On Friday, May 4, O’Neill and Associates CEO Thomas P. O’Neill III served as the Keynote Speaker at the annual MassAccess Conference.
MassAccess is the nonprofit trade organization representing community media stations throughout Massachusetts. The membership group works to ensure the future vitality of Massachusetts based community media centers. There are over 200 local access cable TV centers in Massachusetts, the highest concentration of media centers in the country.
Community media professionals, local filmmakers, vendors, industry experts, and producers come together each year to learn from the best in television, film, and management. Each year, the conference provides MassAccess members the opportunity to meet, learn, and exchange ideas.
In his keynote address, O’Neill addressed the importance of free speech – particularly in today’s world of 24-hour news cycles, social media, and diminishing newspaper presence. The number of reporters in newsrooms is dwindling and, as a result, less news is being covered. Local Cable Access Centers and PEG stations are of vital importance now more than ever…they serve as one of the last lines of defense of transparent and free speech. “Local television may very well be our last gasp of free speech, we must protect it,” said O’Neill.
Community media centers across the country are being attacked and, in some cases, pushed out of their communities and out of business. But the work being done at these centers is vital. It doesn’t end with cable access. These centers are not only the last hyper-local outlet for citizens, they also provide educational and media literacy training, while serving as community hubs and centers and a training ground for students who want to pursue careers in TV and film.
As part of their ongoing advocacy efforts to ensure the vitality of community centers, MassAccess has been working to advance their Bill, ‘An Act to Support Community Access Television,’ filed by Senator John Keenan and Representative Ruth Balser. The Bill seeks to allow community media stations access to Electronic Programming Guides and channel signal quality that is comparable to local broadcast stations – now and in the future. Passage of the Bill would require cable companies to allow for broadcast of PEG channels in HD format and inclusion of programming in viewers’ electronic guides. These two changes would allow for PEG channels to be on par with most other offerings in cable television, and allow for greater access for viewers.
In addition to legislative advocacy, MassAccess works to develop educational workshops, utilize technology to inform and enhance community media centers, and acts as government liaisons to inform supporters across Massachusetts regarding the current political landscape in regards to media.