The city of Moorhead has charged a non-profit organization, Moorhead Community Access Media (MCAM) with the task of providing local public access media services and administering public funds. Since 2010 the city of Moorhead has allocated MCAM $186,200 from the city of Moorhead's Franchise Agreement monies received from Cable One and Mid Continent for cable access programming. However, the public’s knowledge of services, programming and use of this public trust is minimal. The People’s Press Project set out to analyze, educate and improve access in our area.
The People’s Press Project has been doing an assessment of where our local public access dollars are going. Unfortunately, like most of the country, they are being absorbed by our local governments without our input. Big telecommunications companies want to use the bandwidth that public access is carried on to turn a profit and they pay cities big money for it. The results have severe for local access stations nationwide.
Like most places in the country, our local access is now nearly non existent. And what we do have is severely limited. Given the lack of local infrastructure to support the only local access station, MCAM, the PPP has been poised to train and prepare citizen journalists to produce, broadcast, host, and report on some local government meetings. All, without any financial support!
With all the millions being poured into local “free speech” rights public access, the issues of access should be minimal. However, the reality is that local communities don’t always know how these monies are being administered. Even though millions still flow into the city coffers for “free speech” public access, the community isn’t seeing the benefit.
And that is a blow to our communication rights. Because if we can’t control our local airwaves, we are unable to represent the voices of our community. And frequently, those voices are drowned out.
The PPP’s has been fighting locally to improve and rectify our local access issues through education and awareness and by pushing our elected officials and only local access station to champion an expansion of PEG (Public access, Educational, and Government) programming. Unfortunately, the privately run non-profit charged with this duty (Fargo has NO studio) MCAM, has failed to ensure this public trust and is instead restricting access and creation of media. Airing local government meetings has become a hallmark of the People’s Press Project. However, our local public access station in Moorhead is failing its mission to provide access to organizations, like the PPP, that watch-dog government entities and report to the public about their activities. We believe that an engaged community must be informed of the decisions of its elected officials and government agencies. Interfering with the public’s ability to report on the activities of government is a way of shutting down and silencing local dissent. The fight to preserve our “free speech” rights, to restore public access television and to maintain quality public access, is also the fight to ensure democracy and freedom for our citizens.
We at PPP feel strongly that access to the only public access station within the Fargo-Moorhead should not be restricted, especially to media justice organizations like us! The city of Moorhead and MCAM should support citizen journalism training, public access, and programming, not restrict them. Restricting access or arbitrarily setting rules that limit the public’s ability to report on government meetings and activities are an affront to our free speech rights and a misuse of the public trust. The MCAM’s current campaign to limit the People’s Press Project’s access to recording equipment, is just that.
MCAM and our local officials need to remember the words of Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights stating:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
Sign this petition and demand that our rights to public access services including studio time, access to equipment and staff for production and broadcasting of public programming, and citizen journalism training. And most importantly, don’t let media justice watch-dog groups such as the People’s Press Project disappear! Let the city of Moorhead, MCAM, your local and state governments and everyone that tries to stifle or hijack our local free speech rights know, they can’t! it’s time for public access to be returned to the public!
Read a full article by PPP for the full story: http://thepeoplespressproject.org/?page_id=1409
View a letter sent to MCAM — Letter and responses from MCAM: Tilton: Stop Restricting Public Access
Update---8-22-12---The People’s Press Project Banned from Utilizing Public Access Television Studio in Moorhead
On August 22, 2012, The People’s Press Project (PPP) was banned from utilizing the region's only Cable Access Television studio, Moorhead Community Access Media (MCAM).
The MCAM board of directors held a meeting to address a complaint that the PPP had submitted to them on the heels of PPP being pressured to pay exorbitant membership fees and undocumented accusations from the MCAM General Manager, Tony Tilton. The MCAM board held a meeting that was dominated by unfounded and undocumented accusations by MCAM General Manager and the MCAM board of directors ignored the written testimony submitted to the board by PPP prior to the meeting.
The MCAM board unanimously decided to suspend PPP from all use of MCAM facilities based on the wishes of the MCAM General Manager Tony Tilton.
Watch the 8-22-12 MCAM meeting videotaped the PPP:
PPP will be appealing this decision by the MCAM board of directors and will keep the community informed of the reluctance of the MCAM board to fulfill their mission and vision for the community to strive “to be the leading venue for public information and creative expression in the region by offering quality equipment, education and media access to all members of the community.” (MCAM vision statement)
Complaint sent to MCAM Baord of Directors
Duke Gomez-Schempp Complaint to MCAM Board of Directors
PPP will continue to circulate a Change.org petition. We encourage our readers to sign this petition to ensure greater access to government funded Public Access Television and to hold accountable our Public Access Television station and it's leadership!
For background information, read Put the “P” back in Public Access Television