Public Access TV
Public access is a way for citizens to put their own shows
on cable TV. Baltimore City currently has one public access
channel, Ch. 75. Approximately 110,000
households in Baltimore City—almost half the
households—get cable TV and Ch. 75.
Public access was made possible by the Cable Act of 1984 that allows
municipalities to require that cable TV companies
provide channels for public, education and government
(PEG) access in return for having access to
right-of-ways to run their cables and make lots of
money. This provision has been under threat in the past in the U.S. Congress
from the COPE Act of 2006.
Public access TV (the P in PEG) started broadcasting in
Baltimore City in 1993 through a nonprofit called Baltimore
Cable Access Corporation (BCAC) from a facility at Coppin
State College, but that operation ran out of funding and
failed in 2000. After that, public access was moved to the
Mayor's Office of Cable and
Communications (MOCC), whose main mission is the
operation of the government (the G in PEG) channel,
Ch. 25. City residents no longer had
access to studio or editing space, but they could
still submit tapes (and later DVDs as well)
and have them played on the public access channel.
In December 2004 Baltimore City and Comcast agreed on a new
12-year contract that specified that the mayor
at that time, Martin O'Malley, appoint a Board of Incorporators to help setup a
tax-exempt corporation to run public access TV independently from the
city. As a result, Community Media of Baltimore City
(CMBC), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, was
formed. The first meeting of the initial 13-member
CMBC Board of Directors was Thursday, Feb. 1, 2007
(for a more detailed history of public access in
Baltimore, see the timeline).
The CMBC board currently
oversees the operation of the public access channel,
and the organization has its own office space at 326
St. Paul Place, but programming for Ch. 75 is still
submitted and broadcast at the MOCC facility at 8
Market Pl., where there is an uplink to Comcast.
Hiring of staff to run the channel has been hampered
(there is currently only one paid staff person and an
intern) by a clause in the contract that
stipulates that most of the funding Ch. 75
receives must be spent on capital expenses and not
For more information on public access television in
general, see the Wikipedia article.