I became interested in public access television in 1989 when my friend Sol Jacobs told me about his experiences and frustrations with public access television in Greensboro, North Carolina. In listening to his stories, I began to understand his enthusiasm for public access television as well as its value. This book is the culmination of almost ten years of involvement in the local and national public access television movement, and the concern I share with many others about the future of this community communication tool -- America's electronic soapbox. In order for the reader to understand my personal involvement, a brief history of public access television in Greensboro is necessary.
Greensboro is a city with a population of approximately two hundred thousand located in the Piedmont region of North Carolina. The path that the city took to public access television was long and winding, with many twists and turns. While the specifics of the journey are unique to Greensboro, the process has much in common with other locales.
The system of cable lines that brought cable television service to Greensboro was built by the Southern Bell Corporation in the mid-1960s. At that time, cable television was regarded by the public primarily as a means of assuring clear reception by eliminating airwave interference. Cable companies recognized that local franchises could be lucrative, but only because they saw cable television as a growth market. No one seemed to be thinking in terms of the potential for gaining direct access to people's living rooms with new or different programming. 1
As early as 1966, when Southern Bell was still laying their lines, Jefferson Standard Broadcasting, a subsidiary of the Jefferson-Pilot Corporation, a large insurance provider and one of Greensboro's foremost corporate citizens, put in a bid to operate a community antenna television (CATV) system in Greensboro. Instead of building their own cable network, Jefferson-Pilot Corporation sought a lease agreement with Southern Bell to operate the fledging cable system, Cablevision of Greensboro. Outbidding a local competitor, Vuemore Cablevision,