An Open Letter to the King County Council

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[Jan Strout urges Councilmembers to slow down their fast-track attempt to extend Comcast's cable franchise, at the expense of the public's best interests. The Council plans to take this issue up again on Monday Dec. 15--there's still time to submit your own comments!]


Dec. 13, 2003

Dear King County Council members,

I attended the public hearing on the Cable Franchise Extension on Monday, December 8th and spoke as a concerned citizen about the need to vote NO on the proposed ordinance on Monday, December 15, 2003. Both the democratic process and the role of community media are at risk when such limited notice and participation opportunities took place in the previous week. This short-sighted process, in turn, will result in serious and negative long-term impacts to both our County government and the people of our region.

I have worked in the media and non-profit field for over 25 years, most recently at the Seattle Community Access Network and now with individual and foundation donors who want to increase funding of media. I also co-facilitate, with Karen Toering, Managing Director of 911 Media Arts Center, a social and strategic network of nearly 100 professionals and activists concerned about media and democracy issues in the Puget Sound region and beyond.

I am very concerned that King County is not allowing the necessary time for the diversity of our County residents to participate and help inform the next five years of communication and technology needs for this region. Given the rapidly changing media landscape -- with the loss of local programming and diversity of viewpoints through consolidation of media ownership -- we should be taking the time to ensure that we have more -- not less -- channels for information and trustworthy news that can serve to improve our lives and community.

Given the seriously strapped resources to meet human needs for King County, members of the Council should be evaluating and increasing the resources from Comcast's Franchise Agreement to off-set other revenue losses and increased expenses. You are selling our citizens and this region short when you give away valuable channel space now in exchange for only $1.2 million, and give up the time you have to ask for much, much more as part of a united regional refranchise process with the City and other municipalities as partners at the table with Comcast.

I and many others urge you to slow down this process and take the time to allow citizen participation, utilize the expertise of Seattle's breadth and depth of leadership and work on media and democracy issues, analyze the true value of the channel space owned by the public and ultimately negotiate a Cable Franchise Agreement that reflects the needs and strengths of our Region. Furthermore, contribute to support the rapidly growing movements of ordinary folks who have had enough of info-mercials or outright "news" propoganda and now are opposing the media ownership consolidation process with its loss of relevant news and information.

You showed real courage last Summer, 2002, when you defeated the move to transfer the Cable Franchise from ATT to Comcast without significant revisions in that Agreement. I urge you to demonstrate that courage again now!

Thank you for your consideration.


Janis L. Strout

article originally published at .
The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey