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Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Buncombe Commissioners Refuse to Bailout URTV

Buncombe County Commissioners Are Against a Bailout of URTV

The URTV Saga continues. Here is an excerpt from The Wild West blog of the John Locke Foundation regarding last night's refusal of the Buncombe County Commissioners to bailout URTV...
I felt like a sucker at the meeting of the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners tonight. Questioning why I had never felt so before, I realized this was the first time I was hearing fiscal conservatism from the dais. Though swarmed by petitioners for money to bailout URTV, Commissioner Holly Jones said those who wanted URTV to survive would have to pool their mental resources and come up with a plan. Chair David Gantt echoed. He did not think it appropriate for government to be holding the purse strings of Public Access TV. Prior to public comment, consultant John Howell kept pointing his finger at the state for screwing the county out of revenues it could be channeling to URTV. When Howell said the commissioners had the option of giving URTV a special award, Commissioner Bill Stanley, replied thrice, “That’s not an option,” then added, “We can’t raise taxes.”
Source: Running Out of Dreams by Leslee Kulba (emphasis added by me)

I've not really blogged about the thing here because I've thought the whole thing an exercise in silly people pursuing silly power plays in an endless parade of silly Drama Queens. 

PEG, short for Public, Educational, Government access television got its start in the late sixties and early seventies via the FCC (Federal Communications Commission). These channels are typically only available to cable television subscribers, although many now stream their content on the Internet. It is my belief that the Internet has essentially rendered public access obsolete. Many more people can watch via the Internet rather than the small cable TV audiences. Here is a portion of what I have posted recently on the Mountain Xpress website regarding my thought on the matter:

PEG Channels have been rendered obsolete by technical means. Anyone with a camera and access to a fast Internet connection can make videos and upload them for the world to see…not just the few local cable TV subscribers in their town.

Cameras are cheap. You can get an HD camera for less than $200. Video Editing Software is cheap. Windows Movie Maker and iMove are free and there are many open source options available as well, and good editors can be had for under $100.

Training is cheap or even free if one can use a search engine and is willing to read and then conduct their own experiments to see if they’ve understood what they’ve read about the theory and application of filming techniques and various articles regarding technical aspects of building or operating a studio.

About your citation of the 1984 Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act, the full text is available at
You didn’t pay attention to the wording of the Barry Goldwater’s bill. It states “may require not shall require. May require means that it is an option, not a requirement. The local government has the option of keeping the money. Most local governments around the country keep that money.

PEG advocates may have intended the 1984 bill to save PEG Channels from the Supreme Court ruling against the FCC in FCC vs. Midwest Video Corp. , but it had the opposite effect due to the poor wording of the bill as sponsored by Barry Goldwater.

Public Access was created to provide a free-speech forum, open to all on a first-come, first-served basis without discrimination or favoritism based on content. I argue that the Internet, along with cheap cameras, free or cheap software and free or cheap training renders PEG Channels obsolete, if not already parochial.

And, as a bonus, you don’t have to deal with the ever-present internecine bureaucratic struggles for power and control of local PEG programming, facilities, equipment and funds.


One other thing I forgot to mention that makes Public Access totally irrelevant is 24/7 FREE WEBCASTING available via Ustream, Livestream (formerly Mogulus) and Justin TV. There are others that also offer this service.

You can do live shows, or upload pre-recorded content without having to worry about putting your hands in other people’s pockets for money to bankroll your operation or having to worry about open meeting laws or power-hungry people hiring a private investigator to dig up dirt on you or the person running the operation. You don’t have to worry about childish office politics as people jockey to get a better time slot or use a piece of equipment that Other People’s Money bought for you.

[Be sure to click over and read the lengthy discussion over there on the matter. (also check out this new discussion thread) It floors me that some people who consider themselves to be fiscally conservative would support bailouts on the local level...since they oppose them on the federal level. I consider that a hypocritical attitude.]

I think that the primary reason that the Buncombe County Commissioners are staying out of the URTV Saga is the violently vociferous actions of a few people who have been, in my opinion, seeking personal and political power via the URTV platform. In their mad pursuits, they have killed (or very badly wounded) the very thing they claim to support. 

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I've watched this drama play out over the past couple of years with disgust.

It reminds of the metaphor expressed by the Tragedy of the Commons. The metaphor illustrates the argument that free access and unrestricted demand for a finite resource ultimately reduces the resource through over-exploitation, temporarily or permanently. This occurs because the benefits of exploitation accrue to individuals or groups, each of whom is motivated to maximize use of the resource to the point in which they become reliant on it, while the costs of the exploitation are borne by all those to whom the resource is available (which may be a wider class of individuals than those who are exploiting it). This, in turn, causes demand for the resource to increase, which causes the problem to snowball to the point that the resource is depleted (even if it retains a capacity to recover). The rate at which depletion of the resource is realized depends primarily on three factors: the number of users wanting to consume the common in question, the consumptiveness of their uses, and the relative robustness of the common. The common in this case is a public access television channel.

Many of the people using it have become dependent upon it (emotionally or politically) and have come to believe that they are entitled to continued use of it, even at the expense of others.

It saddens me that some local "conservatives" have allowed them to get sucked into the whole mess. I've spoken with many of the people involved, and their thought processes have reached an irrational level.

Your best bet would be to ignore it because, from my observations, these people will come after you on a personal level and attempt to destroy you because they suffer emotional problems that border (pun intended) on being full-blown Borderline Personality Disorders.

I saw what Davyne Dial posted. She really is a piece of work.

There are more people rooting for you Bobby than you know. Keep up the good work and don't let these viciously amoral people shut you down.

I appreciate the support, guys.

@Gary, it is sad that people won't debate the issues on their merits, or lack thereof.

@Mark, I am humbled by the number of people who hit my tip jar every month. It is they who have enabled me to do this full-time.

Now the chickens come home to roost. This is what we've been dreading and expecting since fall of '07. No dialog about finances was ever permitted in Board meetings. Instead any one who questioned the direction was demonized and run off, by folks who drank the Koolaid (by the gallons.)

So now I get this message from Commissioner Gantt; "Davyne- Thanks for the note. I appreciate your comments on Tuesday. You certainly have a front row seat in the current crisis. You tried to warn of this and didn’t get appropriate response. We have audited URTV. I don’t think any improprieties were found, but the poor business practices you described were revealed".

I've been in business for 30 years, and I know when a business is doing long term planning and this non profit (URTV, Inc.) was not planning for the long term viability of a public asset. Shame on the rubber stamping BOD and the public officials who participated or looked the other way and allowed this betrayal of the public trust to occur.