FREE PRESS -- The Los Angeles Times reports that in Los Angeles, 12 public access studios that provided programming
for 11 community channels have been closed by Time Warner Cable Inc.

A provision of a law passed by the Legislature in 2006, which took
effect Thursday, allows cable television providers the option of
dropping their long-standing obligation of providing free studios,
equipment and training to the public. In return, providers must pay a
substantial annual fee and continue to provide a minimal number of
public education and government channels.

    The new law is
designed to make it easier for phone companies to enter into the
lucrative cable market by relieving them of certain money-draining
contractual obligations.

Perhaps the best known public affairs program, Full Disclosure, is using its website to present actor Ed Asner, attacking members of the Los Angeles City Council and challenging them to "stop the neglect of the public cable access television channels and to start funding the facilities here in the heart of the media world and Hollywood California."  The Times adds:

Twenty other states, including Texas, Nevada, Florida, Illinois and Michigan, have enacted legislation similar to California's Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act, or DIVCA, according to the nonprofit Alliance for Community Media. In several of those states, the loss of production studios was bitterly fought by opposition groups to little avail.
    But the waning of public access programming in California would carry special significance for the nation, said Ron Cooper, a public access advocate and regional treasurer of the Alliance for Community Media in Sacramento.
    "The rest of the country is watching," Cooper said. "And not because it's a good example -- quite the opposite."
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    Although public access television often is mocked as a showcase for eccentric narcissists and sensationalistic provocateurs—what Cooper referred to as "naked Nazis"—he said only a small proportion of its content fits this bill.
    "For the city of Los Angeles, the city of angels, the media capital of the world to say there is no room for public" access, Cooper said, "I don't even know how to describe it."