PO Box 87
Newtown, CT 06470
September 9, 2003 Minutes
CABLE ADVISORY COUNCIL
P. O. Box 87
~ Minutes ~
Regular Meeting – Tuesday, September 9, 2003
There was a regular meeting of the Cable Advisory Council called to order at 7:40 p.m., September 9, 2003 by Chairperson, John Sabo at the Charter Communications facility, Newtown, Connecticut.
John Bell, Jill Zaloski, Eugene Rosen, Carmella Amodeo, William Fredrickson, and John Sabo, Chairperson. For Charter: Dick Elwell and GregVan Antwerp. Webmaster: Ben Haase. Non-Active Member(s): Fred Standt. Telephone Conference Call Participants: Dina Walker (Winchester Representative) & John Palinkas (Community Access Manager of the Winsted Office).
No public present.
APPROVAL OF MINUTES:
J. Sabo advised the Council that approval was needed for the Minutes of the May 13, 2003 meeting and informed the Council that as the July 8, 2003 meeting lacked a quorum, Notes were prepared but did not need approval. In addition, J. Sabo reminded the Council of their official website address (www.cableadvisorycouncil.com, .net, .org) and said that the Council’s Minutes are posted there on a regular basis. A motion was made by W. Fredrickson to accept the Minutes of the May 13, 2003 meeting as submitted, the motion was seconded by J. Bell. There being no other discussion, a vote was taken and the Minutes of the May 13, 2003 meeting were approved. The motion carried unanimously.
J. Zaloski, Treasurer, presented her report to the council.
balance of the checking Account (5/13/03). . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
TOTAL: $ 18,159.39
A motion was made by J. Bell to accept the treasurer’s report as submitted. The motion was seconded by W. Fredrickson and carried unanimously.
J. Palinkas, Community Access Manager for the Winsted Office of Charter Communications, advised the Council that earlier that evening, he had given a check to John Dee which was received from Richard Nalett a prior member of the Winsted Advisory Council. He said that their bank account had been closed. J. Palinkas did not recall the exact amount of the check but said it was in excess of $10,000 and would be forwarded to J. Sabo. J. Zaloski advised the Council that an inquiry was made as to the Council’s bank account number.
F. Standt inquired whether or not a request had been submitted to Charter for the Council’s annual payment for funding for the new fiscal year (July-June) for operating expenses. D. Elwell said he did not receive any such request. J. Sabo asked if a written request was required and D. Elwell said yes. J. Zaloski agreed to take care of the request.
J. Sabo indicated that at some future meeting, the Council would need to address how the funds would be handled (i.e., whether the funds would continue to be accumulated or used for educational purposes).
COMMUNICATIONS AND CORRESPONDENCE:
J. Sabo advised the Council that prior to the commencement of the evening’s meeting, he had a brief discussion with D. Elwell regarding a correspondence log. He explained that the log would be a means of tracking correspondence received by the Council as well as what action was taken by D. Elwell and/or Charter. D. Elwell explained that at each meeting, the recording secretary would log the correspondence received by the Council and then submit the log to him. He would, in turn, make notation of what action was taken and then briefly report back to the Council at its next meeting. J. Zaloski expressed concerned with consumers not receiving some sort of response back. She suggested possibly sending out a postcard acknowledging the receipt of their correspondence. F. Standt asked how complaints were presently being handled. J. Sabo explained that the correspondence the Council receives has been submitted to Charter at each meeting to be dealt with. J. Bell reminded the Council of a suggestion he made at a previous meeting whereby each town representative would keep a record of having forwarded items to D. Elwell. J. Zaloski pointed out that J. Bell’s suggestion was dealing primarily with items directly forwarded to each town’s representative and not with correspondence received by the Council via its PO Box. J. Bell agreed the PO Box items needed a log system as well. J. Zaloski felt that if a consumer takes the time to write to the Council, the Council should take the time to respond. J. Sabo pointed out that while the Council has a Recording Secretary, it does not have a Secretarial position. Instead, a Membership Chairman position was instituted who has unfortunately resigned from the Council. He felt this vacancy needed to be filled.
J. Sabo pointed out a serious concern he had which was that the Council’s PO Box receives some mail which is intended for Charter, i.e. payment of bills. He expressed concern that the mail is not frequently picked up from the Council’s PO Box and may therefore cause a consumer to incur late fees. D. Elwell felt that such an occurrence was random and not habitual and did not express concern. J. Bell suggested notifying those individuals of their error so they may be more careful with future payments/submissions intended for Charter. D. Elwell asked how often items are being sent to the Council’s PO Box and J. Sabo felt approximately 30. D. Elwell indicated he would look into the matter. J. Zaloski suggested frequently asked questions be submitted to the Webmaster for inclusion on the Council’s website. J. Sabo asked for a volunteer to undertake the responsibility of sending out acknowledgement letters to consumers. J. Zaloski suggested clarifying what the individual would be responsible for, i.e. picking up the mail from the PO Box, sending out acknowledgement letters. While F. Standt pointed out that increasing the membership might help to alleviate some of J. Sabo’s responsibilities, he noted that it has always been the responsibility of the Chairman to pick up the mail from the PO Box. F. Standt suggested not only having a Membership Chairman but adding the office of Secretary in order to take on some of the responsibilities. J. Bell suggested not only sending out acknowledgement letters indicating receipt and that it has been forwarded on to [name of individual], but also Charter sending out a form letter indicating receipt and notifying the individual that they inadvertently mailed the item to the Advisory Council’s address. J. Sabo again asked for a volunteer. J. Bell said he would be happy to help J. Sabo and J. Zaloski indicated she would assist them as well. C. Amodeo agreed with sending out acknowledgement letters but suggested that once the log book was submitted after action had been taken, at that point, the Council should send a follow up letter which says: We have been informed by Charter that your issue has been resolved. We hope we were helpful in this matter. F. Standt indicated that he did not feel the second letter was necessary. It was more important to acknowledge receipt of the letter and that the letter has been forwarded on so that the appropriate action could be taken.
J. Sabo continued to review the correspondence received at the Council’s PO Box and then submitted same to the Recording Secretary for logging.
A discussion ensued concerning providing funding for schools desirous of utilizing their local educational channels for programming/projects. D. Walker asked how to go about promoting the idea. She advised the Council that there are different programs with students participating but was unclear how the funding would come into play. J. Palinkas pointed out that the educational channel in the Winsted area is a duplicate of CPTV2 and they do not have access to it other than at the head end. They do, however, have access to Channel 13 which is a public access channel and Channel 15 which is the government access channel. He explained that the school systems in his area have programming which is taped by J. Palinkas and Steve Savester, the Access Coordinator. Most of the demands for education access are met via the public access channel. J. Sabo pointed out that often times, there is a desire to develop educational communication but the funding is not available and felt the Advisory Council could assist in some way.
A brief recess was taken at this point.
J. Sabo indicated he received a letter of resignation from Paula Hopper, Vice Chairman (Newtown). He read the letter aloud to the Council.
Website Progress: J. Sabo introduced Ben Haase, Webmaster, who gave a presentation. B. Haase accessed the Advisory Council’s website. J. Sabo and B. Haase reviewed the website with the Council members. B. Haase asked that he be advised of any input regarding the website or any changes/corrections that may be necessary.
Consolidation of Western and Northwestern Franchise Areas: J. Sabo pointed out that in addition to telephone conferencing, the possibility of videoconferencing was being explored. He asked what D. Walker’s thoughts were regarding this. D. Walker approved and indicated pleasure at being able to see whom she was speaking with. G. Van Antwerp explained some of the possibilities. D. Elwell indicated he would discuss the matter with the technicians. J. Sabo inquired what sort of interest there may be with other towns in D. Walker’s area joining her for the telephone conferencing. He explained that a letter had recently been sent out to various selectmen asking that members be appointed but little response was received as a result. D. Walker said she had a copy of the letter. J. Palinkas indicated he knew of two individuals who expressed interest in becoming board members and would follow up with them. D. Walker asked if she could speak to the Superintendent of Schools for New Hartford as she knows of a teacher(s) that are very interested in the community. J. Sabo encouraged her to move forward.
Changes to By-Laws – Attendance: J. Sabo suggested forming a committee to review the By-Laws and recommend suggested changes. J. Zaloski made a motion to form a committee and D. Walker seconded the motion. J. Zaloski asked if the By-Laws being addressed would include attendance and the roles of the officers. J. Sabo said yes. F. Standt suggested to the Council that they review the By-Laws and submit their comments. He did not feel a committee was needed. It was agreed that this item would be tabled until the next meeting.
Member Items and Issues: Nominations for Office of Membership Chair – J. Sabo indicated an opening now exists for the position of Membership Chairperson. He asked for a motion to allow nominations to remain open and an election will be held at the November 12, 2003 meeting. J. Zaloski moved the motion and W. Fredrickson seconded the motion. Discussion ensued whereby J. Bell expressed concern with the lack of attendance by members. J. Zaloski pointed out the importance of the By-Laws and how detrimental meetings are without quorums. She indicated that the Council is rendered non-functioning as a result of meetings without quorums. J. Bell suggested involving the DPUC to see if they could influence better attendance by members. J. Sabo did not feel the need to involve the DPUC and pointed out that the Council has been able to function properly with the present membership. He pointed out some recent projects that have been successfully completed: the James Diaz Memorial Video Festival; the creation of the Cable Advisory Council’s website; videotaping of the Council’s meetings; telephone conferencing with the Northwestern franchise. F. Standt pointed out that in order for meetings to be well-attended and new members to be appointed, individuals need to have a special interest in that board. J. Sabo reviewed the list of towns without representation on the Council. J. Sabo asked for nominations. J. Zaloski attempted to nominate J. Bell but he respectfully declined noting that he was running for public office in Kent and would not have the time. J. Bell nominated E. Rosen but he respectfully declined. J. Sabo nominated C. Amodeo and she indicated she would consider the nomination. C. Amodeo suggested nominating a member from the Northwestern franchise. It was agreed that this item would be tabled until the next meeting.
A brief recess was taken at this point.
There was a brief discussion regarding the airing of the meeting took place. J. Sabo advised the audience that interested parties should visit the Council’s website for a date and time certain.
CHARTER COMMUNICATIONS REPORT:
D. Elwell explained a recent issue in the Winsted system whereby J. Palinkas dealt with an access producer in that area who has received several complaints regarding one of the shows being aired. There is a State Statute in Connecticut that indicates should a cable company receive a complaint about a particular show, the Cable Advisory Council can view it and determine whether or not it meets community standards. Community standards are basically determined by what an individual or individuals define as meeting community standards (i.e., is it vulgar, is it inappropriate). Community access is an open forum and gives everyone the right to express one’s opinions. D. Elwell explained a similar situation that occurred in Northern Connecticut wherein the Advisory Council was involved. A particular show involving college students expressing themselves in unique ways was in question and a determination of whether or not the showed should be allowed to continuing airing was made by the Council. D. Elwell was in possession of a videotape and letters of complaints against a program that was being aired in the Winsted area that he wished the Council to review. The letters were passed around for the Council members to read. D. Elwell explained that he and G. Van Antwerp viewed the videotape and pointed out that the program appeared to be one individual’s political views involving various townspeople. J. Palinkas spoke with the individual in an effort to get him to tone down the program and the individual has been made aware of the complaints. Unfortunately, the individual has not altered his method of expressing his views. J. Palinkas advised the Council that this individual’s latest program put down the fire department. D. Elwell indicated that it appeared the topic of the program was dictated by whoever or whatever annoyed this individual at the time the program is aired. J. Palinkas pointed out that a hand gesture and graphic gestures made by this individual on one of the programs was grounds for banning the program from airing. For the future, J. Zaloski suggested Charter’s guidelines be revised to include prohibiting inappropriate gestures, vulgar language, etc. In her dealings with Charter, she did not recall any such guidelines being in place. She asked if a provision was in place whereby a program is subject for review and can be cancelled based on X number of complaints. G. Van Antwerp pointed out that content control was not permitted. J. Sabo inquired if the program was aired lived or if it was taped. G. Van Antwerp indicated the program was aired live. C. Amodeo asked if the individual was given a defined number of programs that he could air live. J. Palinkas explained that the general rule was to allow for 13 weeks. However, in the case of the program in question, since he is on Monday nights, two Mondays out of each month there is live programming from Town Hall so 13 weeks would take longer than 13 calendar weeks. This individual’s contract is about to expire. There has not been any interest for the timeslot from anyone else so if this individual desires to continue in the same timeslot, at the end of 13 weeks, he will be allowed to do so. C. Amodeo pointed out that this individual would have to re-apply for the timeslot. She suggested that at that time, a stipulation be implemented. D. Elwell pointed out that the contracts are not individualized. C. Amodeo pointed out the numerous complaints and wondered whether or not that could be taking into consideration. J. Sabo suggested that the Council render a decision that this individual be barred from airing the program because it violates community standards in terms of good taste and advise the individual that he will need to develop another program in order to be allowed to participate. D. Elwell pointed out that once the Council made a determination that the program does not meet community standards, the program would end. W. Fredrickson suggested taking a vote whether or not the program should be taken off the air. J. Sabo did not agree such a vote could occur without viewing the videotape. J. Bell pointed out that Charter did not have any rules or regulations barring such programs in place. G. Van Antwerp suggested the Council review the videotape and during the period of review, the program will not be aired until a determination is made. He indicated such an action might send a message to the program producer that he needs to think twice. J. Palinkas read aloud to the Council Connecticut General Statutes § 16-331a, Paragraph J: “The Advisory Council shall review all community access programming of a company or organization within the franchise area which programming has been the subject of a complaint.” After lengthy discussion, J. Sabo felt that Charter had a dilemma that needed DPUC intervention. He did not feel the Council could determine what community standards are. He suggested the Council, as a body, give a reaction to the situation which may be used as one piece of evidence that could be used to build a case in order to have the program pulled from the air. G. Van Antwerp again suggested to the Council that they view the videotape, read the letters and render a decision. It was decided that an informal meeting would be held for the purpose of viewing the videotape and rendering a decision on Thursday, September 11, 2003 at 5:00 p.m. to be held at the Charter Communications office in Newtown, Connecticut.
G. Van Antwerp distributed the most recent Community Vision 21 Newsletter and public access report. He advised the Council of an internship program. J. Zaloski asked what the deadlines were and G. Van Antwerp said the orientation would be the 25th and the deadline would be a week prior to that date. He pointed out that the applications are online and could be downloaded.
A motion was made by W. Fredrickson to adjourn the meeting at 11:00 p.m. The motion was seconded by J. Bell and carried unanimously.
Respectfully submitted by: Amy Holding, Recording Secretary
NEXT MEETING: Tuesday, November 11, 2003 at Charter Communications offices in Newtown, 7:30 p.m.
Cable Advisory Council