Timeline of Public Access TV in Baltimore City
  • 1960’s and 70’s – Initial interest in public access; first public access stations started around the US.
  • 1981 (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.
  • 1984 – 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.
  • 1984-1992 – 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 (This document discusses the issue of Coppin State College staff involvement with BCAC).
  • 1992 – 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.
  • 1993 – BCAC begins broadcasting from Coppin State.
  • 1993-2000 – 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 members.
  • November 1996 BCAC executive director Karen Simmons-Beathea is fired.
  • 1997 – Arthur Bugg is hired as executive director of BCAC for $40,000 per year.
  • April 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.
  • End 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.
  • 2000-2003 – 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 2004.
  • May 6, 2003 – Frantz’s responsibilities are handed over to Ramses Ahkenaton Bonaparte IV, who assumes control of the volunteer group.
  • Fall 2003 – Bonaparte incorporates his own public access organization, Baltimore Public Access (BPA). He uses the MOCC address as the mailing address for this organization.
  • 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 – Baltimore Grassroots Media (BGM) is founded as an advocacy group for public access TV as well as other forms of grassroots, democratic media in Baltimore.
  • March 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 CityPaper.
  • March 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.
  • April 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 BGM
  • June 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.
  • July-December 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.
  • Fall 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 (CMBC).
  • 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 Sojourner-Douglass College.
  • 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 becomes vacant.
  • 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 positions.