Straight Talk

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Tri-State’s attempt to control Free Speech …

Before we explore how Tri-State Public Communications, Inc. (TSPC)  has handled its responsiblity for operations of public access television over the last four years (2007 to a few weeks ago), it is important for you to know how this organization attempted to restrict FREE SPEECH on the television, although they prefer to deny it.

Here is the chain of email that began September 8, 2011:
**********
From: Marshall Miles

To: mike@straighttalkmedia.com ; Mike Flint

Sent: Thursday, September 08, 2011 7:42 PM

Subject: Political

Mike:

With it now being the first week of September, and you running as a declared petitioning candidate for The Region One BOE, we have a couple of options for Straight Talk.  You could, like you did when you ran for First Selectman, put the show on Hiatus, or,we will impose a restriction that absolutely no comments on or about The Region One Board of Education, or its actions. Even if callers call in, the topic would be taboo until after the election. Which would you prefer?

Thanks:

Marshall
**********

From: Flint,CATV 6

To: Marshall Miles ; Jill Goodman

Sent: Saturday, September 10, 2011 7:07 AM

Subject: Response to ‘Political’

Marshall,

Due to a throat problem that is creating a speaking problem, I will not be appearing for Straight  Talk Live this Sunday, September 11.

The Straight Talk Live program will resume on September 18.

I will be responding to the restrictions/hiatus that you have proposed in email later this weekend. It requires a detailed explanation of why the program can continue to broadcast without restrictions being imposed by Tri-State Public Communications management.

Mike Flint

**********

From: Jill Goodman

To: ‘Flint,CATV 6’ ; ‘Marshall Miles’

Sent: Saturday, September 10, 2011 7:59 AM

Subject: RE: Response to ‘Political’

Mike,

The hostility in this email is palpable. And unnecessary.

You know as well as anybody that NOBODY is placing restrictions on your show. If you choose to alter your approach from one election cycle to the next, that’s your business.  But it would be helpful to be aware of your plans, something that has been noticeably lacking of late.

Apropos, presumably you have been answering Marshall’s emails? I’ve been receiving his ccs, not yours.

Thanks!

Jill

I should note that most of the email I received from Mr. Miles had NO CC notation on it … I must assume that Mr. Miles was doing what is known as a ‘Blind Carbon’ (BCC) which I WOULD NOT see on my email.  As a result I would not be compelled to reply to Ms. Goodman since I was NOT aware of the CC.  Mr. Miles was aware of my candidacy at the time I filed my petition in July, 2011.  In my four years at CATV, I had little contact with Ms. Goodman via email or any other forms, so I assumed Mr. Miles kept her informed about business at CATV.

**********

From: Robinhood Radio

To: Flint,CATV 6

Sent: Saturday, September 10, 2011 7:56 AM

Subject: Re: Response to ‘Political’

Mike, I was just going by what you did when you ran for First Selectman. I will contact Comcast’s legal department, and get their opinion. I was NOT putting restrictions on you, I offered suggestions.

We will let Comcast’s legal team give us the correct answer, so we know we are doing the proper thing.

Marshall

(I didn’t see ‘keep the program as it is’ in the so-called suggestions.)

**********

Here is the reasoning I sent to Tri-State on September 11, 2011:

On Sun, Sep 11, 2011 at 9:50 PM, Flint,CATV 6 <mflint@catv6.com> wrote:

September 11, 2011

Marshall and Jill,

Concerning the Straight Talk program I welcome a legal opinion pertaining to my candidacy for the Region One Board and production/broadcasting of said program on CATV 6.

I would request that this opinion be in writing.

My research on this topic suggests that the ‘equal time’ regulations do not apply to PEG channels.

It also suggests that organizations who are responsible for the operations of PEG channels do not have authority over editorial comment with the exception of ‘indecent content’ (which is somewhat limited) and ‘defamatory’ content (which also has certain limitations from a management perspective).

I am providing a link to a piece from the Community Media Review, Winter 2002-2003 (it is linked because of copyright restrictions). It addresses the issue we are dealing with in some detail.

http://www.spiegelmcd.com/publications/pubs/jnh_political_speech.pdf

The next link to the Massachusetts Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation website has other information.

http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=ocaterminal&L=8&L0=Home&L1=Government&L2=Our+Agencies+and+Divisions&L3=Department+of+Telecommunications+and+Cable&L4=Competition+Division&L5=Cable+Television+Division&L6=Consumer+Rights+%26+Fact+Sheets&L7=Consumer+Rights+Fact+Sheets&sid=Eoca&b=terminalcontent&f=dtc_factsheets_politicalprogramming_fs&csid=Eoca

Under the fourth heading from the top of the page that is linked above, it answers the question “How Does the Equal Opportunities Rule Apply to Local Channels”. Please note that these rules stem from Federal Regulations and are not different from State to State. This site also addresses political candidate access to PEG channels.

One might also review the “Statutes and Rules on Candidate Appearances and Advertising” at the FCC website.

http://transition.fcc.gov/mb/policy/political/candrule.htm

There are other links which support my position that Straight Talk is entitled to broadcast on Public Access station 6 without any restrictions provided I don’t overtly use it to campaign.

Regardless, I would welcome a written legal opinion on this matter.

Thank you.

Mike Flint

This was followed by two responses:

From: Robinhood Radio

To: Flint,CATV 6

Sent: Sunday, September 11, 2011 10:11 PM

Subject: Re: Straight Talk

Mike:

As I wrote to you a few minutes ago, what ever Comcast says is fine with me, the only reason this issue has come up is that you pulled your show off-air when you ran for First Selectman last time..so I was just bringing up the issue being that you are running again this year..I thought you had researched this last election, and that’s why you decided to pull your show off the air last election.

We have no desire to control editorial content on your show, plus we have no desire to take your show off-air. We just want to make sure we are following the rules on this issue legally.

Marshall

**********

From: Robinhood Radio

To: Flint,CATV 6

Sent: Monday, September 12, 2011 4:25 AM

Subject: Re: Straight Talk

By the way Mike, what we are questioning the legalities of with Comcast is NOT your hosting the show Straight Talk…It’s about you being General Manager of the Local Access facility, run by Tri-State Public Communications, AND hosting the show Straight Talk during political season.

Just wanted to make that clear (that’s what concerned you the last time you ran for First Selectman).

Marshall

(The statement in this final email about what concerned me in the last election is simply untrue.)

You can see from this chain how Tri-State shifted its positions and reasoning from email to email.  I would also note that I never received an opinion from the Comcast Legal Department concerning this issue.

(to be continued …)          (To read this story from the beginning, scroll down to ‘Changes and some explanation of what has been happening … ‘)

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One thought on “Tri-State’s attempt to control Free Speech …

  1. Claudia Parsons on said:

    It is very clear from Marshall’s first e-mail here that if you were not going to take a hiatus from the show that “we will impose a restriction that absolutely no comments on or about the Region One Board of Education or its actions” would be accepted on Straight Talk and that callers would not be able to discuss it if they called in. There is no palpable hostility in your e-mail response–just that you would respond in more detail later.
    It is almost as if Marshall and Jill don’t talk to each other from the shifting positions in these e-mails (even if they were being cc’d to her). Or is it that neither one can decide what their own opinion is from comment to comment. Today they were discussing their checkbook on the air. Sometimes its their nightmares at night…. Do we really need to know this stuff? This is an NPR station not a running commentary on the daily life of Marshall and Jill.

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