You are on page 1of 3

They all see the kettle yet none dare call it black

The four hostages in
sympathized with their captor

Kauai, Hawaii March 18, 2007 - Yesterday I attended the Hawaii People's Fund Media Justice Conference
at Kapi`olani Community College in Honolulu Hawaii. The major topic and concern for attendees was the
threat of media concentration to democracy. Hawaii media activists, academics, and pioneers who are and
have been at the forefront of a very select group of individuals that have some understanding of the primary
and fundamental connection between mass media, the diversity of ideas, and democracy were in attendance
as participants, presenters and panelists. Chris Conybeare's "Media and the Struggle for Democracy"
presentation made it clear to those that had any lingering doubts that the media monopoly predicted by
Bagdikian had come home to roost. Sean McLaughlin localized the problem by answering the question "Who
owns Hawaii? Answer: Time Warner.

I thought to myself, "living in a free market version of a North Korean style state media monopoly is a bad

Everyone seemed to think diversity was a good thing. Jay April Akaku's CEO stressed that this diversity
included, "ideas in conflict" as a panelist in the workshop "REAL Public Access: Do we Have It?"

Real public access do we have it? "No!" I thought to myself. We have sole-sourced, state created and DCCA
Cable Television Division controlled non-profits pretending to provide free speech in the form of first-come,
nondiscriminatory access. In reality these PEGs historically have been proxies functioning as a cabal to slush
resources and services back to government (including education)."

Combining Public, Education, and Government services and resources under one PEG roof allows internal
shuffling of resources and services back to government and away from the public producer. Of course these
PEGs do provide de-minimus services to chosen public producer/presenters and favored nonprofits recipients
with the crumbs swept from the multi-million dollar banquet table funded through state mandated cable
subscriber monies. These favored public producers are not selected on a first-come, nondiscriminatory basis,
but through a filtration process articulated by Edward S. Herman and Noam Chomsky in their classic book
"Manufacturing Consent".
The current PEG's differential treatment of public producers into "worthy and unworthy" has an odd side-
effect. The chosen served suffer a Stockholm-like syndrome and become allied with and apologists for there
providers (and captors). The few franchised to speak cannot hear their voiceless disenfranchised cousins.
They become blind to the disenfranchisement of "unworthy" producers and adopt an attitude best expressed
in the words of Native Hawaiian activist Kekuni Blaidsdell, "If someone is a victim - blame them."

On the same panel with McLaughlin and April was Larry Geller, a public presenter, and Ruth Hsu a
public/producer, and Meredith Nichols `Olelo's outreach coordinator. Akaku under McLaughlin and with the
support of some board members (including April) tried to remove majority board appointment authority from
the director of DCCA and assume that authority themselves. DCCA Cable Television Division reacted to this
challenge to state control through a series of punitive actions including massive funding cuts, the exile of
Mclaughlin, and a demand to reinstate board appointment authority to the director of DCCA.
NOTE: Ironically now the Director of DCCA (soon to be Judge Recktenwald) has reversed himself and is
now demanding all the non-profits remove the DCCA director appointment authority from their bylaws, and
appoint their own boards! What Akaku was punished for is now a government demand that presumptive
"private" nonprofit corporations change their bylaws.

While Akaku was engaged in it's intercine battle among it's own board and DCCA's Cable Television
Division the other PEGs (`Olelo, Ho`ike, and Naleo) stood quietly and nervously in the shadows, on the
sidelines watching their pugnacious Maui cousin take a brutal beating at the hands of the government.

This all changed and the other PEGS and their chosen "worthy" public producers came out of their "like-say-
nothing" hiding when an opinion (not released to the public), requested by DCCA from the State Attorney
General found the Cable Television Division had engaged in a multi-year violation of state procurement law
by not going through the Request for Proposal (RFP) competitive bidding process. This claim of procurement
law violation by DCCA had been asserted by disenfranchised nonprofits (including CMPA) and public
producers for years but DCCA failed to respond.

Now as political response to the uppity Akaku, correcting this egregious violation of procurement law
became DCCA job number one. Instead of the Cable Television Division just giving the money to the
nonprofits they created and control, the rebellious and battered Akaku, `Olelo, Ho`ike, and Naleo suddenly
saw all their food bowls in jeopardy. They would now have to compete with other nonprofits (real nonprofits
in the sense these nonprofits are not created, funded, or have their board majority appointed by the
government). The PEG selected "worthy" public presenter/producers sensed their privileged access and
services were also under attack and mobilized to save the state created and controlled PEGS from
competition from other real non-profits.

This poses a paradox for social justice media activists who favor competition, are opposed to media
concentration, and value the diversity of free speech, but apparently support a sole source exemption from
procurement law for the government created and controlled non-profits. Strange bed fellows indeed when
progressive media activists find themselves in a position of supporting state created and controlled PEG
entities' right to sole sourced contracts.

Everyone seemed to agree that DCCA's Cable Television Division (CATV) needed to be audited, something
CMPA and other activists had advocated for for years with zero support from the PEGs themselves.
However, now public producers chosen by the PEGs as "worthy" recipients of access services, and even
some PEG administrators, are in accord with the disenfranchised public producers in their call to audit the
Cable Television Division. CMPA agrees, but unlike our "worthy" franchised public producer cousins, are
not suffering from Stockholm Syndrome and do not support a sole-sourced exemption for the current state
created and controlled PEG service providers.

CMPA agrees with Geller, April, and Hsu's concerns that the RFP process as currently constructed is unfair
and needs to be corrected, but we disagree that a sole source exemption for the current state created and
controlled PEGs is a viable solution. Better a statewide collation of public media producers (both worthy and
unworthy) join forces and their considerable talents under the umbrella of a non-profit (perhaps CMPA) and
demand the RFP criteria be fair and then respond to the RFP.

To sympathize with the state created, funded, and controlled captors is not the solution to assuring fair, first-
come, non discriminatory access to the media. You cannot promote competition between the diversity of
ideas while advocating sole source exemption for government controlled nonprofits. CMPA believes the
solution is to remove public access from state control through a membership driven, nonprofit with an elected
board (similar to a non-government organization NGO), with a mission of first-come, nondiscriminatory
access to promote the diversity of ideas in conflict. There were many people at the Hawai'i People's Fund
Media Justice Conference that are more than capable of collaboratively managing and providing first-come
nondiscriminatory access to public media.