A Mediacom proposal to the Columbia City Council calls for an agreement with local television station KMIZ-KQFX to provide studio access and equipment for public-access television.
David Wilson of the Columbia Media Resource Alliance is scheduled to address the council tonight about the proposal, which would also allow Charter Communications and Mediacom to hire a full-time channel supervisor.
Beth Federici, board president for the alliance, said having a commercial entity run the channel might cause public access to “take the back seat.”
“The public deserves an access channel that is run by people who will make it their main focus,” she said. “At KMIZ, the business will take precedence over the public access.”
According to Mediacom, running the public-access channel through KMIZ-KQFX’s studio will give users access to the best equipment. KMIZ-KQFX General Manager Randy Wright said the station jumped at the chance to provide its services.
“We think it’s a great community project,” Wright said. “Our TV station is trying to find different ways to interact with the public.”
While there is no formal agreement between the two yet, Mediacom and Charter representatives said the companies would compensate KMIZ-KQFX for the $30,000 salary of the channel supervisor.
Columbia’s franchise agreement with cable providers Mediacom and Charter Communications provide that the cable companies must set up a fixed-studio facility, programming equipment and channel space for use on a public-access channel.
The Media Resource Alliance has been trying to work with the City Council to establish the channel for more than two years. The group will express its disapproval with the proposal at tonight’s council meeting.
“In all of my experience and research, I have never seen a third-party commercial entity running a public-access channel,” Federici said. “The only time that I have ever seen a commercial entity running it is when it is the cable company.”
Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless has no objection to the public-access channel being run through KMIZ-KQFX, but he does object to proposed fees of $80 an hour for studio programming time and $30 an hour for channel air time. Extra fees are also proposed for production editing.
“I doubt that the fees will be satisfactory,” Loveless said. “It’s my understanding that their franchise agreement requires that they provide that for free.”
Mediacom spokesman Stan Melton said the fees would raise money for remote-production equipment and production staff. They would also “assist in qualifying” users.
“If something is free, people who might not be quite as serious about using it will be involved in it,” Melton said. “Whereas if there is a fee, however small, that allows you to determine who is serious about using the facilities.”
Loveless said the council will refer the proposal to a newly authorized task force on cable issues.