URTV was set up rather badly (please note that no one who set up URTV is involved with it currently.) If URTV had been set up like other, successful & shining examples of public access television, such as the stations in NYC, or (yes) Austin, there would be much less opportunity for government interference, and the PEG fees would not have to go through city council the way they do now, to be threatened every time some grandstanding or weak-willed city council member decides to have a hissy-fit. But URTV is set up the way it is, and we have to deal with it.
Public Access is a strange beast. It is not government controlled (to call it government-funded requires a rather tortured definition of that phrase.) It is not sponsored controlled. It is not controlled by public opinion. The only people who get to control what goes on the air are the individual producers. That is what the “public” part means- any member of the public, any Joe or Jane Schmoe, can come in off the street, and get whatever they want off their chests. It is unique in all the forums of Asheville in having no agenda, and no censoring other than when you can show things (not if you can show things) and a vague admonition to not scare the horses too badly. Given the limitations of an increasingly litigious & thin-skinned America, URTV is as close of a champion that the 1st Amendment (remember that one?) is going to get in Asheville.
Are the results often amateurish? Yes. Are the results boring to most, offensive to some? Yes. But that is precisely the reason URTV is so important. People of Asheville, you have the right to be amateurish. No one has the right to shut you up if don’t use fancy words, or talk with the right accent. People of Asheville, you have the right to be boring. No one has the right to shut you up if they don’t find your information and passion relevant to their narrow little lives. And finally, people of Asheville, you have the right to be offensive. No one has the right to shut you up if they think what you’re saying is subversive, immoral, socialistic, capitalistic, politically incorrect, or any other form of doubleplus crimethink. And as long as cable companies and other telecoms cut monopoly deals with State and local governments, you have the right to be all that on television.
Asheville, what you must understand about all the shrill little snipers attacking URTV (who have only grown increasingly shrill this last year) is that they want to take all this away. Some want to make a quick buck by commercializing it, making URTV a tool for the rich and timid, like virtually the rest of television is. Some want to make it “decent”; The occasional objectionable image or sound you can turn off, or petty little censors blowing their noses on the Bill of Rights- which is the greater indecency? Finally, others want to make it “responsible”- as in making it the responsibility of the government, and government controlled. From there its a quick jump to funding getting cut every time the police chief needs a new nameplate on his desk, more censor boards, plus a move to becoming more “socially responsible”, which means the suppression of dissent.
Asheville, they are not here to save URTV, they are here to destroy it, to rip out its heart, each for their own selfish & short-sighted motives. Ultimately, you, the people of Asheville, are the only ones who can prevent that. Please, for the sake of your town, for the sake of the 1st Amendment, do not let them destroy URTV.
Comment to Asheville about URTV
So there's yet another mention of URTV in the Mountain Xpress (this one fairly innocuous) and another comment by Davyne Dial. Usually, I try to avoid engaging in these things. I try to take the high road. But I just felt compelled to write a response. I think its fairly eloquent, and I haven't posted anything here for far too long, so here is a reprint of my comment.