Arlington Independent Media, the local public access cable channel and media education center, is asking its members to support a new cable franchise agreement the county has reportedly reached with Comcast.
The franchise agreement is what allows Comcast to serve customers in Arlington, to the exclusion of other traditional cable providers. (Verizon’s FiOS service has its own franchise agreement in Arlington.)
Arlington County has been negotiating a franchise agreement renewal with Comcast since 2013, when its last long-term agreement expired. The County Board has continuously, temporarily extended the agreement until negotiations could conclude.
The specifics of the new agreement, which reportedly runs through Dec. 2021 and is expected to be considered by the County Board next month, were not immediately available. However, in an email to its members, AIM said the agreement would continue to fund the organization, with some notable changes.
Under the agreement, AIM would be upgraded to an HD channel on Comcast’s cable service. Meanwhile, the organization would “continue to receive approximately 1% of Comcast’s gross revenue as operating support,” according to the email, with the county contributing another 1% from its 5% communications tax in addition to an annual capital grant.
AIM’s current facilities in the Comcast building in Clarendon, however, would cease to be rent-free starting Jan. 1, 2018. That “presents AIM with a significant challenge and we will have to quickly figure out a way to remain viable under these conditions,” wrote AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley.
Overall, LeValley wrote, the agreement is “very positive for AIM and we are grateful to the County for negotiating its terms on our behalf.” The only change the organization is seeking is a provision requiring that Comcast list its programming on its on-screen guide.
It is “imperative that our full program schedule be included in Comcast’s digital program guide,” wrote LaValley. “Unfortunately, the draft agreement fails to make this requirement. We believe that inclusion of our program schedule would significantly improve our ability to attract and keep audiences for the many fine programs that you all work so hard to create for our community.”
The full email has been published on the AIM website.
WERA 96.7 FM is an AIM project with a focus to air programming for the local community, by the local community.
“We would really like to reach out to all of Arlington’s communities and have widespread participation,” AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley said. “We’re working to ensure the programming is compelling, and we hope people will be open minded about giving us a shot.”
As a public radio platform, the station’s funding will come from listener and member contributions, as well as local business underwriting.
According to Andrew Rosenberg, member of the AIM Board of Directors and the station’s Program Advisory and Review Council (PARC), the primary means for keeping residents so closely involved has little to do with money.
“We want to create a service that fills a need in the area so people know this is their station,” he said. “My greatest hope is that we become a real fixture for the community.”
Though the schedule itself will be a work in progress as the station grows, Rosenberg said they’ve received several proposals for programs of all varieties. Some of these include:
- music programming (disc jockey, world beat, ska, music collection shows, etc.)
- local news and events
- world news summaries
- school news summaries
- call-in discussions
- content from independent public radio producers
In the beginning, WERA will also air programs sourced from other public radio outlets, if their content is relevant to Arlington listeners. However, Rosenberg said he hoped that over time community programming will displace these.
“We’ll be very much in touch with what the community wants to hear,” he said. “We’ll also be taking proposals on a rolling basis and changing up shows to keep things interesting.”
To celebrate, the station is also hosting a party from 3 to 8 p.m. on the launch day in the WERA control room . There will be refreshments, hors d’oeuvres and drinks provided. The family-friendly event is free open to the public, though all attendees should expect to get involved.
“We’re making this participatory because that’s the whole idea behind community radio,” LeValley said.
In addition to demonstrations of the equipment and facilities, guests can rehearse and record a radio drama, share a short story, or participate in a sing-along to “This Land is Your Land.” These recordings will be some of the first segments to go on the air shortly after the ribbon cutting at 6 p.m.
“The more people, the better,” LeValley added. “We would love to have the whole community come and help us launch.”
Photo courtesy of Paul LaValley/AIM
The low power FM station (WERA-LPFM) is a project of Arlington Independent Media. AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley says he believes the station will provide a much-needed service to the community.
“Radio isn’t dead; radio is doing great,” LeValley said. “We need more local media — this gives us the opportunity to do that on the radio side.”
LeValley expects the radio station to built, tested and ready to air by the Dec. 9 deadline previously set by the Federal Communications Commission. Once the station has been declared functional, WERA will apply to the FCC for a license to broadcast.
A logo for the station has been created and AIM is currently in the process of finalizing the site for their radio tower: 2300 Clarendon Blvd. The FCC has granted approval and the building owner has written a lease which is being executed this week; all that’s left is for Arlington County to give zoning approval for a radio tower, but LeValley does not anticipate any problems.
Once the station is licensed, programs will be selected by an independent Program Advisory and Review Council appointed by the AIM Board, its staff and the WERA committee. The council will have 11 members, four from AIM and seven from the greater community.
“We’re going to try and be as diverse as we can geographically, occupationally and ethnically,” said LeValley.
Although the council will be independent, the AIM Board and staff and the WERA committee have written up a list of five values that the committee will use as “guiding principles” to decide which programs go on the air. Applications will be evaluated based on: service, enrichment, localism, diversity and innovation.
The community seems to have responded to the idea of a hyper-local radio station. LeValley says AIM gets inquiries every day from residents who want to get involved. In AIM’s view, the more, the merrier.
“We believe in a communication democracy,” said LeValley. “As many people as possible should be producers — media should be made up of many voices in conversation with one another, holding each other accountable.”
For those who want to get involved, but don’t know how, classes in basic radio production will be offered in the early fall. Courses will likely run about three weeks and cost around $90.
Although LeValley says there is still a long way to go between now and the Dec. 9 deadline, he is “as confident as any person can be when venturing into new territory.”
Arlington Independent Media‘s low-power FM station was approved by the Federal Communications Commission for 96.7 on the dial, with call letters WERA-LPFM. As part of their FCC approval, the radio station must be broadcast-ready by Dec. 9, according to AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley.
When the radio station does launch — and LeValley has no doubt they will be ready to air by the deadline — it will be a platform for anyone interested in broadcasting to get real, on-air experience.
“We’ll train [the community] on how to do it, how to produce a radio program, and they will produce the programming,” LeValley told ARLnow.com this morning. “There’s an interest group among just citizens, people who for years have been lobbying for low-power FM around the area and just in Arlington. The Arlington portion of that group is starting to coalesce, and they meet independent of my board, independent of my staff. And they’re saying ‘What kind of stuff do we want to do?'”
The FCC requires that any low-power FM station operate only for educational, noncommercial purposes.
LeValley said the low-power FM committee of the AIM Board of Directors is meeting to determine what kind of programming mix the station should have. When it’s live, the station will reach most of Arlington and stretch into parts of the District.
AIM received a construction permit to build a radio tower in June, but it’s still in the process of figuring out where the tower will be located. LeValley couldn’t disclose which sites he was looking at, only that it would be “somewhere toward the center of Arlington, on a multi-story building.”
AIM’s LPFM committee chair Andy Rosenberg has worked for years in public radio and has lived in Arlington for more than 40 years. He said he’s thrilled to see how the community gathers around its own radio station.
“There’s a bit of controversy about whether radio is a dead medium, but I think with these LPFM stations, there’s a chance to build community,” Rosenberg said. “Radio is immediate and flexible and there’s so much you can do with it to engage the community. That’s exciting to think about it.”
WERA-LPFM has the capability to broadcast 24 hours a day and the studio will be in AIM’s headquarters on N. Danville Street in Courthouse. Eventually, Rosenberg said, radio programs will be able to be recorded in satellite offices, sent to the station and transmitted through the tower.
Over the next few months, while the tower site is chosen and construction begins, AIM will hold community meetings to try to determine who and what the community wants to hear on the radio, Rosenberg said.
Photo via Facebook
Arlington Independent Media, the Courthouse-based nonprofit organization that encourages average residents to produce and create their own content, plans to launch an FM radio station next year.
AIM announced yesterday that it had been approved by the Federal Communications Commission to construct a “low-power” FM radio station, one with a 3.5-mile broadcasting radius, from its headquarters in Courthouse. While the radius is small, it will cover most of Arlington and reach parts of the National Mall and the White House in D.C.
“Our focus will be on Arlington with the intent to provide hyper-local news, information, and entertainment,” AIM Executive Director Paul LeValley said in a press release.
The station will located at 96.7 on the FM dial and, while “the details are still being worked out” for programming, AIM said the goal is for members of the community to host their own radio shows for news, music, talk and event coverage.
“We’ve been impressed at the high degree of interest within the community,” LeValley said. “Radio programming remains very popular and a lot of people seem to want to participate in creating it.”
The station will be broadcast at 100 watts, and, being a low-power FM station, it can only be used for educational purposes, according to FCC regulations. The station may not be used for commercial means.
AIM’s Board of Directors approved the construction of the new radio station last month after the FCC signed off in June, according to the press release. The Board established a committee to work “alongside staff, AIM members, and the public to plan and implement all the steps required to build and operate a low power FM station.”
Image via Facebook
Petition to Protect Thomas Jefferson Park — Some Arlington residents have started a petition to protect Thomas Jefferson Park from redevelopment. Last month, the county announced it had commissioned a working group to study the land around Thomas Jefferson Middle School, including TJ Park, for the site of a new elementary school. [WTOP]
Arlington Mill Residences Nominated for Award — Affordable Housing Finance Magazine has selected The Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing’s (APAH) Arlington Mill Residences as one of 34 finalists in the annual Reader’s Choice Awards competition. It’s the only nominated property in the D.C. metro area. Readers can see the other finalists online and vote for the Arlington Mill Residences in the Best Overall Development category. [Affordable Housing Finance Magazine]
Rosebud Film Festival Accepting Entries — The Rosebud Film and Video Festival is accepting entries for the 2014 competition. The festival is open exclusively to Virginia, D.C. and Maryland film artists. A panel will select 20 nominees to have their work screened at Artisphere in January. Five winners will be chosen from that pool and will be announced at a gala at Clarendon Ballroom. [Arlington Independent Media]
Chili Cookoff Competitors Wanted — The Arlington County Democratic Committee is looking for people to compete in its annual chili cookoff. The event will take place on Labor Day (Sept. 1). [InsideNova]
In October, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will allow community groups in urban areas to apply for low power FM radio stations. Arlington Independent Media (AIM) has been working on plans to apply for a license to start a community radio station serving the Arlington area. According to a press release, “AIM hopes it can combat the domination of the airwaves by corporations with no local presence or programming.”
AIM will host a roundtable meeting on Thursday to gather supporters, discuss the next steps and to find resources. Some of the topics expected to come up for discussion are station branding, programming, community organizing and fundraising.
“This community radio station will provide access to underrepresented music, promote community dialogue and involvement, encourage individual and artistic expression, and create awareness of local views and events,” said AIM Operations Manager Lauree McArdle.
The meeting is free to attend and will take place from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at AIM’s Clarendon studio (2701-C Wilson Blvd). Light refreshments will be provided. Those interested in attending are asked to RSVP online.
Arlington Independent Media, the non-profit public access cable channel, is back on after being knocked off the air by Superstorm Sandy.
AIM went off the air last week due to damage to a “server that programs the channel.” The computer problems were caused not by flooding or wind damage, but by power outages during the storm.
“We apologize for any inconvenience this might cause our producers and viewers,” AIM said at the time.
This afternoon, the organization announced that repairs were complete and the channel is once again broadcasting on air — on Verizon channel 38 and Comcast channel 69 — and online.
Bishop O’Connell Grad Selected in NBA Draft — Bishop O’Connell High School standout Kendall Marshall has been drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the first round of the NBA Draft. Marshall, a point guard, is being touted as a possible replacement to Steve Nash. [Washington Post, Bleacher Report]
Citizens Ask for Farmhouse Restoration — A group of residents is urging the Arlington County Board to spend some $1 million to restore the county-owned Reevesland farmhouse and convert it into a nature and sustainability learning center. At the moment, the county is attempting to find a commercial tenant to foot the bill for the pricey restoration. [Sun Gazette]
Closures for Parade This Weekend — Parts of Shirlington Road, Four Mile Run Drive and S. Walter Reed Drive will be closed Saturday afternoon to make way for the “Agrobol Parade.” [Arlington County Police Department]
Library Honored for Environmental Innovation — Arlington Public Library has been named the Urban Libraries Council’s 2012 “Top Innovator for Sustainability.” [Library Blog]
AIM Awarded for ‘Overall Excellence’ — Arlington Independent Media has received an award for “Overall Excellence in Public Access” in the 2012 Hometown Media Competition. AIM won in the category for public access stations with budgets over $650,000. It’s the eighth time AIM has won the award since 1990. “Overall Excellence” award recipients in other categories included two local operations: Fairfax County Government Channel 16 and Montgomery Community Media. [Alliance for Community Media]
Flickr pool photo by Philliefan99
The store — which buys and sells CDs, LPs and DVDs — is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. CD Cellar first opened in Falls Church in 1992, and subsequently opened a location in Clarendon, at 2607 Wilson Boulevard.
Arlington Independent Media recently profiled the store in a short video (above).
Arlington Independent Media is in the planning stages of what may eventually become a low power FM community radio station. AIM, best known for its local cable television channel (Comcast channel 69, Verizon channel 38), has already designated funds for the construction of an audio booth in its Clarendon studios to accommodate residents who want to learn more about audio production. The booth is expected to be built by this fall, and will serve as the production hub for a potential radio station.
The station will likely start out as an internet-only streaming station, but may eventually be broadcast on a low power FM frequency if AIM can obtain the necessary FCC permission. That permission is by no means guaranteed, AIM programming coordinator Lauree McArdle said, because extra FM bandwidth is scare in the D.C. area.
Even if special FCC permission is granted, the signal probably won’t reach all of Arlington County, since low power FM signals are limited to 100 watts, which can only reach a radius of about 3.5 miles and is subject to interference from larger radio stations. Given a choice, McArdle says the signal would likely be targeted at the county’s lower income areas.
McArdle says she’s heard from 20 to 30 people in who are interested in helping out with a radio station. With the help of volunteer DJs and hosts, the station would probably broadcast an assortment of live and taped programming 24 hours per day.
“I don’t think we’ll lack for programming, because I have number of people who are interested in talk radio and that sort of thing,” McArdle said. “I think it will be a mix of talk programs as well as, hopefully, some music.”
AIM will be hosting a meeting next week for anyone interested in being a part of a “vibrant and active community radio presence in the county.” The meeting will be held from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, at the AIM studio at 2701-C Wilson Blvd.
If all goes well, McArdle says the radio station could start broadcasting online shortly after the audio booth is completed this fall.
The ‘franchise agreement’ that allows Comcast to provide cable television services in Arlington County is up for renewal, and residents are being asked to share their thoughts on what services the company can provide as part of a new franchise agreement.
Currently, Comcast helps to equip Arlington County’s government access channel, the Arlington Virginia Network, and helps to fund Arlington Independent Media, the independently-run public access channel. It also provides the fiber optic network and internet access service used by Arlington County government and Arlington Public Schools.
At tonight’s meeting, residents are encouraged to “share your own comments on potential services that might be part of a new cable franchise agreement.”
The meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the County Board room at 2100 Clarendon Boulevard. The county-produced video, above, and the Comcast Cable Renewal Process page of the Arlington County website provide more information about the process.
With no Republican contenders in the race, the Democratic primary for the 49th District House of Delegates seat will almost certainly decide who will represent the South Arlington district for the next two years.
When comparing the two candidates, however, one realizes that they are nearly identical on the issues. Both Stephanie Clifford and Alfonso Lopez say they will bring their “progressive values” to Richmond but will work with lawmakers across the aisle, both are pro-choice and pro-LGBT equality, both support increasing funding for Pre-K education and transit, and both oppose off-shore oil drilling.
“It’s obvious, we are pretty much exactly alike on the issues,” Clifford acknowledged recently. “There’s not a lot of daylight between us, we will vote the same way much of the time, which is why… personality issues are so much more important in this race.”
Those personality differences became a bit more clear earlier this week during a live televised debate sponsored by ARLnow.com and Arlington Independent Media. Asked about the one thing that most separates them from their opponent, Lopez and Clifford had two very different answers.
“I think it comes down to experience,” said Lopez, whose resume includes time as an Obama administration appointee in the Small Business Administration, an appointee with the administration of Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, an environmental policy advocate and a leader of local Democratic organizations.
“I’ve been working on these issues that matter to the 49th District for about 20 years,” he said. “It’s not just about building coalitions… it’s having the history, having the years of experience, and knowing the people in Richmond already. I’ve put in the time, I know how to get things done.”
Lopez added that the long list of endorsements he has received shows that he’s ready to go to Richmond.
Clifford, 34, said that while she doesn’t have the experience of Lopez, she has other qualities that make her the best choice for the Democratic nomination.
“I absolutely believe I bring that strong work ethic, the temperment and the perspective that we need to have a very effective delegate, to get down there and work for the real results we need,” she said.
“I’ve walked the entire district twice. I’ve talked to people over and over again about these fundemental issues. People are worried about housing, they’re worried about the education that their kids are receiving, they want to be able to afford to live here,” Clifford said. “People need help, and that’s why I’m stepping up.”
The primary will be held on Aug. 23. See a video of the entire 50-minute debate, after the jump, or watch on Arlington Independent Media (Comcast channel 69 or Verizon channel 38) on Saturday at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday at 4:00 p.m. or Wednesday at 9:00 p.m.
Alfonso Lopez and Stephanie Clifford will face off on live TV (Comcast channel 69 and Verizon channel 38) from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 8. The public is encouraged to watch on TV, on the internet or live in-studio. The debate will be held at the AIM studios at 2701 Wilson Blvd #C.
We’ll be asking about 10 questions of the candidates. If there’s a question you want answered, please let us know in the comments.
The 49th District, currently represented by Del. Adam Ebbin, includes much of South Arlington. Ebbin, a Democrat, is running for state Senate.
This year’s primary will be held on Aug. 23.
Every 10-15 years, the ‘franchise agreement’ that gives one company a virtual monopoly over cable TV service in Arlington is put up for review. The current agreement with Comcast is expiring in 2013, and the county is asking for citizen input into whether it should renew the company’s franchise, and under what conditions.
Right now, if you exclude fiber optic TV provider Verizon FiOS, Comcast is Arlington’s sole cable provider. Under its current franchise agreement, Comcast provides a number of guarantees, including customer service standards, regular system testing and maintenance, and free internet service for Arlington Public Schools. It also makes annual contributions to support the television channels run by the county government, county schools and by public access organization Arlington Independent Media. (About one percent of your cable bill goes to support AIM.)
Arlington, a lucrative market for cable operators, must now decide what to ask for as part of another 10-15 year agreement with Comcast. As part of that process, the county will be holding a number of focus groups that will discuss ways to improve cable service and while providing additional community benefits.
The focus groups will involve specific interest groups with a stake in the outcome of the franchise negotiations. A total of eight focus groups — each open to the general public — are planned for the month of June. Among them:
- K-12 Schools, Teachers, Staff, Students, and Parents (June 16)
- Local Government Agencies and Departments (June 20)
- Emergency Services, Federal Agencies & Institutional Network (June 20)
- Non Profit, Health and Human Service Organizations, Civic Societies and Groups (June 21)
- Arts, Culture, Music and Heritage (June 21)
- Churches and Faith-Based Organizations (June 22)
- Neighborhood Organizations, County Board Commissions (June 22)
- Higher Education, Healthcare Institutions, and Businesses (June 23)
“These focus groups… provide a chance for interested community members to learn about the franchise renewal and to share opinions about future services that could be available to our community through the Comcast cable system,” the county said in a press release. “The process of granting a new franchise to Comcast deserves serious consideration and public input.”
See more information on the meetings on the county’s web site. The focus groups will be conducted by The Buske Group, a consulting firm that’s assisting the county during the franchise renewal process.