Tag Archives: Metro Cable Network

Voices of Northeast Minneapolis Captured and Shared on Video

Kudos to Allie Shah for a fun piece in the Strib about day tripping in Northeast Minneapolis. (http://www.startribune.com/day-trip-historic-northeast-minneapolis-maintains-old-world-charm-while-embracing-its-new-status-as-a-hotbed-of-hipness/329547671/#1

Though some of us worry that NE is becoming just too trendy we are pleased that the writer included the neighborhood’s bookish gems among the treasures. In fact, bibliophiles and their ken can actually take a virtual trip to a growing number of Northeast’s gems literary via a video project with which I am engaged. The project-sine-nomine aims to shine a light on the breadth and depth, and invisibility, of Northeast’s broadly defined “community of the book” and the diverse voices of the community.  Find the existing tapes here – more to come on a regular basis   (http://ias.umn.edu/2014/07/29/book/)

The initiative is based on the long-time work of Peter Shea who for several years has produced videotaped conversations with people who have much to say; tapes of his series, enigmatically entitled Bat of Minerva, are cablecast on the Metro Cable Network and archived at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Studies. I wrote about Peter in an earlier post (https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2010/11/02/here-comes-peter-the-magnificent-peter-shea/) Together we are now producing a series of video conversations with bookish individuals who live or work in Northeast Minneapolis and who give voice to that vibrant community.

We started this project several months ago when Peter taped video interviews with Chris Fischbach, 20-year veteran and now CEO of Coffeehouse Press, noted writer Sarah Stonich, and publisher Michelle Filkins. During the time Peter also had a conversation with storyteller and librarian Jerry Blue whose untimely death shook the storyteller community as well as patrons Jerry served as librarian at Bottineau and St Anthony Village libraries. We took a break when Peter received a grant to study and travel in Austria and Germany – and I was full-time outreaching to further the cause of open government.

We have reconnected, re-focused and re-located this effort to give voice to the literary arts in Northeast. Best of all, we have made arrangements with the library at the American Craft Council, another Northeast treasure, to videotape the conversations from that elegant site. In fact, our first conversation was with our hosts who speak with experience and vision of the ACC. The ACC and the library are gems of Northeast – and the people with whom we have worked are committed to this community. http://ias.umn.edu/2015/08/28/craft/. The first conversation from the ACC was with ACC Education Director Perry Price and Jessica Shaykett who is the librarian at the ACC Council, a unique global resource.

Every Friday afternoon we share the joy of learning with folks who give voice to those who have deep thoughts and much to say about the literary life that lies somewhat beneath – sometimes inspired by – the breweries and pubs that are the draw of today’s Northeast.

Among those hour-long conversations are recent chats with Scott Vom Korghnett of Eat My Words bookstore, storyteller Larry Johnson, Key of See Storytellers and Veterans for Peace, who spearheaded a recent gathering of public access pioneers, local author John Jodzio, video animator/producer John Akre and Carolyn Halliday whose studio is in NE and whose beautiful fabric art is on display in the ACC Library.

Fun forthcoming tapings include conversations with local celeb “Mary at Maeve’s” the congenial proprietor who provides both a platform and a hangout for local and emerging writers and bibliophiles.   We will also be talking with Holly Day and Sherman Wick, authors of Walking Twin Cities and a helpful digital guide to walking tours of Northeast, as well as Jaime Gjerdingen of LitKnit, all of whom have Northeast and bookish connections.

As we continue to learn more and to connect with the expanding breadth and depth of the reading/writing community in artsy/trendy Northeast Minneapolis we welcome ideas. So many stories to tell, so little time;  we are inspired by viewer interest, technology and thoughts of how to build the Northeast Minneapolis community.

Advertisements

Readers, writers, books — and plans – coming together in Northeast

As gardeners and farmers reap the harvest, it seems that ideas that may have remained dormant during the growing season suddenly come full  bloom. Ideas flower. Plans come together.

Such is the case with the inclusive and expanding voices of the literary arts, a vital strand of the Northeast Minneapolis arts community. These are examples only, definitely not the whole, of the ways in which the voices of Northeast Minneapolis community of the book – broadly defined – are being shared.

  • The Friends of Northeast Library are sponsoring another in their series of Salon Nordeast set for Saturday, September 19, 4-7 p.m. at the Gallery Solar Arts Building, 711, NE 15th – All are invited to mingle, enjoy the art, meet with authors, buy a book and have it signed. Readings and discussion follow at 5:30. Author presenters include local resident John Jodzio, and others including writers Neal Karlen, Julie Schumacher, and Brad Zellar. The readings will be moderated by local Northeast author Sarah Stonich.   $5 donation is suggested to support the Friends of NE Library.
  • Voices of Northeast – a series of video interviews with Northeast writers, publishers, booksellers and others who give voice to people who are engaged with the northeast community of the book. Each week Peter Shea conducts extensive informal interviews these individual who represent the various aspects of the literary world. The interviews are cablecast on Metro Cable Network Channel 6, which is carried on every cable system in the metro area. Videos are then archived at the University of Minnesota Institute for Advanced Studies – accessible for download, editing or other reuse. The series so far includes Chris Fischbach, celebrating his 20th year at  Coffee House Press, writer Sara Stonich (Vacation Land), storyteller Jerry Blue, Michelle ­­­Filkins of Spout Press and others. This season’s interviews include staff of the American Craft Council, Education Director Perry Price and Library Director Jessica Shaykett, as well as Scott VanKoughnett, proprietor of area bookstore Eat My Words, and local writer John Jodzio. Many more to come.

Public access – The idea, the potential, the stories

Who tells the stories of a culture really governs human behavior. It used to be the parent, the school, the church, the community. Now it’s a handful of global conglomerates that have nothing to tell,  but a great deal to sell

In these few words journalist George Gerbner artfully summed up the vision of public access television.   His was a vision shared by many who have played a role in realizing that mission over the past four decades. The very idea of public access spoke to early advocates’ commitment to the social potential of cable television.

The pre-history of public access goes back to the late 1960’s, a time when cable usually meant a system that delivered broadcast television to communities beyond the reach of the broadcast signal. In 1969 the FCC ruled that “no CATV system having 3,500 or more subscribers shall carry the signal of any television broadcast station unless the system also operates to a significant extent as a local outlet by cablecasting and has available facilities for local production and presentation of programs other than automated services.” Though that rule was rescinded two years later, the idea of local programming endured in ensuing FCC rule making.

The original premises on which early decisions about cable rest underlie most of the tensions that have now erupted. First is the implicit assumption that the spectrum belongs to the people and that the FCC is responsible for regulating the people’s radio waves as a common carrier. (I remember my naïve dark ages discovery that my revolutionary microwave oven was authorized by the FCC.)

Also informing early FCC action is the fact that cable television, unlike phone, gas and electricity, is not an essential service. Thus policy-makers concluded that the for-profit cable operators should be required to provide benefits to the local communities in which they were laying their cables. In a breakthrough ruling the FCC mandated that “beginning in 1972, new cable systems [and after 1977, all cable systems] in the 100 television markets be required to provide channels for government, for educational purposes, and more importantly, for public access.

These public access channels were grouped as “PEG” channels while public access was interpreted to include the presumption that the corporate franchisee would support equipment and airtime for basically unlimited access. And therein lay some early tests of the concept of free speech….

The first public access community access television launched in 1968 in Dale City Virginia; in 1970 Stoughton, Wisconsin followed with WSTO TV. On the national scene, Fred Friendly, head of the Cable TV and Cable Commission, recommended a leased-access plan for public use that was later abandoned. A key figure at this juncture was filmmaker George Stoney about whom local filmmaker Mike Hazard has produced an informative and inspiring documentary. (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hZowiCZKzvo)

Public access advocates may have underestimated the ensuing conflicts. Prospering access agencies focused on assuring channel access, building a local volunteer board, good programming and audience development.   At the same time many community local cable owners struggled to keep the tower operating – at least for the Sunday football game.

Somewhat in the background, a cataclysmic change inside the Beltway changed the rules. In 1979 the Supreme Court struck down the FCC public access rule, declaring that the FCC had no authority to mandate access. The Court rejected the common carrier argument, ruling instead that cable companies were private persons under the law and that public access requirements were a burden on their conglomerates’ free speech rights.

The Court ruled that the right to regulate cable rests with the U.S. Congress – the quiet beginning a still unfolding narrative….

In spite of broad support for PEG from the access advocacy community, Congress exercised its authority by passing the Cable Communications Act of 1984. Public access took a blow with passage of the 1984 Cable Franchise Act, which declared that “a franchising authority may require channel capacity for pubic, education or government use. This restrictive measure was mitigated in part by the Cable Communications Act of 1984 which barred cable operators from exercising editorial control over content of programs carried on PEG channels; the legislation also indemnified cable operators from liability for the content.

In the early days of public access, corporate interests that coveted the cable channels were willing and able to pay the price, while city authorities that exercised authority over the franchise were able to make demands on franchisees. Mature public access cable systems built studios, hired staff, trained volunteer crews and established their unique role. Advocacy, good government, community action, cultural groups, academic institutions and other public interest groups took advantage of the opportunities to tell their stories and to engage the public.

Over time, the seeds of media deregulation, sowed in the 1990’s, bore bitter fruit in the new century as corporate interests in control of the spectrum began to impinge on public access. With an ever-expanding range of media options – coupled with intense pressure at the federal level, public access channels became increasingly vulnerable to city officials’ willingness to capitulate to conglomerates. Opinions differ on the basic question of whether new technologies will inevitably render public access obsolete or if public access is the vehicle to expand local production and engage more individuals and institutions in the democratic process.

With the passage of time public access has assumed a wide range of profiles. Local development is dependent on the engagement of the public and the inclination of local officials to recognize and support public access in franchise agreements. In the Twin Cities area a number of municipalities and groups of cities have issued franchises that include relatively substantial PEG support.

Statewide the profile of public access development is uneven, heavily dependent on local political realities. As of 2015 these public access television channels are extant in Minnesota: (https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=List_of_public-access_TV_stations_in_the_United_States_(Louisiana–Montana)&action=edit&section=6)

The Twin Cities boasts of a unique manifestation of collaborative efforts among advocates, local government and independent franchising authorities. Metro Cable Network Channel 6 is a must-carry on each of the local cable systems – prospective users have yet to capitalize on the potential.

As the politics of media regulation, including rules governing public access, garner headlines, it is important to note the ways in which individuals and organizations that hold to the “idea” of access are adapting and adopting enhancing technologies. PEG organizations are maximizing the potential of cable to distribute and repurpose in creative new ways. Collaborative partnerships are forging to achieve common goals. Access systems are experimenting, retooling, reimagining their tools, but not their role as the medium for an informed and engaged demography.

Those pioneers who pursued the idea of public access, and persisted to protect the people’s rights to speak and to know, have stories to tell – of triumphs, of wars with conglomerates with “a great deal to sell”, of technology that has erupted with lightning speed and of their efforts to give voice to those who have stories to tell.

Bloodied but unbowed, these hardy folks will soon gather locally to recall their stories. Volunteers are organizing an informal reunion set for Sunday, September 27, Noon – 3:00 at the Northeast home of the Minneapolis Television Network in the Thorp Building, 820 18th Avenue NE., Minneapolis, MN. The idea is to share stories and to affirm the original commitment to a vision. The story of public access television is a relatively short story in which technology and democracy have come to crossroads at many junctures. The event is open to anyone who has a story to tell, a memory, a plan, or just a commitment to the idea of public access television, the vision of a media in the hands of those who have something to say, not just something to sell.

Contact Larry Johnson, larryjvfp@gmail.com or 612-747-3904.

 

 

Here Comes Peter! The Magnificent Peter Shea

Writing about Peter Shea, his quietly amazing projects and his magnificent mind, is no easy task.  As my then-young son once observed, Peter is just so “Peter-ish.”  Any profile illuminates but a single facet of a multi-faceted man of ideas.

For example, if you have to ask “Why the Bat of Minerva”? then you probably don’t know Peter Shea – yet.   The Bat is Peter’s long-running cable show (15 years plus – Peter’s not so sure of the inaugural date.) is a midnight Saturday and Sunday night regular on Metro Cable Network/Channel 6 in the Twin Cities.  Peter says that the format, in which a disembodied Peter poses questions from off-camera “allows me, a shy person, to have conversations I want to have and to pursue lines of inquiry with real people rather than with books and articles. …and it does some diffuse good for the community, in several dimensions: providing a model of civil, extended conversation, giving people ideas about the lives they could live, getting ideas and ways of working into circulation, helping bright and under-exercised people realize what kinds of challenging work are available to them.”

Over the years the soft-spoken Peter has posed thought-provoking queries to scores of famous scholars, authors, scientists, Americans on the rise, global leaders.  In recent times the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota has archived The Bat so the hour-long interviews are streamed for those who missed the midnight premiere. A sampling of recent interviews suggests the breadth and tone of Peter’s guests:

  • October 6, 2010 – Juliet Schor, a professor of Sociology at Boston College where her research focuses on trends in work and leisure, consumerism, the family, and economic justice. Most recently she is the author of Plenitude: The New Economics of True Wealth (2010),
  • September 29, 2010 – Mike Tidwell, author of Bayou Farewell and founder and director of the Chesapeake Climate Action Network.
  • August 30, 2010 – Rob Gilmer, a Ph.D. candidate in the History Department at the University of Minnesota. In the fall of 2010, he will be teaching Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010, a course which has garnered national attention.
  • August 20, 2010 – Paul Barclay, a professor of History at Lafayette College where his research interests include Japanese empire, especially in Taiwan, frontier studies, and the use of images as historical documents or instruments of ideology.
  • August 15, 2010 – Ann Waltner, a professor in both the Department of History and the Department of Asian Languages and Literatures and director of the Institute for Advanced Study at the University of Minnesota, talks about Matteo Ricci’s 1602 map of the world, recently acquired by the James Ford Bell Library.
  • August 5-15, 2010 – Minnesota Fringe Festival

Though these are the most recent, the full list of interviews over the years is astounding – Eugene McCarthy, John Davis, Rosalie Wahl are among Peter’s favorites. He also mentions  Maja Cerar (violinist), Carolyn Walker Bynum (medievalist), Morton Subotnik (composer), Andrew Light (environmental ethicist) and Ann Sharp (educator).  The Bat website lists the boundless and boundary-less library of videos Peter has produced since the early days of The Bat when Peter’s two sons (now grown) ran the cameras and, Peter hopes, “got some of the message.” Peter, who allows he’s not much into numbers, produces some impressive ones, e.g. some 82,000 visits  to the IAS website and nearly 10,000 video views since Fall 2008.

True to form, Peter has plans.  One big plan is just unfolding.  In a new series entitled Meet the Neighbors Peter, who also works with Shalom Hill Farm near Windom,  has begun interviewing members of the rural community for cablecast on community cable then archived in a blog.  He’s also been asked by the U of M Department of English to profile all willing faculty – of course he’d like to expand that to other departments.  In general, Peter hopes to produce “rich and coherent archives.”  He cites, for example, “a fine collection of interviews from the Spark Festival of Electronic Music” and a “small but growing collection of interviews done in connection with the Minnesota Fringe Festival.”  One oral history project underway, documentation of the history of the philosophy for children movement.  High on the list of Peter’s current enthusiasms is collaboration on expanding access to  the lectures from “Oil and Water: The Gulf Oil Spill of 2010” a U of Minnesota course which IAS is providing online through the Bat.

Peter’s hopes for a bright technology future include great confidence in the future of cable, primarily because “the standard media have messed up fine productions with commercial interruption and commercial packaging to an extent that seems to me suicidal.”  At the same time, equipment is improving and coming down in cost so that “normal people with normal time resources can do interesting niche programming, and the shortcomings will be more than compensated by the lack of commercial distortion and the freshness and immediacy of low to the ground production.”  This offers unique possibilities for rural Minnesotans, Peter expects.  Other dreams include visions of easy archiving and repackaging, Internet 2, and every viewer both a producer of control of his or her own access options.

Learn more about Peter’s background, plans, persona and style by watching an interview archived on the IAS site.

You will never keep up with Peter’s fertile mind and high hopes – to keep abreast of the tangible products, watch the Bat of Minerva website or tune in to Channel 6 at midnight on any Saturday or Sunday.