this money would be used to establish and maintain “public access” in the locale. Problem solved…again, for a season.
Back around 2006 here in North Carolina, the state couldn’t leave well enough alone. Not understanding the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, the state now wanted to have a STATE franchise instead of a LOCAL franchise. So, yah, you guessed it…all the money now had to go from the cable company, to Raleigh and then back to each local city and county government for return to the public access folks…here in Asheville it’s URTV.
Well, it seems we’ve got a problem. While Asheville City Government grasps the concept, the illustrious leaders of the County can’t wrap their brain around this. The money that the county is getting from Raleigh (and is intended by Raleigh) to go to URTV is disappearing into the black hole of county budgets.
Right now, no one can really say exactly where the dollars are coming from, but everyone knows where they’re not going to…namely URTV.
With the county dicking around with the money like they are, our FREEDOM OF SPEECH rights are in serious danger. What can you do?
Well, for starters, show up at tomorrow night’s County Commission meeting to ask Wanda, Dave and the rest of the folks…”Where the hell is the money!”