When cable first came to Berkeley in the early 1970s, the franchise agreement with the first cable company did include provisions for public access. For a short time Berkeley actually had a community studio. Every now and then I meet someone who remembers working in that studio and wonders what ever became of that equipment. Various disagreements between the cable company and the City led to lawsuits. In 1976--despite the urgings of citizens who knew the value of public access--the City Council settled its disputes with the company by dropping public access and other franchise provisions.
Over its fifteen-year life, the franchise was transferred to several different companies. But until the franchise expired, Berkeley could not recapture channels or funding for equipment and a studio for community programming. The cable company's five percent franchise fee was paid directly to the City and used for other purposes.
Folks who saw the value of community television lobbied successive City Councils to regain this public benefit. As the time for renegotiating a franchise agreement approached, a Mayor's Task Force on Cable Television was formed and then a city commission, the Cable Television Task Force worked with a group of consultants hired by the city to discover what kind of community television Berkeley groups and residents wanted and needed. After hearing lots of public comment and studying community TV in other cities, the Task Force sent the City Council a list of recommendations; the Council adopted these recommendations as their goals in the negotiation with then cable company, Bay Cablevision.
I served as the Task Force representative on the City's negotiating team. Past board members Bob Goss and Betty Segal, also Task Force members, worked particularly hard with me to make sure citizen's goals were met. The City and citizens did very well in the negotiations. The 15-year franchise agreement, which began in 1992, provides for a total of $900,000 for equipment and facilities and for up to 8 channels for public, educational and government (PEG) use. The City Council also agreed in principle to devote 40 percent of the Annual franchise fee to community television; it has kept its promise. City resources have been supplemented by the generous agreement of the Berkeley Unified School District to build a facility for community TV on the Berkeley High campus and to provide this to BCM rent-free.
B-TV channel 25 (now channel 28) went on the air on Wednesday, November 2nd, 1994 with a series of election-related programs and candidate forums sponsored by the League of Women Voters. Training and production began in January 1995 at the temporary site on Kittredge Street. BCM moved into its current facility in 1996. C-TV channel 78 (now channel 33), BCM’s second channel, went on the air on January 1st 2002 with government and some educational programming.
BCM continues to provide cablecast, equipment and training services to all Berkeley residents interested in having their voice heard on community television.
—Nancy Bickel, former BCM Board of Directors Chairperson
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Berkeley Community Media
2239 Martin Luther King Jr. Way
Berkeley, CA 94704
(between Bancroft and Allston in the "G" Building of Berkeley High School)
Voice (510) 848-2288
Fax (510) 848-0265
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The objective of Berkeley Community Media (BCM) is to strengthen our community through increasing and enhancing communication among its residents. BCM exists to provide Berkeley residents and organizations with the tools and training needed to effectively communicate with one another and with our schools and governmental bodies through the use of television and other electronic media.More