February 12, 2020

Concerning “Mayor Lempert Responds To PCTV’s Jan. 29 Open Letter”

To the Editor:

Public Access, Educational Access, and Government Access are the three autonomous non-commercial cable channels dedicated to Princeton by Comcast and Verizon.

Mayor Lempert writes [Mailbox, Feb. 5]: “… the reality is that the municipality continues to operate a channel that airs Council, Planning, and Zoning Board meetings … the school district operates its own channel that airs its Board meetings… ”

What is not acknowledged is that if Princeton Community Access Television ceases operation the public’s voice will be denied the freedom of expression accorded the Princeton Council and the Princeton School Board.

Mayor Lempert writes: “PCTV is a local nonprofit … it produces local programming, primarily interview shows. It also provides video production training…”

What is not acknowledged is that PCTV produces videos and podcasts to bolster fundraising efforts for Princeton-based nonprofits including the Witherspoon-Jackson Development Corporation, Latin American Legal Defense and Education Fund, and Coalition For Peace Action.

Mayor Lempert writes: “Princeton was one of the very few remaining towns in the entire state to fund a local station.”

What is not acknowledged is that Princeton’s government is not funding a station, but a television production studio where video productions take place. PCTV is fulfilling its mission of enabling the public’s voice to be aired on television and digital platforms.

Mayor Lempert writes: “Communication has been democratized to an extent no one could have imagined when PCTV began … now it is possible to record and broadcast video across the globe with a smartphone.”

What is not acknowledged is that new technology creates possibilities not democracy. As Eric Schmidt, chairman of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Innovation Advisory Board states: “We are naive to believe … that if you just empower the people with new communication tools democracy flourishes.” Dr. Catherine Happer, Glasgow University Media Group, adds: “There is no conclusive evidence that citizens are better informed politically than they were before the rise of internet-based news.” To have a meaningful say in policy decisions that affect their community, the public needs opportunities to get together to share their opinions and beliefs. “If U.S. democracy is to survive and thrive citizens need to use all instruments of democratic communication such as community radio, public access television, and now the internet,” says Professor Douglas Kellner. The more compelling the public’s voice becomes, the stronger our democracy becomes.

Janet Wolinetz
Bainbridge Street