Atlanta’s People TV Again in Limbo, as Mayor Pushes RFP

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people tv(APN) ATLANTA — Atlanta’s cable Channel 24, a public access station known as People TV, will lose the fifteen thousand dollars a month funding from the City of Atlanta on June 31, 2017, and is in danger of ceasing operations at that time.

 

People TV has been one of the few progressive media in Atlanta for decades, and has long given a voice to low-income people and minorities in Atlanta.

 

For years, as previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, the station has struggled to survive on budget allocations from the City of Atlanta, following the expiration of a funding stream from Comcast under the last Franchise Agreement with the City.

 

People TV’s contract with the City to manage Channel 24 expired in November of 2016, and the City is funding People TV on a temporary basis to keep the channel operating.

 

If People TV has no money to manage the station past June 31, 2017, they will not be able to meet their programming requirements and the station will go dark.

 

If People TV can no longer manage the station, and there is no new entity ready to take over, Channel 24 is at risk for a takeover by Comcast.

 

Request for Proposals?

 

Katrina Taylor-Parks, a representative for Mayor Reed’s administration, has publicly stated that the City is seriously considering issuing a Request for Proposals (RFP) for Channel 24 to invite a new managing entity.

 

“I know that the Mayor’s Office is considering an RFP, but I have not heard anything about its progress,” Councilwoman Natalyn Archibong (District 5), who used to chair City Utilities Cmte, told APN.

 

APN reached out to the Mayor’s Office for comment on where they were in the process of issuing an RFP.

 

“If we conduct a competitive process for a new service provider, that information will be posted on the City of Atlanta website,” Christina Cruz-Benton a press information officer, said.

 

New Franchise Agreement, PEG Fees

 

The City of Atlanta and Comcast are currently negotiating a new Franchise Agreement, though the City Utilities Committee of the Atlanta City Council has decided to push the deadline on making a final decision on a new agreement to November 2017.

 

The new Agreement, as proposed, would provide no funding from Comcast to People TV.

 

John Sharaf, a former board member at People TV , said that there is a source of money that should be dedicated to People TV: Public, Educational, and Governmental (PEG) fees.

 

“Comcast has been collecting these fees from each customer, but where is that money going?” Sharaf asked.

 

“We are talking about a gigantic amount of money that could be used for PEG channels.  We could use this to fund these without dipping into public funds,” Sharaf said.

 

“Comcast and the City are in collusion to rip off the citizens,” Sharaf said.

 

Susan Garrett, Senior Assistant City Attorney, publicly commented on PEG funding at a recent committee meeting.

“PTV is not part of the current franchise agreement with Comcast,” Garrett said.

 

“Some of the [PEG] funding flows to People TV, but the funding is not governed by that agreement, it is based on the City’s agreement,” with People TV, Garrett said.

 

“I went through the new Comcast contract agreement in regards to People TV, the agreement was submitted by the Mayor’s office,” Adrian Coleman Tyler, a former Board President at People TV, told APN.
“The overall agreement is very lacking.  The [proposed] 2016 franchise agreement states that PEG channels will be up to five channels, while the last agreement allowed for six.  Why are we reducing?” Coleman Tyler asked.

Political Conspiracy?

 

“I think there is a political conspiracy to eliminate public access, and the way People TV is presently being run is hurting the cause of public access,” Maynard Eaton, a People TV Board Member appointed by the Mayor’s Office, told APN.

 

“I think there is a lack of faith from City officials, and I don’t think the Mayor has put his weight behind public access,” Eaton said.
“If the channel is taken away there will be a political scandal.  We have to build a movement to save public access,” Eaton said.

 

“I believe this Mayor’s administration like no other has pushed back on citizens engagement,” Ron Shakir, a producer at People TV, told APN.

 

“To save People TV we need a strong mayor and citizens to raise their voices,” said Shakir.

 

Leadership Concerns

 

Ms. Parks commented at a City Utilities Committee Meeting on September 13, 2016, that the Mayor’s office was displeased with the leadership at People TV.

 

“What I am saying is that we can no longer expect status quo, we are asking for a renewed public access tv, we want to help, but we don’t want to keep throwing money down a black hole, and not get the results expected from public access television,” Taylor-Parks said.

 

John Sharaf also discussed his displeasure with the current People TV leadership, including Board President Patricia Crayton.

 

“My objective is to preserve public access, not necessarily People TV,” Sharaf said.

 

Another former Board member criticized the station’s leadership.

 

“I resigned from the board after five months, in the Spring of 2014,” Rick Clear, a long-time public access television manager from Indiana, said.

 

“I left because there was nothing there that I could do.  The Board was being controlled by a couple of people, and we were just supposed to come and vote yes.  And I didn’t necessarily agree with the budget process,” Clear said.

 

Rick Clear is a part of a group who will bid to take over Channel 24 if an RFP moves forward.

 

Clear and his group had a meeting with present City Utilities Chairman Alex Wan (District 6) to discuss moving the RFP process forward.

 

Patricia Crayton, Board President and long-time producer at People TV, gave us her side of the story.

 

“I am an optimist, I don’t believe the funding will run out.  Through the board we are discussing strategies for the potential RFP,” Crayton told APN.

 

“I feel the Mayor stands behind public access television and People TV.  I feel that our creator put me here, and he didn’t put me here to fail,” Crayton said.

 

Crayton met with the Mayor in late October 2016, and she emphasized that any bad feelings between the Mayor’s Office and People TV have been resolved.

 

Not everybody thinks an outside organization will best serve the public interest.

 

“We can fix leadership, but don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, we just need a little tweaking,” Shakir said.

 

(END/2017)

8 comments

  • Thanks to Atlanta Progressive News and writer Austin Stewart for bringing Atlanta’s Public Access/Community Media situation to the community’s attention. The article brings attention to what has happened in regards to access and People Tv in the last few months. But a more important, more promising and exciting story might be what public access and new community media could become in Atlanta! New technologies, social/political engagement, arts and education communities combined with Atlanta’s forward thinking “attitude” would create a public access venture not only as good as any other city but one that other communities would pattern after. A true partnership of citizenry, city government, education and business!
    Before asking citizens to support and tune in to public access…public access needs to support and be tuned in to it’s community!
    Hopefully the City of Atlanta will continue with “Request For Proposal” plans concerning public media in Atlanta allowing People Tv along with other entities to submit plans for what public media could become in our great city!

  • Austin Stewart nailed this story. People TV is in crises, and this may be the end of its 30 year run of providing a voice and a First Amendment outlet to the poor and disenfranchised. The late Rev, Hosea Williams and his late cohort, “Alley Pat” became local legends because of their popular PTV shows. I wish there were still activists of their ilk among us to fight for the survival and success of PTV and public access in Atlanta. The current crop of Atlanta mayoral candidates must speak out on this very important issue.

  • The report states that the City’s contract with People TV expired in November 2016. Unfortunately that was not the case.

    The last “signed” contract expired on 12/31/14 and People TV has operated since without any contact, or surety that any money would be forthcoming from the City.

    As a matter of fact the stakeholders of PTV had to make repeated, loud and embarrassing appearances before the Public Utility Committee to plead that the Committee interseed on their behalf and force the City to pay up. Thankfully they did.

    Even after the City announced their intention to end payments in June 2017 the contract that was promised to be offered to codify that relationship was never delivered, and as a result each month there is considerable doubt and delay in the payments that has made continuing operations very difficult and unpredictable.

    As a result there is great uncertainty at the station about what will happen after 6/31/17; will the City reconsider, and continue to support the station on a month-to-month basis? Otherwise the Public Access “ownership” of Channel 24 will inevitably be threatened, by making the mandate of a certain number of hours of original programs each month “Mission Impossible”. The FY2018 budget is likely being written now; will Public Access have an allocation?

    These circumstances can only support the conclusion that the City would like to put Public Access to sleep once and for all, and squash one of the last remaining vestiges of free speech and citizen journalism in the City of Atlanta. The question of why the City agreed with Comcast to revoke all PEG Support seven years ago must be revisited before any contract is renewed with Comcast. The citizens of Atlanta deserve something in that bargain that ultimately benefits Comcast over the 7 year term $600 Million or more. Other municipalities like Philadelphic, Denver and Seattle have all recently crafted beneficial renewals with Comcast, Atlanta should as well.

    This is an issue that all freedom loving people should embrace, and for that matter must become a topic of conversation as the Mayor and City Council races proceed towards the November vote.

  • Why should tax dollars be wasted on a TV station most people can’t watch. DISH does not carry it and I suspect DIRECT doesn’t either.

    • You can watch a stream at peopletv.org

      With many homes cutting the cable this is a great way to get content

      The issue then is more in providing the venue for training and production

      The amount we’re talking about is chump change both in terms of the the amount (less than is spent in producing one 30 second national commercial for example) and the great benefit for citizens to be able to produce local programs and facilitate dialog about things that matter to them

      I’ll admit the concept is somewhat altruistic and counter-intuitive but the rich history of People TV itself supports its continuation. Public Access TV is a living asset that promotes Free Speech.

  • Neither DISH, nor DirecTV are embedded in the “Public Right of Way”; but Comcast Cable is!
    James you should probably do a simple amount of research before making such an assertion.
    There are “NO”, “0” tax dollars spent for this TV station. It is not a satellite tv station; it rides the cable system.
    It’s a “Public Access” TV station, which means citizens of the city of Atlanta, get 1st come, 1st served access to the studios to produce their own “Free Speech”, “citizen journalism”, television programming.
    For next to nothing, in terms of the true cost do TV production.

    On the Leadership side, both People TV and the City government have been lacking a lot…

    A: The City has all but washed it’s hands of People TV in terms of properly seating its contingent of board members who should be the point of leadership in terms of maintaining organizational continuity and development. Not to mention, they’ve all but given away the kitty in terms of the “PEG” fees which were always meant to be the source of funding for People TV. Having gone from a real workable budget which allowed People TV to truly operate its mission of citizen television, to a bare bones, meager budget that basically allows them to open the doors; I can see why some might conclude that there’s more left to be desired, looking at the situation in a vacuum of knowledge based on “NO” real data.
    B: People TV, on the other hand, suffers from the lack of leadership in the form of a budget which affords a “professional/teaching” TV production “staff”, who can lead the uninitiated general public into the “Arts & Sciences” of TV/Film production.

    By resolving the issues of ” A & B” alone, the Public Access mission of People TV is rendered much easier to manage & build upon, in terms of facilitating citizens in their own program pursuits, in addition covering a city the size of Atlanta, in a “Public Affairs” programming mentality.

    I’m Just Saying…

  • Community Television is a media that can be adapted to provide both high quality and positive programming for our communities, public officials, schools and citizens. Community Television must showcase all cultures and be a true representation of the city in which it resides.

    • Free Speech can be either positive or negative dependent on the viewers perception!
      Those attempting to put any slant; positive or negative on Free Speech are simply attempting to be the gatekeepers of speech…”Public Access TV” as opposed to Community TV is “free” & “open” the entire marketplace of ideas, not some showcase of arbitrary ideals of community culture or “group think”…from the individual’s perspective to an entire “community” perspective, “Public Access TV” is in it’s essence the “truest” representation of American culture via its 1st Amendment dictates.
      The day when “Public Access TV” becomes Community TV is the day when “1st come 1st served” “Free Speech” dies because now it’s no longer about the individual’s speech; now it’s about a “community’s” perspective & “who decides” what’s important speech then.?. Who… you???

      I don’t think so!

      IJS

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