Cable Access Channel Fights Back with Hitler Ads

10/26/07 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Friday | Listen to this entire show:

Speak Up Tampa Bay, the Community access channel in Tampa and Hillsborough County, lost $355,000 from its operating budget after County Commissioners cut funding for the channel, claiming budget cuts as the culprit.

The Channel sued, and beginning tomorrow (Saturday) will begin airing ads asking its viewers to help out in its legal battle. And one of the ads is quite provocative, featuring the visages of Adolph Hitler, Joseph Stalin and Fidel Castro, before ultimately fading into the faces of Commissioners Jim Norman, Brian Blair, Al Higgenbotham, and Ken Hagen

Louise Thompson is Executive Director of the Tampa Bay Community Network, also known as Speak Up Tampa Bay. She’s aware that the ads may stir controversy.

The Tampa Bay Community Network is suing the County for cutting its budget, alleging censorship. The lawsuit also references the fact that the County Commission did not cut funding for its own government channel, or completely cut funding for the Education channel, the 3 channels that received funding from the County.

The channel filed an injunction earlier this month to stop the budget from the County from going through, but that was rejected by a Hillsborough County Judge. That is now being appealed.

The station is still operating, because it does not rely exclusively on funding from the County. The City of Tampa also contributes a substantial amount. However, Louise Thompson says that if an aspiring producer from say, Valrico, wants to volunteer at the station to potentially produce a program, they’re out of luck.

WMNF contacted Commissioner Brian Blair for comment. He did not return our phone call by airtime. He is one of those depicted in the new ads.

Meanwhile, in Pinellas County, organizers trying to get public access back on in that area say that they will be meeting with First Amendment Attorney Luke Lirot, and are contemplating legal action against the County Government. a

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