CHAMPAIGN – A nationally recognized expert on cable franchise negotiations will speak Saturday to the Champaign-Urbana Cable TV and Telecommunications Commission.
The meeting will be from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday in the council chambers at the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St. It is open to the public.
Sue Buske, who has 30 years of experience in cable television, will speak. She is the former executive director of the National Federation of Local Cable Programmers, now known as the Alliance for Community Media. She now heads the Buske Group of Sacramento, Calif.
Buske will talk about the franchise renewal process and its potential for serving the community's needs.
The cable commission's Public Access Study Committee has arranged for Buske's presentation as part of its research for the upcoming cable franchise renewal negotiations, which are expected to start next year. The current 15-year franchise agreement with Insight Communications expires Feb. 28, 2009.
"The study committee is recommending a separate public access channel run by an independent not-for-profit group," said Randall Cotton, a member of the study committee. "The idea is this community has fallen behind in terms of public access services and facilities, both for citizens and public service groups."
Cotton said the cable commission could negotiate to obtain a production studio dedicated to public access where, for example, people could hold an interactive talk show. Services for not-for-profits could also be provided, such as having a production crew cover not-for-profit events or providing help to such organizations in creating videos, he said.
Cotton is a member of the Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center, a nonprofit, volunteer-run organization which provides tools to ordinary citizens to produce media. Asked if the independent media center would be interested in running the public access channel, Cotton said it is early in the process and that any such decision would be made by the cities and the cable commission.
Cotton did say that the possibility of the independent media center, which is based in the old downtown Urbana post office, being the location for the public access station has come up in discussions among members of the public access study committee. But that would occur only if the cities requested it, he said.
Another member of the public access study committee is Urbana City Council member Danielle Chynoweth, a founder of the Independent Media Center. Chynoweth said she believes the Urbana Free Library would be the perfect location for any public access channel.
Other committee members include Barbara Gladney, Urbana council member Dennis Roberts, Deb Rugg and Greg Boozell.
Under the current franchise agreement, there are four public, education and government channels, including Champaign Government Television, Channel 5; Urbana Public Television, Channel 6; the University of Illinois' Cable Television Service, Channel 7; and the Parkland College Educational Television, Channel 9.
Urbana Public Television covers city government and Urbana schools, and provides public access. It is the only public access channel locally and is operating near capacity.
The Public Access Study Committee was appointed in January 2005 to review the current situation and compare local services with successful models throughout the country. The panel is also assessing community interest in a separate access channel with production facilities and support.