What you don’t know about Public Access

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I’ve been sort of surprised and fascinated by the saga of public access ever since hearing SCAN’s side of the story while trying to put together a local film program with them a few years ago (it didn’t work out).

From what I understand, public access used to be paid for by the cable companies – part of the deal they got for being able to charge us access to the airwaves – but that agreement expired, leaving local governments to foot the bill.  Last I heard SCAN was hoping to become more of a public television a la KCTS to survive, raising funds from foundations and donors.

Seattlest just posted a more sophisticated summary of the station’s current quandary, raising the ever-important question: do we even need public access anymore? (To which I add: but don’t you like just knowing it’s there, on sleepless nights at 5am, waiting for you?)

It’s no secret that the City of Seattle is more cash strapped than the posse chilling on 3rd and Pike, and it seems that the next victim of the budget axe is SCAN, the public access television station largely funded by city monies.

It’s kind of a complicated story that has to do with big pots of money that the city’s Department of Information Technology (DoIT) controls. We, in our Cliff Notes style succinctness break it down as such: taxpayers with cable contribute to the Cable Franchise Fund, a fat wad over $6 million large that pays out to lots of programs, including Seattle Channel and SCAN. DoIT proposes that city email fits under the umbrella of the Cable Franchise Fund, and wants to re-direct $400,000 from SCAN toward offsetting the nearly $2 million it costs to manage the city email system.

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