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CAT TV helps residents cross the digital divide
By Sunshine Morgan


Awards hanging on the wall in the office of Sky Blaylock, the manager of Community Access Television, resemble those at the House of Blues. Among these honors is a framed gold record she received from the Record Industry Association of America, the organization that charts Billboard hits, for breaking the Digable Planets on her music video show, Dallas Music Videos.
Blaylock played the video during the dawning era of MTV at one of 13 community access television station in Dallas. She also received a double platinum award from the RIAA for playing the punk rock video for the band The Offspring.
Blaylock received a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film from the University of Texas at Arlington with a minor in business administration. She attended graduate school at the University of North Texas and taught at the Art Institute of Dallas. She has been the manager of Community Access Television in Fayetteville since 2003.
Blaylock represented Community Access Television for Northwest Arkansas at the 2007 International Alliance for Community Media Conference in Minneapolis, Minn. The conference was organized to inform representatives from community access television stations worldwide about recent changes in the way information is disseminated to the public through community media amid the convergence of cable television, Internet and telephone service ownership.
Blaylock’s video of the event will be cablecast in October on Cox Channel 18 in Fayetteville.
“CAT is helping everyone cross the digital divide, helping them become active media participants versus passive consumers,” Blaylock said.
At present, Community Access Television is available only on COX Cable in Fayetteville. The station plans to expand its audience from Fayetteville to the World Wide Web, offering a local version of You Tube plus radio with podcasting, a news portal and blogging.
Worldwide web accessibility initially requires T1 line live streaming, which means that programs broadcast over CAT and the Government Channel will be available on the Web at the same time that they are on television.
“The long-term goal is to provide programming ‘on demand,’ which means that archived shows will be also be available. This will require expanding hard drive capability,” CAT Board President Colleen Pancake said.
While Blaylock and several other CAT Fayetteville constituents were at a Media Reform Conference in Memphis, representatives from AT&T approached the Fayetteville City Council with a franchise to provide video services like Cox Cable. AT&T offered the Fayetteville City Council the 5 percent video franchise fee required by the incumbent cable company. AT&T has also promised to offer the PEG (Public, Educational and Government) Channels on their new U-Verse platform, which would allow programming to become available via the Internet. However, AT&T’s “PEG Solution” has not been found to be viable in other communities around the country.
“The FCC passed deregulation rulings in December last year, and the telephone companies went around Congress to the states, and now, to cities, to get their media ownership agendas passed,” Blaylock said.
A federal court has been asked to block implementation of the FCC order in a suit filed by the National League of Cities, National Association of Counties, the U.S. Conference of Mayors and several non-profit organizations representing communications democracy.
“In the open marketplace of ideas, community media is important so that the local cultural voice is heard,” Blaylock said. “Mobilizing the masses — that’s what we do.”
A public concern is that consolidated media is not flexible enough to serve local communities in case of emergency. This happened in Minot, N.D., in 2002, after a train filled with anhydrous ammonia derailed. None of the leading radio stations in Minot carried information on the derailment or evacuation procedures, largely because they were all owned by Clear Channel Communications and received automated feeds from the corporate headquarters in San Antonio, Texas. Scores of people were injured and three people died.
It will cost the city $31,000 a year for PEG channels, which include Community Access Television and the Government Channel, to be available in this form in Fayetteville, unless AT&T assists with the technology to cover this ongoing expense.
Community media is one of the few remaining channels through which residents of Northwest Arkansas can exercise their First Amendment rights to free speech and press because it gives them the ability to broadcast their message, unedited, to the local community.
“Community access archives history at a deeper level than a sound byte. It also gives to the community what other communities can’t — access,” Pancake said. “It empowers people so their voice can be heard.  It’s neat seeing people going from learning to using to really using community media.”
The city could put the pressure on AT&T.
“If Cox is the only cable provider, then the city could require AT&T to allow CAT on television and on the Internet,” said Edosa Aibangbee, an industrial engineering student working on his master’s degree at the University of Arkansas.
Community Access Television just began the “CAT Endowment Fund” with the Northwest Arkansas Community Foundation. Through this fund, community members can help preserve the CAT Channel and supplement the funding that is received from the city each year.
CAT will hold its annual televised Fall Fundraiser from 6 to 9 p.m. on Oct. 26 on Channel 18. Interested donors can give money, goods or services to CAT during the entire month of October and during the televised live raffle of which 10 percent will contribute to the CAT Endowment Fund.
For more information about CAT go to www.catfayetteville.com or call 444-3433.
Community Access Television offers these workshops in their studio, located on the corner of Rock and Block streets, one block south of the Fayetteville downtown square. Workshops are held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for Northwest Arkansas residents who are interested in creating videos for broadcast on Cox Cable Channel 18. CAT is a project that has been in operation for 25 years and is partially funded by the City of Fayetteville.

at a glance
CAT Workshops

Week One
Class: Basic Internet Workshop
Cost: Free
Time: 6-7 p.m.
Class: Orientation to Field Camera, Editing and Studio Classes
Cost: Free
Time: Noon-3 p.m.
Class: Field Camera Class
Cost: $25

Week Two
Class: Blogging Workshop
Cost: Free
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Class: Field Camera Class
Cost: $25
Time: Noon-3 p.m.
Class: Studio Class
Cost: $25

Week Three
Class: YouTube
Cost: Free
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Class: Editing Class
Cost: $25
Noon: Noon-1 p.m.
Class: Orientation to Field Camera, Editing and Studio Classes
Cost: Free
Time: 2 p.m.
Class: Literacy Series — Step up to Critical Thinking with Jo Guinn Carnes
Cost: Free

Week Four
Class: Funday Munday (topics vary)
Cost: Free
Time: 6-9 p.m.
Class: Studio Class
Cost: $25
Time:Noon-3 p.m.
Class: Editing Workshop
Cost: $25

Source: Staff Report