To the editors:
A note of thanks for your comprehensive and informative piece on cable access in Chicago, "Is Anybody Watching?" [May 27]. Chicago Access Corporation had many calls about involvement from nonprofits and would-be volunteer producers, and we want the world to know that all Chicago residents and nonprofits are invited to free drop-in "orientation" sessions on the second Saturday of each month at 10 am or 1 pm, or the 3rd Thursday or last Wednesday (are you still with me?) at 5:45 pm. Y'all come!
And we do want to bring to your attention the fact that the Chicago Defender does run the CHICAGO TV 19 program schedule, a real public service. We hope that the other dailies will soon follow suit, and, of course, we appreciate anything the Reader can do to draw attention to our unique program services on cable channels 19, 21, 27, 42, and--later this year, 36.
With respect to the story, some of the other matters I might mention include the fact that Chicago Access Corporation's financial statements and audit are matters of public record, our November board meeting is cablecast and our board, in keeping with our mandate, is broadly representative of the city and its diverse cable access constituencies.
Staff, board and volunteers have all worked prodigiously to develop this unique communications resource for the citizens of Chicago in ways which are consistent with our mission, attractive and useful to cable viewers and supportive of the future for local public access. We are grateful for these efforts and the support of the Chicago Cable Commission, Group W Cable of Chicago and Chicago Cable TV
Sherry B. Goodman
President and Chief Executive Officer
Chicago Access Corporation
M. Treloar replies:
If Ms. Goodman had not told her staff to deny me access to Chicago Access Corporation's financial statements, my article would have been even more informative. I finally filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the Office of Cable Communications to get some documents; others were leaked to me.
I have been told that CAC now allows people to view their financial statements at the office, but not to make copies. It is odd that a corporation that derives 85 percent of its income directly from a deal made by the City Council should be so secretive about how they spend that money. I think it would be healthy for everyone concerned, not just CAC board members, to wonder why administrative costs take up 62 percent of the budget, or why so many outside consultants are used, or why several thousand dollars are spent on "media relations" (I didn't get any of it).
There are many hardworking members on the CAC board, of that I have no doubt. But I am also certain that the CAC board is not broadly representative of the city. Even Ms. Goodman has pointed out in meetings that the Hispanic and Asian communities are severely underrepresented. Anyone who attends a board meeting would immediately notice that there are no youths on that body. Anyone who can get his hands on the board's confidential listing would notice that it is greatly weighted with members of the professional-managerial class (for lack of a better phrase), e.g., four lawyers, no factory workers. I suspect that poor people are greatly underrepresented also, but any body that underrepresents Hispanics, Asians, youth, and working people doesn't represent Chicago.
Furthermore, the board seems intent on continuing the Chicago tradition of "we don't want nobody nobody sent." It just decided, by a 16-15 vote, not to allow public notice of vacancies on the board. You can only be nominated if you know a current member who will sponsor you. One member argued in favor of this policy by saying that they would not want to hurt the feelings of those who might be rejected if public announcements generated too many nominees.
Ms. Goodman says that the November 1987 board meeting was videotaped. The minutes of that meeting show that Doug Cassel moved "that the public be allowed to tape, film, photograph, etc board meetings." Motion defeated.
I am still excited about the potential CAC has for Chicago, even more so now that I am certified as a producer (and, for the record, a member of the Chicago Access Producers Association). I think Ms. Goodman's efforts deserve recognition. I just wish she would take off the rose-colored filter.