Public Access TV in Baltimore City
- 1960’s and
Initial interest in public access; first public access
stations started around the US.
(or 1982?) –
Public access advocates and other interested people get
together and found the Baltimore Cable Access
Corporation, or BCAC. BCAC recruits members and advocates
on behalf of public access before a contract is even made
with a cable provider.
– Baltimore City
contracts with United Cable for cable services; contract
includes PEG (public, educational and governmental)
access clause but doesn’t provide any funding for
such access. BCAC acts as an advisor in the negotiation
process but has no official role.
– Public access is in
limbo during this period. It takes United four more years
to finish wiring the city completely for cable. Also
there are problems getting yearly, budgeted funding from
the city or United for public access, and there is some
dispute over where public access should be located
discusses the issue of
Coppin State College staff involvement with
– BCAC fails to get
annual funding from the city so it agrees to a $1.1
million one-time grant, to be paid out in annual
installments until 2000.
– BCAC begins
broadcasting from Coppin State.
– There is a lot of
interest and things go well at the station for some time.
However over time a general lack of cooperation between
members of the Board leads to a breakdown in
communication. Also a lawsuit is filed against BCAC by a
former employee, which takes time and money away from
maintaining the station and recruiting more
- November 1996
executive director Karen Simmons-Beathea is fired.
– Arthur Bugg is
hired as executive director of BCAC for $40,000 per
28, 2000 – The U.S. Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) announces a
$45,000 settlement of a lawsuit against the Baltimore
Cable Access Corporation (BCAC) for firing female
executive director, Karen Simmons-Beathea after she
complained about sex-based wage discrimination.
- December 2000
– Money from initial
deal with United runs out and BCAC cannot rely on
fundraising alone to run the station. Both the city and
Comcast (which took over from United) refuse to provide
any more funding.
of 2000 – BCAC
goes bankrupt and can no longer be the public access
operator. After some deliberation it is decided to move
public access to the Mayor’s Office of Cable and
Communications (MOCC), where it is maintained (tape
playback only, no production or editing facilities)
largely by volunteers.
– Steve Frantz is put
in charge of maintaining public access, now known as
Baltimore City Public Access, at the MOCC until the new
cable franchise agreement is negotiated at the end of
6, 2003 –
Frantz’s responsibilities are handed over to Ramses
Ahkenaton Bonaparte IV, who assumes control of the
Bonaparte incorporates his own public access
organization, Baltimore Public Access (BPA). He uses the
MOCC address as the mailing address for this
- January 2004
– Lawyers at the MOCC
declare that BPA volunteers are no longer allowed into
the MOCC to run public access, as it creates a situation
in which other groups may claim there is favoritism if
BPA were to be selected as the permanent operator after
the new contract is in place (the fact that the
MOCC’s address was used as BPA’s
organizational address makes this even more of an issue).
Despite attempts to dissociate themselves from BPA
completely, the former volunteers are still no longer
allowed to run public access. The MOCC staff assumes
control of Channel 5.
- February 2004
Grassroots Media (BGM) is founded as an advocacy group
for public access TV as well as other forms of
grassroots, democratic media in Baltimore.
19, 2004 – BGM
organizes a panel discussion on the subject of public
access TV and media democracy in Baltimore held at the
Enoch Pratt Library. A write-up appears in the Baltimore
30, 2004 – A
public hearing on public access is held at the Board of
Education meeting room. BGM distributes a press release
and publicizes the event. A demonstration is held outside
the hearing, and nearly 100 concerned citizens attend.
The hearing is featured on the WBAL 11 PM newscast and is
reported on by Baltimore IndyMedia.
16, 2004 – BGM
delivers a letter to Marilyn Harris-Davis, director of
the MOCC, that makes several requests regarding public
access and that is signed by 70, including many media and
community leaders. No written response to this letter was
ever received from Harris-Davis.
- May-June 2004
– Two meetings of the
Cable Advisory Commission occur, both attended by
12, 2004 – Amy
Goodman talk at the Unity United Methodist Church is
co-sponsored by BGM. Over 400 people attend and many
express interest in public access in Baltimore and pledge
to support BGM.
2004 – BGM
tries various approaches to pressure the city into
improving the pending contract with Comcast, including a
petition drive, holding public forums and enlisting the
help of national public access TV experts Richard
Turner, Anthony Riddle, and Steve Ranieri who write a
letter to the city council urging them
to delay their vote.
- December 6,
2004 – New
12-year contract between Comcast and Baltimore City
approved by City Council.
- August 27,
2005 – Comcast
changes the channel assignments for PEG channels.
Baltimore City public access Ch. 5 becomes Ch. 75, the
government Ch. 21 becomes Ch. 25 and the education Ch. 7
becomes Ch. 77.
2005 – The
13-member public access Board of
Incorporators begins meeting monthly at the MOCC
under the leadership of consultant Bunnie Riedel,
hired by the MOCC to oversee the formation of the new
public access corporation.
- Spring 2006
– The Board of
Incorporators decides on a name for the public access
corporation: Community Media of Baltimore City
- December 14,
2006 – Final
meeting of the Board of Incorporators.
- February 1,
2007 – Initial
13-member Community Media of Baltimore City
(CMBC) board meets for the first time at
- October 1-November
19, 2007 –
City Council bill 07-0825 for cable TV franchise agreement for
Cavalier introduced and then withdrawn at request of
mayor (see http://legistar.baltimorecitycouncil.com/detailreport/?key=3649).
- December 6,
2007 – City
Council bill 07-0001 for cable TV franchise agreement for
Cavalier introduced (see http://legistar.baltimorecitycouncil.com/detailreport/?key=3689).
- August 13, 2008 – After a long delay by
the city, the operating agreement between Baltimore City
and Community Media of Baltimore City (CMBC) is finally
introduced and approved at the weekly Baltimore City
Board of Estimates meeting.
- February 6, 2009 – Community Media of
Baltimore City (CMBC) opens office at 326 St. Paul Place,
Suite 400B, Baltimore, MD 21202. Broadcasting of Ch. 75
is still done from Mayor's Office of Cable and
Communications at 8 Market Place.
- March 5, 2009 – The CMBC Board votes to
appoint board member Troy Johnson as interim executive
director for a period of six months. Johnson gives up his
position on the board, where he served as ombudsman, and
is to begin working for CMBC out of their office at 326
St. Paul Place starting March 16.
- November 9, 2009 – Troy Johnson's contract
is ended, and the CMBC executive director position
- May 2010 – Mayor Rawlings-Blake's
administration takes steps to cut the Mayor's Office of
Cable and Communications (MOCC), which runs the
government channel, Ch. 25, from the city budget. MOCC
employees receive pink slips on June 1, 2010 with their
final day of work to be the end of the city's fiscal
year, June 30, 2010. The city considers having Ch. 75
operate a scaled down Ch. 25 that would just broadcast
City Council meetings, planning board meetings and public
service announcements for the city.
- June 24, 2010 – The City Council approves
an ordinance that will restore $481,681
for operating expenses to the Mayor's Office of Cable
and Communications (MOCC) which runs the government
channel, Channel 25. According to a letter from the city's budget office to
the City Council, the money will fund four