Cable Access TV/Public Access TV?

How many people see these channels. Cable access and public access, are they seen by millions or just thousands? We have one called CCIN in St. Louis. MO and I am curious how many homes could view this channel?

1 Answer

  • 1 decade ago
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    Millions. See this list of over 1,900 access TV providers:

    U.S. Community Access Television Providers, By State & Service Area

    Also see "How many cities have access TV? More than you might think," at the New America Foundation's Media Policy Initiative blog, Sustaining Democracy in a Digital Age.

    If you're asking how many can see the access channels in your own area, the odds are they are only seen in your "franchise area" - most likely that's the city limits of St. Louis - and of course, only by those subscribing to cable TV (not satellite). In most states, it's the cities who are the franchise authorities. However, in some states, counties may also grant cable franchises, and in those cases, any access channels on those systems may be seen by cable subscribers county-wide (California, Florida, Maryland and Virgina being prominent examples).

    In many areas the phone companies Verizon and AT&T are now competing with cable companies in serving television programming. In such cases, both will often carry access channels from multiple nearby franchise areas. So, if Verizon or AT&T are serving television in St. Louis, it's possible that your City Council meetings, for example, or any other of your local access programming, may be seen outside your own franchise area. To find out exactly, check with your city manager's office.

    Also, many programs, such as Democracy Now!, Army Newswatch, and Classic Arts Showcase are shown on thousands of access channels across the country. (See links to these programs in the New America Foundation article.)

    You ask specifically about CCIN. According to CCIN's web page, this is not what would be called an "access channel," since apparently members of the community (residents, schools, governments) are not able to put their own shows on the channel. Rather, this channel carries - probably entirely - programming made by the cable company itself - in this case, Charter Communications. This is referred to as a "local origination" (LO) channel. There are a number of differences between access and LO channels, some of which affect the answer to your question.

    1. LO channels are usually something that the cable company decides to offer on its own, whereas access channels are normally negotiated for at the time of the franchise agreement. If the franchise authority doesn't require channels to be set aside and funded for the community's use, there usually won't be any.

    2. LO channels carry commercials - they are revenue generators for the cable companies. Access channels, however, are almost always prohibited from selling commercial time to advertisers. This prohibition, where it exists, is written into the franchise agreement at the insistence of the cable companies; they reserve that business for themselves. Access channels are often able to carry "underwriting" acknowledgments of channel and program sponsors, much like PBS stations. Usually guidelines will be spelled out as to what constitutes allowed "underwriting" and what crosses over the line as disallowed commercial "advertising." Compare CCNI's web page with the web pages of access channels for a clear picture of the commercial vs. non-commercial difference between these channel types. CCNi's web page is pitched almost entirely to potential advertisers.

    3. Since LO channels are not required by the franchise, any that are created by the cable company are usually not required to be carried by any second television service providers - so AT&T and Verizon, if they serve such an area, would probably not be redistributing these channels.

    4. Since an LO channel is owned and operated by the cable company, the company may repurpose the programming on that channel for any other cable system it may own. Charter is the fourth largest cable multiple system operator (MSO) in the country, serving cable, phone and internet to 4.7 million customers nationwide, according to Wikipedia. So, some of the programming Charter creates in St. Louis may indeed be seen in other Charter systems around the country. While some of CCNI's programming is likely of local interest only, it's possible that Charter would find some of those programs of interest to a broader audience. Again, from CCNI's web page, it's clear that they are marketing to a national audience of advertisers.

    If you're curious about how widely some particular shows on CCNI may be seen, the best source for that information would be the manager for that channel in St. Louis.

    Source(s): U.S. Community Access Television Providers, By State & Service Area data compiled and presented by Rob G.H. McCausland "How many cities have access TV? More than you might think." by Rob McCausland Charter Media Charter Communications
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