Public Access TV in a YouTube world

If you watch any TV or cable news, you hear references to this or that video on YouTube. It reminds me of the days when the big three networks referred something on CNN. YouTube is starting to feel like another network. NBC doesn’t want to cover my speech? No problem. I’ll just post it to YouTube.

My next thought was the similarity to public access TV. Let the record show I know almost nothing about public access TV. I think it works something like this:

The local cable company (or someone) sets aside a channel for the public to produce programming. I assume there is a local board or committee that manages the channel and decides what programming to air and when.

Putting Tivo aside for a moment, the public access channel is limited to 24 hours of programming each days. And to keep the math simple, let’s say every program is an hour long and airs once a week. That’s 168 programs a week. And many of those would “air” in the middle of the night.

I think it would be difficult to fill that much time. And what if I had something that was only 5 or 10 minutes long?

Here’s my question: Why won’t YouTube (and similar services) make public access television obsolete? [This is where I show my ignorance of PATV] If local relevance is the raison d’etra of PATV, why not just invite the people of your community (or people who visit your community) to post their videos to YouTube and tag them with the name of the city/town?

But wait, what about our live coverage of the weekly city council meeting? It runs 2 hours or longer and YouTube limits videos to 10 minutes.

Hmm. I guess I’d stream it on Ustream and then pull “highlights” and post those on YouTube.

I expect the Big Question would be, “What about all the people who don’t have computers and access to the Internet?” For the answer, see: “What About People Who Don’t Have TV Sets?”

Don’t misunderstand. I’m not suggesting for a moment that public access TV isn’t a good or necessary thing. There must be people who watch it or it wouldn’t exist. It just feels like one of those things –like classified adds– that would work better and cheaper online.

My friend Jeff knows a LOT about public access TV and I encourage him to comment and help me understand how technology is evolving in this area.

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