Summer 2001 Home   Newsletters

Fall 2001

Winter 2001

President's Message: Bring 'em Back!!!! Who cares? (Maile Bay)
Gambling Heating Up (Dorothy Bobilin)
To All League Members - An Invite to Dine
Keeping the Public out of Public Access (Edward Coll)
Ulupono - A Conference on Violence Against Women
Public Hearing Schedule - Reapportionment Commission
Redistricting Plans Ready for Hearings (Jean Aoki)
Local League News - Honolulu (Pearl Johnson)
Local League News - Kauai (Carol Bain)
Fundraiser Alert - LWV Hawaii (Jackie Parnell)

Keeping the Public out of Public Access

You'd think that access corporations, the folks who run public access television here in Hawaii, would be fierce defenders of democracy. After all, the intent of the 1984 Cable Rights Act was to provide individual citizens access to electronic free speech. Public access television (as distinct from public television) was intended to be an electronic mainstreet where opinions and ideas on which a viable democracy is based flow freely.

You'd think access corporations would be all for democracy, but you'd be mistaken. Unfortunately, Hawaii's Public access organizations lack Sunshine, accountability, and oversight.

Recently, the board of Ho'ike: Kauai Community Television, Inc. has taken actions against the public's interest, including:

  • removed all public volunteers from all advisory committees
  • forbad members of the public from speaking on issues at board meetings
  • forbad the videotaping of board meetings by journalists and members of the public.
  • terminated the access to Ho'ike facilities and meetings by members of the public for alleged bylaw violations, without providing any proof such violations occurred

The above examples are not specific to Ho'ike on the island of Kaua'i. Similar board actions in opposition to the public's interest have occurred throughout the state.

In the early 1990's the State of Hawaii created Public Education and Government (PEG) access organizations to operate and manage Public, Education, and Government (PEG) cable access channels on the islands of : Oahu ('Olelo), Kauai (Ho'ike), Maui (Akaku), and Hawaii (Na Leo). These access organizations are not covered by Hawaii's open meeting or Sunshine laws even though they were created by; the board is appointed by; and the funding is mandated by the State of Hawaii.

Funding for these access organizations was mandated by the Hawaii State Legislature through the assessment of up to 5% of the cable companies' gross revenues in payment for cable company use of the public right-of-way through which they run their cables to subscribers.

A political appointee of the Governor, the Director of the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs (DCCA), appoints the majority of board members of each access organization. The cable company appoints the rest - a minority of board members. These access organizations have no members other than these appointed board members. The cable companies pass the entire costs of the funding of PEG access organizations onto their subscribers'. The cost is itemized on the subscribers cable bill as a franchise/access fee.

The "Public" in PEG has been an absolute failure, as the arrangements described above suggest it was designed to be. To conceal their failure, these access organizations are changing their mission while the DCCA turns a blind eye and declines to exercise regulatory oversight. They talk more often now of the viewer than of the presenter on so-called "public access" television. It is much easier to focus on the viewer instead of the speaker as the Cable Rights Act intended. The public interest has been hijacked and is represented by non-profit corporations including the PEG access organizations themselves. Unfortunately like Hoike many of these boards are secretive, unresponsive to public input, and actively working against the public's interests.

Government and these nonprofit corporations want to control public access resource for themselves without public participation. The process now afoot is to remove the individual speaker's voice from the marketplace of ideas. Changing from a speakerdriven process to a viewer-driven process has effectively reversed the mission of public access television.

The public is being systematically removed from public access, and is evidently without recourse.

Visit the following websites to read more about this issue and ways to solve it: Kauai Individuals Uniting Cooperatively [], Hawaii Public Access Media [].

Edward Coll

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