As a follow-up to a recent post about Alexandria’s Government Access Television channel:

Alexandria City Council President Roosevelt Johnson obviously takes issue with being criticized on television. Television, you see, is his thing; Johnson worked for many years as a videographer for the local NBC affiliate, which, incidentally, also employed his colleague, Councilwoman Mitzi Gibson. President Johnson is so incensed about being criticized on television that he’s asked the Federal Communications Commission (the FCC) to “investigate” the “misuse” of Government Access Television. Surely, after all, there must be a provision that allows Roosevelt Johnson to control the editorial content on our local GATV station. Surely, the FCC will intervene to protect Roosevelt Johnson and other Councilpersons from criticism. Surely, the City Council should be able to prevent the Mayor from going on television and speaking about their actions. And obviously, this injustice requires a federal investigation.

Is it okay if I quote Shakespeare? Too bad.

 

To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury
Signifying nothing.”
 — Macbeth (Act 5, Scene 5, lines 17-28)

From the FCC (bold mine):

PEG channels are not mandated by federal law.  Rather they are a right given to the franchising authority, which it may choose to exercise. The decision to require the cable operator to carry PEG channels is up to the local franchising authority. If the franchising authority does require PEG channels, that requirement will be set out in the franchise agreement between the franchising authority and the cable operator.

 

There is no explicit federal prohibition on content on PEG channels.  PEG channels may be used by members of the general public and for educational purposes. These channels may be used to transmit government activities, such as city council meetings, which may be of interest to local residents.  PEG channels may also be used by members of the general public and for educational purposes.  Public access channels are available for use by the general public. They are usually administered either by the cable operator or by a third party designated by the franchising authority.

In Alexandria, despite Greg Aymond’s and Suddenlink’s best efforts to convince us otherwise, the “franchising authority” is now the Louisiana Secretary of State, not the City. But even if it was the City, it’d be the “City,” not the City Council. Federal law provides for PEG channels, as Mr. Aymond noted, but franchise agreements are now negotiated by the State. In fairness to Mr. Aymond, I believe the law enacted by Governor Jindal violates both state and federal law by usurping the vested powers of cities protected by Municipal Home Rule Charters. Jindal’s actions amounted to nothing more than a complete giveaway to corporations and manifestly violate the protections and the authority provided by Municipal Home Rule Charters.

But regardless, as the FCC implies, Councilman Johnson is, once again, playing for the cameras. Calling for a federal investigation? Give us all a break. The best defense is the truth, and clearly, for Councilman Johnson, that option still remains unavailable; he’d prefer to control content.

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