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A Symbol of Democracy in the US:
QPTV or PUBLIC ACCESS TV
Part: 2



"We live by The First Amendment"*

Interviewed by Bircan UNVER

An interview with Clifford JACOBS, Queens Public Access Television, part 2:

What is public access's contribution to democracy in the US?

It's one of the most purist forms of the exercise of freedom of speech that you can find - you are not just going to find an opportunity to express yourself freely like you can on public access.  You can say and do anything as long as you do not break the law.  We guard the first amendment.  We live by the first amendment.  And I think that that is one of the first contributions to society that public access is involved with; to protect the right of the individual to express themselves freely.  To me, it really doesn't get any better than that.  In some countries, you cannot express yourself freely.  If you say something about the mayor or governor, they will come out with handcuffs and throw you in jail and torture you.  But that is not so here.  You can say anything you want.  If you want to criticize the mayor or the president, or address certain issues, that's fine, and you can do that.  No one is going to jump out of the shadows and put handcuffs on you and take you to jail, like they used to do when the Shah was in rule in Iran.  Or in Haiti when, when papa Dock and baby Devaue was in power.  You say anything about them and the Tom Macu will make sure that you don't see the sun in the morning.  They'll kill you.  But that doesn't happen here. 

During our previous conversation, you had a couple of examples that were remarkable.  One was about drinking alcohol related with church, and other one was Marijuana and a dancer, please explain?

Many people start out with equipment and technology and as you mature, when you work in TV for a long time, you realize that it's really not so important.  So I've changed.  My interest is not in technology.  My interest now is in how to use that equipment to communicate something.  So I started reading Supreme Court cases.  There is a book called, "May It Please The Court."  These are important cases that have been argued in front of the Supreme Court.  Not all of them relate to television.  Some of them had to do with saying prayers in the schools, abortion, but there is a couple that I thought were interesting. For example, this Native American religious organization used marijuana in their religious ceremonies and they had been arrested.  So, the case ended up going for the Supreme Court and one of the arguments that the lawyer made was that, during the prohibition era, during the 20's or early 30's, Roman Catholic Priests were still able to celebrate mass in church and they used alcohol in their ceremony, even though alcohol was prohibited at that time.  No one went into the church to arrest the priest when he turned the water into wine, which is all part of the ceremony.  And so, the lawyer argued that marijuana was not used for recreation but it was a serious part of their religious ceremony.  It was a great argument, but he didn't win.  They voted against him and it just made me realize that there are always exceptions to the rule.  So even though we were living under prohibition, it didn't mean that you couldn't have wine at mass on Sunday.  The other case was about a stripper. They tried to close down this club with women who were dancing naked.  And that went before the Supreme Court.  And again, the Supreme Court Justice asked the dancer, "Do you Dance?"  And she says, "Yes."  And he said, well, "Is the dancing that you do different from someone who goes to a party or if you go to a nightclub?"  And she said "Yes because it is not the same kind of dancing because I am on a stage, I have an audience and --you know-- "it is a performance." she said.  So the Supreme Court Justice asked her "were you on stage, taking off your clothes and trying to communicate something?"  She said "Yes. Absolutely."  And the justice says, well, since you are trying to communicate something, then we can say that it is a form of speech.  You are trying to say something.  And she says, "absolutely."  And so, he was a Supreme Court Justice who realized that communication came in different forms and that someone standing on a stage, taking off their clothes, doing an erotic dance, are in the process of communicating something to the people in the audience.  You may not like what they are communicating, you may not like what they have to say, but the jest is that it is a form of expression.  And because it is an expression, it is a form of speech.  And you cannot stifle anyone's free speech. 

Can you give the meaning of "Stifle"?

Stifle mean to suppress someone.  To prevent someone from doing something. You can't suppress someone's speech - you can change the channel if you don't want to look at it or you can look the other way.  It is just like the example, where you go downstairs and someone is standing on your soapbox giving a speech, you can stand there or you can just keep walking and mind your own business.  In Times Square you can see the Hebrew Israelites. They are black and wear these costumes and read from the Bible and they tell you their interpretation of the Bible.  Sometimes I see people stand there and argue with them because they disagree with what they are saying.  But people get very angry because of what they are saying and the same way that they get angry when they watch public access because they see something that they feel is wrong.  And they call up and they start screaming, "Why do you have that program on."  The way to deal with it is to change the channel.  That's all.  Don't look at it. You can't stop the person from saying what they want to say.  You can't stop them.  That's the main point.

You mentioned when we first started talking about international public access, which was completely new to me. Can you talk about that a little?

We have the a convention every year of all the public access centers that are members of the alliance (which is the national organization for public access and it also includes international members).  I remember one year there were people who were involved in public access from Israel, England, South Africa and Canada.  There is probably an increase in international public access.

Is there any exchange project between international and different stations?

There is someone who you can really get in contact with who is now the Operations Manager for Manhattan Neighborhood Network.  Tony Riddle is the Executive Director.  The persons name is Ruben Abreu. He used to be in charge of the international public access committee.  You can tell him that I you to him.

What are the upcoming changes?

Well the biggest changes, or the biggest change is that we are switching over to digital equipment.  We are moving over from the U-Matic to digital system".  That's going to be good because it will make doing the productions on location a lot easier for a lot of people.  Most producers stopped going on location because the equipment that is old, big and heavy.  So hopefully more people will be inspired to do more programs, especially in the outside and generate more programs.  I think what we really need to have people try to get more ideas out.  You can go from using a pen to using a typewriter to using a computer.  But the thing is that if you do not have anything to say, it doesn't matter.  You are not going to say anything that is worth watching or being interested in.  The technology in itself is good.  We can put people on the moon, yes... we have a space shuttle but when teenagers are taking guns and going into school's and shooting up their classmates, there is something wrong because we educate our machines better than we educate our humans.  And to me that is a problem.  So with all the new technology; unless people are really using it in a thoughtful productive way, it doesn't make a difference.  I think as a society we have progressed technologically, like a million years.  But socially, we're still like cavemen living in the caves.  So, technology to me doesn't mean anything unless it can change the human condition on the planet.  And if the technology isn't changing the human condition then it is a waste of my time.  I'm interested in technology as a toy to play with.  I'm interested in technology to change society.  That's the only purpose for me; otherwise I wouldn't care about it at all.  And that is why I became a TV Producer because I used to be a social worker and I changed from being a social worker to go on TV so that I can change the world.  I would make programs that would change the society.  So, I hope that with the digital equipment, people go out and do programs, but do programs of substance. 

How do you predict the future of Public Access TV?

I think, but to go to my wildest imagination, that there will be a time when every individual will be his or her own access center.  Your access center is going to be your apartment, basically.  Because you will be able to create a program and through your computer you will probably be able to send your program either to a satellite or just have it out on the Internet and can watch it.  You will probably not need a place like this (QPTV station) anymore because the technology is allowing you to do everything from your home. You can send and receive faxes on a unit "this" size.  You will not need a building like this anymore.  Public access is going to be in your own house.

We all talk about freedom, but what are the limits?

Basically, the limitations are that you can't do anything that's "illegal."  The three big violations are:  You can't get on TV and call for acts of violence against other human beings or the destruction of someone's property.  That's keeping in line with the Supreme Court ruling that says that the first amendment does not allow you to stand up in the theater and scream fire if there is no fire.  So it's the same thing in public access, you cannot call acts of violence against other human beings or their property.  Secondly, you cannot show hardcore pornography on public access because pornography in this country is illegal.  It breaks the law.  And the third thing is that you can't solicit or ask people for money or sell products on Public Access Television.  To reiterate, the only restrictions is that you can't advocate to kill somebody, sell pornography or sell products in a commercial.

Would you like to add something that we didn't talk about?  Maybe a personal point of view, or experience or anecdote you might want to share with us?

I think that it is a great opportunity.  Public access, again for me, is not about technology.  It's about human beings trying to have a voice in their community because before they didn't have a voice. It is an act of self-empowerment because we live in a city, state, country where sometimes people feel disenfranchised.  They do not feel like they are a part of that community.  They feel that the community and their leaders have forgotten about them and that they are not important and do not matter anymore.  And those people can have a voice and can have a say in their community through Public Access Television.  As soon as you make a program, those leaders that forgot about you will start to remember you. That is what public access is really about; it's to help the forgotten people, whoever they might be, helps them to have a voice in their city, in their community and that is an important thing.  I lived in a lot of different places and cities, and you can see that there are certain people who are completely forgotten about.  It's as if they are not there; like they are not important.  They are not rich, or known and basically society has forgotten about them.  I think for the people who have been blocked out of the system will benefit from public access. To me, that is the essence of public access. 

I feel that public access and the Internet are merging in terms of concept, what do you think?

Oh sure, access centers now have programs on the Internet.  Manhattan Neighborhood Network is doing that.  So if you go to Manhattan Neighborhood Network's web page, you can see a sample of what is on the air.  If you do not have a television, you can still get public access via computer.  There isn't free service to access centers yet on the Internet.  When they came out with that franchise agreement that I mentioned earlier, the Internet didn't exist. Now, when we negotiate again, we're going to have to get that included in the public access language in terms of who has to give us access to their form of delivery.  The Internet is what is going to make it possible for each one of us to be our own access center.  At that point what will happen is that you will have your camera, you are going to go and shoot something; it's going to be edited by computerized; you come and you are going to take your video and will put it in your hard drive, you will edit it with a mouse in your own home.  It is already on your hard drive and you are already connected to the Internet.  Everybody knows your web page, so you will tell them that 'at 7 o'clock on Wednesday evening, you can click onto Lightmillennium TV' and watch the latest program.  You are going to play the tape from your computer from your house.  People in Europe can watch it.  They do not have to live in Queens to see the program.  It will be International and Global. That will be public access.  You will be able to do everything from your own home.

It will be a great future for the expression of communication, right?

Yes it will be.
Looking back at what I said, I think one of the best things that public access provides is especially to new immigrants to America who cannot get information, not so much about their country, but what they need to know about immigration law here (United States), because they might not be provided with that information in their own language.  And I think that public access, the fact that one of our channels is a diversity channel where there are programs of foreign languages where you can tune into public access and get the information that you need to make your life better in this particular city.  And I think that's where public access provides a very important service.  No other channel on cable does that. You won't find those kinds of programs.  And I think that that is one of the best things that public access TV does.  Some people think that equipment is important.  I'm not one to think that equipment is important.  To me, equipment is a tool, just like a pen, a hammer or a screwdriver.  It's just a tool and I need to use this tool to do what I have to do.

You mentioned a book name, what was it?

" May It Please The Court."  That is how you have to address the Supreme Court when you talk to them.  When the lawyer gets up he says, "Good Morning, Good Morning, May It Please The Court" and so on and so forth.  You see it all the time. These words are specifically said at the Supreme Court of the United States.  So when you hear those words, you know it's the Supreme Court.

And that's as the book title?

Yes.

Well, thank you very much and would you like to add anything else?

And one more thing, if you wish, a bio-page or a text that generally mentions your career in the public access.  You expressed your philosophy so I want something more specific.  A short bio, if possible?

I can give you this. 

I met a doctor who was working on a replacement for the eye because someone lost his or her eye.  His idea was to replace the eye; it's actually a video camera.  So, when someone loses an eye, he was going to have a video camera as a replacement.  This was years ago.  He talked to someone from Sony and he asked him or her "what is the craziest project you are working on now for the future."  And he said, "We are working on having a human being project their thoughts onto a wall.  That is what the researchers are working on.  No VCR, no camera; nothing.  You can just think and whatever you are thinking is projected on the wall.  He said that is what the SONY researchers were working on.

This is real research, not just a futuristic idea, right?

Yes. This is real research, not just a futuristic idea.  This is what they were trying to do.  How can we get out thoughts out without even using a tape or a camera.  So, that's a very interesting thought.  I've always wanted to have a device almost like a mouse that I can put under my pillow at night that would record my dreams.  So when I woke up in the morning I can rewind the tape and look at my dreams on tape.  That would be great because I have very vivid dreams with a lot of symbolism but I can't always remember it all.  So if I had something to record my dreams while I am sleeping, and in the morning I can wake up in the morning and look at it,  would be great.  So the idea is how we can get the thought in our head onto another medium just by thinking. 

Before I asked you a question regarding how you saw yourself or futuristic biography but it was not answered.

Yes you asked me how I see myself or futuristic biography, well, it is that I evolved into light.  A point of light.  I am not even a physical body anymore. 

That's great! Thank you.


First Amendment:
* The right of freedom of speech, press, religion, peaceable assembly and requesting change of government.

A Symbol of Democracy in the US:
QPTV or PUBLIC ACCESS TV, part I:

About Clifford JACOBS
This issue is dedicated to such distinguished artists and author as (alphabetical order):
We will be celebrating the second anniversary with the Winter-2002 issue.
Deadline: January 7, 2002
This e-magazine is under the umbrella of The Light Millennium, Inc.,
which was granted a NOT-FOR-PROFIT organization
status based in New York since July 17, 2001.

CONTENTS

TÜRKÇE

© The Light Millennium e-magazine was created and designed by Bircan ÜNVER. 7th issue. Fall 2001, New York. http://www.lightmillennium.org
Tanitim Logo
January, Spirit Logo
LMTV: Burhan Dogancay - Bridge of Dreams
Fugen Gulertekin Interview - Logo
FM-2030 logo
Erol Akyavas dedication
QPTV Dedication Issue
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