Dens of Iniquity and Inequity
Expanded from the 3-19-2006 Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune
Updated 3-23-2006

Even I am surprised by the latest secret shenanigan being cooked up between Charter Communications and local educators. They have been holding secret meetings about swapping public access channel 16 for educational channel 200. Those wanting to view one of the four local access channels would be forced to buy Charter's expensive digital service and rent a digital converter box.

Worse, it's flat out illegal. Access channels must be on the basic cable tier, which in these parts means the lower digits from channels 2 through the mid-20's. Sierra Nevada Community Access Television (SNCAT) was not even consulted as Charter, Truckee Meadows Community College and the Washoe County School District blithely sallied forth in blissful ignorance of federal law. (Let's cut 'em some slack – the president doesn't believe in following the law, so why should anybody else?)

A recent memo from SNCAT interim executive director Kim Anhalt to community program producers stated

   "It was brought to our (SNCAT) attention that discussions have been taking place, without our knowledge or involvement, to 'swap' your public access channel (Ch. 16) with TMLC's (Truckee Meadows Learning Consortium) educational channel (Ch. 200). It is important to know that SNCAT has been left in the dark regarding if this will indeed happen, and if it does, when. However if this does happen, you and your viewers will be required to rent a digital receiver box from Charter in order to receive the programming you create.

   "I, myself and the SNCAT board of directors feel that it is extremely important to keep your public access channel as part of the 'basic tier' on Charter's cable system. By keeping your programming on the basic tier, public access remains just that -- and is easily accessible to the entire community regardless of individual economic means.

   "In order to do this, we need your help. Please take the time to call or write your representatives at both the city and county levels to let them know you want to keep public access accessible and that your local community programming should remain on Channel 16. It would be helpful if you shared any responses you receive."

Washoe County government contact points

Reno City Council
Sparks City Council
Washoe County Commission

The unstated reason behind this debacle: Charter doesn't want to pay for rewiring educational institutions to digital specifications.

The web edition of this column at will carry a blow-by-blow description about how such maneuvering can trigger a slow, painful death spiral for the people's TV station (and hike Charter's profits).

SNCAT's founding board, upon which I served in 1990-91, saved the system from extermination at birth.

Apparently the price of public access is eternal vigilance.

So contact your commissioners and councilcritters!

ASLEEP AT THE SWITCH. Charter will use every trick in the book to slow AT&T's applications to provide video service. The City of Reno's Citizens Cable Compliance Committee, on which I served for three years until last November, hasn't met on AT&T and other pressing issues. The panel has dwindled to four members and has apparently been unable to follow through on December orders from the city council to review Charter franchise non-compliance and develop a useable definition of "consumer complaint." Any Reno resident may apply.

FROM THE DEN OF INEQUITY TO THE DEN OF INIQUITY. This Wednesday, my checkered media career devolves to new lows. I've never been proud of having promoted Ronald Reagan selling mobile homes for a local dealer 30 years ago. (My outdoor campaign for Reagan's radio show made Newsweek in 1975. For the light side of my sordid relationship with Ron and Dubya Sr., read "Nevada's Undercover Reagan-Bush P.R. Man" from the August 2, 1992, Tribune, linked to this column at

Alas and alack, our sins always come back to haunt us. Reagan's hatchet man, arguably the most underqualified U.S. attorney general in history, will be Sam Shad's guest on Nevada Newsmakers on March 22. And I'm on the pundit panel. (Does Channel 4 have a post-taping shower facility available?)

Edwin Meese III was the prototype for the likes of his current successor, Alberto "Tortureman" Gonzales. Meese started out prosecuting Free Speech Movement protestors and is currently caged at the wing nut Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

When Reagan was governor of California, he sicced Meese onto Vietnam war-protesting students. My Tribune colleague in columny Travus T. Hipp can quote chapter and verse about being on the receiving end of Meese's storm troopers and black ops surveillance back in the 1960s.

Not long after Big Moose and Little Meese hit the White House, the future attorney general got caught in a financial scandal with a San Diego savings and loan, but still got appointed as attorney general.

Sen. Paul Laxalt, R-Nev., personally took charge of getting Meese confirmed because, as Pretty Paul put it, Meese's family had been put through so much because of the S&L affair. (Don't you wish you could get a huge preferential loan with no payback requirement?)

RGJ political writer Ray Hagar will co-host the program. Other pundits will be former Nevada Republican Chair Earlene Forsythe and Mike Dayton of the McDonald Carano Wilson uber law firm.

Nevada Newsmakers airs at 12:30 p.m. on KRNV TV-4. Those afflicted with Charter cable can view the repeat at 9:30 p.m. on Washoe-Carson-Douglas channel 12. See the web edition of this column for the complete statewide radio-tv rerun schedule.

IN DISHONOR OF ED MEESE, join the peace march today. It forms at 11:00 a.m. at the West Street Plaza on the downtown Reno riverfront between the coffee house and corporate welfare movie theater. At high noon, marchers will walk to the Thompson Federal Building at S. Virginia and Liberty streets. For more info, go to

THE WAGES OF SIN. After three decades and a hundred million or so, the City of Reno's redevelopment program is finally getting results. The magic bullet was simply waiting for a war to motivate local people to return downtown.

Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.

Be well. Raise hell.

Smoking Guns

Your consumer-friendly cable company's long term strategy for public access

Step 1. Place access on a digital channel on the digital tier.

Step 2. Place access programming on the company's VOD (video on demand) server.

Step 3. Terminate access because few people are accessing the VOD server and Charter needs the space for other content.

Step 4. Close the doors on SNCAT and the other access providers.

Step 5. Sit back in amazement and wonder "what happened" and "how could they do this tous?" Answer, all were asleep as the "switch" was being executed.

Step 6. The executives who execute the strategy by exterminating access pick up
+/- $50,000 (estimated) as a bonus for recovering the 6 MHz bandwidth that PEG (Public, Educational, Governmental access) were formerly using.

It is all about money, of course, with a little shameless abuse of the holy grail of education cynically filled with hemlock-laced Kool-Aid.

You gotta love all that private sector initiative.

Grim and Bear It

WASHINGTON, DC (Thursday 3-23-2006) — Here's a text message from a player on the front lines inside the beltway:

I am in WDC... yesterday the joint committee of Rs and Ds broke and
went their separate directions.... they'd hoped to vett a bipartisan
bill...but, no way.... so this morning we expect a one sided
deregulatory bill to be presented.... it'll completely neuter local
and state franchising.... we expect peg to be a casualty.
keep your eye on the newswire..

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Copyright © 1982, 1996, 2004, 2005, 2006 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 37-year Nevadan and editor of Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.


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