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The Camera or the Gun: How to produce your own television programs?
(For related Media Release)
Guest Speaker: Clifford Jacobs, Deputy Executive Director of QPTV
Event organized by Light Millennium
Place: The Manhattan-Marmara Hotel - New York
Date: February 25, 2005

The Camera or the Gun


Presented by Clifford JACOBS
To The Light Millennium



On Public Access TV: Programs can contain nudity as long as its not obscene. Commercial advertising is also not allowed on the channels, otherwise you are free to do and say whatever you want.


Clifford JACOBS, Deputy Executive Director of QPTV, during his presentation,
"The Camera or the Gun" at the Marmara-Manhattan Hotel on February 25, 2004.

(Photo: Figen Bingül)


If you went to those communities and asked a thirteen year old where can you find a video camera or where can you log onto the Internet, they can not give you an answer. But if you ask that same child where can you purchase a gun, they can tell you where to go.


Good evening. I welcome you and thank you for being here this evening. I must give special thanks to Bircan Unver for giving me this opportunity to address you tonight. This presentation grew out of a conversation that I had with Bircan over lunch one afternoon. In the course of that conversation I said to Bircan that there are communities in New York where the youth of this city do not have access to the internet or to video cameras. That If you went to those communities and asked a thirteen year old where can you find a video camera or where can you log onto the Internet, they can not give you an answer. But if you ask that same child where can you purchase a gun, they can tell you where to go. I also told her that I grew up in a neighborhood where there was such a thing as a community gun. If you could not afford to buy a gun, you could, in affect, rent one. You could rent a gun for a day for a fee, use it and return it when you were done, I am sure that bullets were extra.

The thoughts and opinions that I am going to share with you this evening are truly my own. They do not reflect the opinions of Queens Public Television.

Who can forget the image of a lone Chinese student with his shopping bags confronting and bringing to a complete halt a line of tanks?

In 1989 Chinese students protested against civil rights abuses by the Chinese government in Tianenmen Square in Beijing, China. The Chinese government immediately blacked out all news coverage of the event. The first images that we saw were still photographs. At that time Sony had just introduced the first version of its Mavica digital camera which records on a 3.5" floppy disc. The images were uploaded to a computer and sent around the world via the internet. Who can forget the image of a lone Chinese student with his shopping bags confronting and bringing to a complete halt a line of tanks? These images were instrumental in influencing public opinion about civil rights abuses in China. Will it be the Camera or the Gun?

Three years later, in another part of the world George Holliday was home in Los Angeles getting acquainted with his newly purchased video camera. His wife heard screams outside, and went to the balcony of their condominium to see what the commotion was all about. She told her husband that something serious was taking place outside, and that he should bring his camera. The images he recorded shocked the nation and the name Rodney King Jr. became a part of History. The Camera or the Gun.

Perhaps the best known and most widely seen and shocking images ever captured were those recorded by Abraham Zapruder on November 22, 1963. Whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or whether there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy is still, somewhat, uncertain.

Perhaps the best known and most widely seen and shocking images ever captured were those recorded by Abraham Zapruder on November 22, 1963. Whether Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone or whether there was a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy is still, somewhat, uncertain. However, what is certain is that on that fateful day the individual or individuals responsible for the murder of JFK never considered that his death would be captured on film. Again I ask you what is more powerful, the camera or the gun?

Television changed for me forever on that fateful day in November of 1963. Prior to that time television was fun. Like many American youth I watched the Mickey Mouse Show, the cartoon Courageous Cat and Minute Mouse and Billy Bang Bang and his Brother Butch and their Bang Bang Western Movies. But on November 24th my brother woke me up to tell me that the police were transferring Oswald to the county jail. I ran to the TV and watched in horror as Jack Ruby murdered Oswald on live TV.

When my parents bought their first television they, like most people, watched whatever programs were broadcast, they could not influence what was seen and what was not seen. By the time I became a teenager, television started changing its program line-up to appeal to the desires of the community. Bill Cosby was the first African American to be featured in a TV series, I Spy. Later Dianne Carroll stared in Julia a show about a single parent African American nurse. Then the flood gates opened, shows featured characters of very diverse ethnicities. We had Colombo with Peter Falk, Banacek with George Peppard, Kojak with Telly Savalas, and Chico and the Man with Freddy Prinze. Television executives could no longer ignore a public that demanded programming that reflected who they are.

Ahmet ERTEGUN, Chairman of the Atlantic Records and the American Turkish Society
attended the event. (Photo: Bircan Ünver)


Today we are no longer at the mercy of commercial television...

Today we are no longer at the mercy of commercial television. We can now create our own TV programs by taking advantage of Public Access where you are the producer. Public Access television functions in a way similar to a public library. Instead of checking out books, you can check out video equipment and tape your own programs. While it is still true, in the words of Orwell that Big Brother is watching us, it is also true that now we can watch Big Brother. Let me give you the background on how public access came to be.

Television was originally a broadcast medium. Television signals were broadcast from a station and via an antennae the signal was sent to your home. In order to receive the signal you had to have in addition to a tv set an antennae or what we use to call a pair of "rabbit ears". The idea is the same as your car radio. You receive radio waves through the antenna attached to your automobile which are sent to your radio tuner. Each radio station uses a different frequency . You change radio stations by dialing up different frequencies. Broadcast television worked in the same way. CBS, NBC, ABC, PBS and the other stations would broadcast their signals according to a designated frequency. Using the tuner on your tv set you would change channels and tune into the frequency of the desired station. The rabbit ears allowed you to get better reception. This was all paid for by advertising. Television was never free. Advertisers bought commercial time in order to sell their products. They chose to buy commercial time during the airing of programs viewed by potential consumers of their particular product. For example, Soap Operas are known as such because the manufacturers of soap products advertised their products during the broadcast of daytime tv dramas. At that time of day women who were homemakers raising a family would be home and presumably they would watch these day time dramas, because they were the ones who were more likely to purchase such items as soap and soap powder for the family's use. That type of targeted advertising still exists today. During the Super Bowl Football game, you are more likely to see commercials for beer, razor blades and shaving cream than you are going to see for fabric softener. So every time you go to the grocery store your purchases are influenced by the commercials that you saw while watching your favorite programs.


...We have the birth of CATV or community antenna television. The time was 1949.

Now with broadcasting a signal there were always problems with the reception. Weather conditions and airplanes could drastically affect your reception. There was one such community, Lansford Pennsylvania. This community was nestled in a valley surrounded by mountains. They were only able to receive the signal of one broadcast station because they were too far away from the antenna that transmitted the signal. Robert Tarlton a tv sales and service operator, and a very enterprising individual, got permission to erect a receiving antenna on a hill overlooking the community. The new antenna was powerful enough to receive the original signal and then re-transmit that signal to the homes of the people who lived in the valley. This was accomplished by running cables from the second antenna located on the hill to the homes located in the valley. Thus we have the birth of CATV or community antenna television. The time was 1949. By using a cable or fiber optics you can send more information through a single wire. Initially Broadcast television only carried about eight channels, ABC, NBC, CBS, WOR, WPIX, WNET, and two Spanish language channels on UHF (ultra high frequency), the other channels being VHF (very high frequency). With the advent of cable television something extraordinary happened . Not only could you send more information down a single wire you could also narrow cast. It was no longer necessary to appeal to a broad cross section of the public. Individual channels could be created for special interests. Such as the Weather Channel, the Movie Channel, twenty four hour a day news channels, financial news, music videos. The other thing that happened was that a movie going audience who wanted to watch their favorite films again on television did not want their movies to be interrupted by commercials, nor did they want scenes from the movie deleted or censored. And yes, they were willing to pay a price to experience their favorite movie just like the first time: complete and unedited and uninterrupted. HBO, SHOWTIME, and WOMETCO were created to fill that need. And of course now with Pay-per-View you can virtually watch anything you want any time you want.


As of 2004, virtually all forms of media is controlled by ten companies.

During the early days of television, the networks were pretty independent of each other. When you watched the nightly news each station had a different point of view. Even the camera angles were different. There was competition among the networks to get the scoop on the story of the day. Healthy competition fostered a diversity of opinion as networks vied for a market share of the viewing audience. Each network seemed to have unique personality. ABC seemed to be more liberal, NBC appeared to be more conservative, while CBS with Walter Cronkite as its anchor appeared to be more balanced. Today most news outfits carry a feed, which means everyone is using the same footage provided by the same camera. Just switch from station to station while watching the news and you will see the same camera shots on each channel. News reporting no longer serves the interests of the people, but must appeal to the dictates of corporate or government interests. As of 2004, virtually all forms of media is controlled by ten companies. Every movie, television program, radio station, magazine, book, newspaper, cd, dvd, cell phone company, is controlled by ten companies in America. The Big Ten are as follows: AOL/TIME WARNER: revenue $36.2 billion; GENERAL ELECTRIC: revenue $129.9 billion; VIACOM revenue $20 billion; WALT DISNEY: revenue $25.4 billion; LIBERTY MEDIA CORPORATION: revenue $42 billion; AT&T: revenue $66 billion; NEWS CORPORATION: revenue $11.6billion; BERTELSMANN: revenue $16.5 billion; VIVENDI: revenue 37.2 billion; and SONY: revenue 53.8 billion.

The sixties also provided us with the first televised war: Viet Nam

The sixties also provided us with the first televised war: Viet Nam. Americans at home had never seen war up-close. The first and second World Wars, the Korean War were not experienced by Americans every night via television. But during the Viet Nam era war came into our homes. While sitting down to dinner each evening Americans were bombarded with ghastly images of suffering and death on both sides of the battle lines. Journalists were allowed on the frontlines and gave us images of war, up-close and personal. I believe that because of those images what little popular support for the war that existed was eroded. Americans took to the streets protesting America's involvement in Viet Nam. From that time to the present war is reported in a totally different fashion. The American Government can no longer wage wars without the support of the American people. If you control how the war is reported, you can control the opinions of the public. From Grenada to Panama, from Kuwait to Bosnia, and from Afghanistan to Iraq we are given censored coverage of international conflicts. War is too profitable and important to be influenced by the voice of the people. War coverage and reporting of war today has become nothing more than a video game with point of view images of bombs hitting their targets from a distance.

Clifford JACOBS with Bircan ÜNVER who produces television programs
at Queens Public Access TV on behalf of the Light MIllennium TV Series, also
organizer of the event.
(Photo: Figen BINGÜL)


The Kennedy Nixon debate in 1960 forever changed the way we view campaigns for the Presidency.

Coverage of Presidential elections have also been greatly influenced by the power of the visual image. The Kennedy Nixon debate in 1960 forever changed the way we view campaigns for the Presidency. But it also changed the way such campaigns are covered by the news media. Going into the debate Nixon had an edge over Kennedy. He was a vice- President and had an excellent reputation as a skillful debater. Those who listened to the debate on the radio believed that Nixon had won. Those who watched the debate on television declared Kennedy the victor. Nixon was not an attractive figure on tv. During the debate he was seen wiping sweat from his forehead as Kennedy kept the pressure on him. Kennedy was young, good looking, and well tailored his gray suit matching the backdrop perfectly. How you look as a presidential candidate is as important as what you say. Just ask Howard Dean. Abraham Lincoln would never get elected in this age of televised campaigns. He was tall, droll, laconic and brooding. Not tv material. Teddy Roosevelt on the other would have been terrific tv material. Larger than life, adventurous, robust and commanding, television would have accentuated his qualities making him a media celebrity. Today a candidate for the Presidency must not only grasp the facts and the issues, he or she must also be ready for prime time television. Dan Qualye, Spiro Agnew, Jimmy Carter, and Gerald Ford were not good tv material. Reagan, Arnold Schwartzenneger, Jesse Ventura and Hillary Clinton are good for television.

Watch closely. But don't just watch, get involved.

Public Access Television is an opportunity for you to get involved in community media. Public Access Centers have equipment and studios and will train you how to use the equipment so that you can produce programs for the community. Usually there is a small fee for the workshop, but everything else is free. There are no charges for using the equipment and facilities. Nor is there a fee for channel time. Programs are not nor can they be screened prior to cablecast. Which is to say that there is no censorship of programming on Public Access channels. Access centers are constantly dealing with First Amendment issues as they relate, particularly, to free speech.

Big Brother is still watching.

Of course you can not engage in an activity that is illegal. If you can be arrested for engaging in an illegal act in public, then you can also be arrested for performing that act on television. For example you can not threaten the life of the President of the United States. I know of a producer who made what seemed to be a threat on Clinton's life, and the Secret Service and demanded to see the program that had aired only twelve hours before. Big Brother is still watching. Another producer was showing his viewers how to make crack cocaine in your kitchen at home, he was arrested and his show was taken off the air. Programs can contain nudity as long as its not obscene. Commercial advertising is also not allowed on the channels, otherwise you are free to do and say whatever you want.

So I conclude by giving you forty five words of tremendous importance for every American Citizen:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

- . -

RESOURCES:

Nichols, J. & McChesney R., It’s the Media, Stupid, Seven Stories Press,
New York, N.Y. 2000
McChesney R., Corporate Media and the Threat to Democracy,
Seven Stories Press, New York, N.Y. 1997
Oringel, Robert & Buske, Sue Miller, The Access Manager’s Handbook:
A Guide for Managing Community Television,
Butterworth Publishers, Stoneham Ma. 1987

WEB SITES:
www.nowfoundation.org/issues/communications/tv/mediacontrol.html
www.takebackthemedia.com/owners.html
www.openchannel.se/cat/link53.htm
www.fac.org
www.alliancecm.org/




For Media Release of the event:

The Camera or the Gun: How to produce your own television programs?

   
This issue is dedicated to: CHILDREN OF THE WORLD & WHEN PEACE COMES
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YES For The Global Peace Movement, YES Loving & Caring Each Other, YES Greatness in Humanity, YES Saving Our Unique Mother Earth,
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