The Editorial Board over at the Banana-Herald blows it big time on this one.
One issue that we've been meaning to talk about for a few days now is public access television. You see, ACC is working on renegotiating its cable franchise contract with Charter Communications. As part of that contract, some folks, especially Super-Commissioner (we assume that he only wears the cape and tights for private use) Elton Dodson, want Charter to include a real public access channel, where anyone with a concept could conceivably get their own public access show.
The ABH is somewhat less than fond of this.
Their biggest concern is that public access could be a broadcast outlet for programming that is, as the ABH puts it, "odious and unsettling." That's probably true. If you give folks free airtime, chances are, some of the stuff out there will be bad, objectionable, possibly even unsettling.
As examples, the ABH cites some instances where white supremecists have used the public airwaves to advance their agenda.
That's a very real concern. We wouldn't want to see that on the tube, and we're not going to make light of the possibility of that happening. There are racist douchebags everywhere, and lots of them love the cameras.
Most of all though, the ABH seems afraid that folks will see our public access programming (if it contains shows that are objectionable) and assume that Athens is a city full of racists (for instance). We disagree. People understand that public access is all about free airtime for people who want it. Sometimes they're racist d-bags. Sometimes, they're just plain nuts. Most times, they're boring and a leeeeeeeetle too self-enamored. Sometimes, they produce quality, informative programming that benefits the community. (Look for "Late Night with Athens Politics", coming to a public access station near you.)
Here's what we'll say. The First Amendment (the same one that keeps us and the Banner Herald in business, remember) protects free speech. You can, within certain broad Constitutional limitations, say what you want in this country, and no one, not us, not the Athens Banner Herald, not the Supreme Court, not even Karl Rove, can stop you.
And, as we all know (and, to their credit, the ABH points this out as well), Athens is a community that, we humbly believe, is home to some of the most creative people in the world. They deserve this.
Also, for younger, more impressionable viewers, there's always the parental controls on your cable box. And for older viewers, there's the classic, time-honored choice. Don't watch! Heaven knows that there are far more "odious and unsettling" things to see on the internet, yet most people don't, of their own accord, visit the white power websites (to continue the ABH's example). Should we assume that once that message hits the airwaves (if indeed it even does, we have our doubts), people will flock, lemming-like, to racist d-bag rhetoric and suddenly become a city of brain-dead racist zombies? Come on, ABH. Athens, and Athenians, deserve much more credit than that.
Heaven knows that there are plenty of options for the end user or viewer to self-censor without forcing the government in on the action.
But you know all that already.
Finally, we'll say this. For a newspaper to be criticizing, even obliquely, the First Amendment is, to us, at least borderline "odious and unsettling" as well. Especially the unsettling part.
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