Amanda.Greene@ReligionNews.com

In mid-November 2012, about 65 community residents gathered at a public forum in Wilmington's City Hall to voice support for a public access TV channel for the area.

In all, there were 22 pages of public comments and questions about public access.

In all, there were 22 pages of public comments and questions about public access.

After the meeting, the City of Wilmington hosted a public access online survey to gauge further public interest in the initiative. About 340 people responded with 89 percent reporting they live in Wilmington. There were 104 comments for and against public access at the end of the survey.

Time Warner Cable hosted a TV channel for citizen content since the 1980s. Anyone was allowed to broadcast on the channel, as long as they kept their content high quality and within community standards of decency. Though, the majority of users were churches broadcasting services and youth programs. Citing budgetary reasons, Time Warner decided to shut down Wilmington’s public access channel 4 in 2009.

City manager Sterling Cheatham said City Council will make the final decision on whether or not to pursue a Wilmington public access channel after reviewing the survey results and recommendations from the public forum. Public access was not a scheduled agenda item for discussion for the City Council's meeting today (Jan. 8.) Representatives with Wilmington Public Access Television, the group of activists lobbying for the channel, said City Council will most likely review the issue at its next meeting at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 15. 

Here is an overview of the survey results, by the numbers:

57 percent  of respondents were Time Warner digital customers

80 percent in favor of city asking Time Warner for cable slot for public access

72 percent support use of city tax dollars for public access TV

34 percent  would watch it weekly, 31 percent would watch daily and others said rarely or never

78 percent prefer educational content followed by arts/nonprofit and political content

17 percent wanted religious content

60 percent knew of organization who would like to use the channel

85 percent of respondents said that even though some content might be objectionable, they were OK with that if that meant having the access.

Comments included:

  • “With all the talented people in this town, there is a lot we could be sharing with each other. From educational information to local arts… we need this!”
  • “I feel like it would be a waste of tax dollars! Use the money for local infrastructure. Stop wasting money on things we don't need!”
  • “Important health and medical support group information which is difficult for such organizations to get out to the public without paying fees they cannot afford could raise the community's awareness of such issues.  Various religious groups could promote outreach and community ministry activities  without incurring excessive advertising costs.”
  • “I think that religious programing is in violation of the separation of church and state and if you were going to allow churches to run programs I would be extremely against public funding for it.”
  • “Don't think it should become the “church” channel.”
  • “Without public TV, we are simply another big media mudhole full of uneducated losers who grow up southern and racist.”
  • “The Time Warner monopoly should be abrogated in this time of satellite and internet access. YouTube is a venue for public access; the city is stuck in the 1970s.” 
  • “Who would define what organization represents “the people”?”

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