Robin Byrd's America


Here's an article that makes me regret getting rid of cable. San Francisco's Channel 29 leads the nation in outr? public-access programming that challenges the limits of free speech protection. (I had always sort of hoped that some obscure station in Minot, North Dakota or Malheur County, Oregon might be an undiscovered Hope Diamond of TV sleaze, but apparently the city by the bay is as good as it gets.) Fortunately, Channel 29 is in good hands:

A professor, an independent producer and a disability rights activist sit in Channel 29's Market Street studios. Members of the station's program committee, they stare grimly at a TV monitor, reviewing two programs that have inspired viewer complaints.

A seven-minute segment from "D World" — the D is short for Dope — shows a blindfolded woman performing lewd acts using a bottle of Miller Genuine Draft.

Peggy Coster, the disability advocate, winces at the footage: "I'm worried about this woman's safety."

"Maybe we should add a disclaimer," says another committee member. " 'Don't try this at home.' "

Other watchdog efforts—including an attempt to shut down Tampa's PA station and a proposal to move Los Angeles public access off TV and onto the internet—are not so amusing:

Bitterford, Maine, temporarily shut down its station after a local businessman said he was slandered during a call-in show. In Palestine, Texas, officials tried to close the local station after a show criticized local government. Officials in Kansas City, Mo., tried to cut public access funding rather than run a program sponsored by American Nazis.

If that doesn't wet your whistle, here's a history of public access in these United States.