HOW CENSORSHIP WORKS IN AMERICA

By: Steve Silvestri


My name is Steve Silvestri, and ever since April of this year I have been running a show called SCENE 6 on the local cable channel in Warrensburg, Missouri. On my show I have featured local music, events and entertainment from the Kansas City area. I basically go out to local shows with my video camera and tape performances by live local bands. I take this footage and assemble it into an hour show comprised of segments of various shows in the area. I have been airing it at approximately 4:15 p.m. every Thursday. I have been showing it on the pay per view/bulletin board channel of Falcon Cablevision, which serves a town of approximately 12,000 people. The music and events that I have shown have been varied. I have shown a steam train exhibit, rock music, folk, blues, alternative, punk, country and various local events.

The people at Falcon Cablevision have been great. Most of them, (with the exception of one person) have said that, while they don't like most of the music on my show, they don't see anything wrong with airing it. The old manager, who retired at the beginning of October, was very encouraging, and was extremely willing to work with me. I would come in and ask if there were any complaints or compliments directed towards my show. He would always tell me that nothing of importance was in. The only response I would get was a lady calling in all the time and complaining. He said he would never take her seriously, though, because she would call in and complain about everything that was locally produced and aired.

The old manager retired at the beginning of October, and the new manager isn't in yet. On October 22, I went into the network as I have done before. I motioned to the employee at the service counter and I asked if I could go to the tech room where the modulator is. She told me it was alright to go back there and air my show, in a friendly tone of voice. When I got there, one of the technicians greeted me by telling me that I was to leave when he left at 5:00 p.m., in a real angry sounding tone of voice. He also informed me that the cable service had received about 10 calls the week before complaining about my show. I asked him who they were and what they were complaining about. He refused to tell me. He just said that people were complaining and that they were "paying customers." I hooked my VCR up to the modulator and began airing my show. I then went to the restroom to change out of my work clothes. (I drive straight from work to Falcon's offices to do my show.) When I returned, I was met again by the same technician, and he told me that he had taken my show off the air because I had already received two complaints over the phone. I again asked him who they were and what they were complaining about, and he again wouldn't tell me anything. He only told me that I might as well pack my stuff up and go. When I left, I was very cordial, and I made sure I said thank you.

On Friday, I called the station and asked if I could talk with the new manager. I was told that she wasn't in yet. However, the lady who runs the pay per view bulletin board was in, and she told me that she didn't know anything about SCENE 6 except that people had been complaining about it. She also told me that some of these people were saying that the quality was not up to their standards and that I was taking too much time away from the subscription bulletin board service. This board, I might add, runs 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, (except for the hour I was airing my show), and it repeats the same messages at least every 5 minutes. The lady then began asking question of me, like: Did I have a contract with Falcon Cablevision; Did I make money off of what I was doing; Did I advertise; Was I paying Falcon for the use of their channel? The answer is no to all of these questions. She then told me that I might have to pay Falcon for the right to use the bulletin board.

I called again the following Tuesday, and there is still no change in the situation. I still have to wait for the new manager to arrive before I can find out anything. Something, curious, though, the person I talked with didn't know anything about my show being pulled off the air and she wanted to know who did it and why.

How do I feel about all this? Well, I feel its a very basic form of censorship. I know that the cable company doesn't have to show anything that I or anybody has to offer them, and they have been quite generous up til now. But, then again, I don't think that we the people should have to beg and plead to have our voices heard by the media sources. I believe that the best way to get this done is through free community access. I also believe that the biggest stumbling block to this goal are those few people who are in positions or places where they can act as censors for all of us, (behind the scenes, of course). As far as I know, the complaints I got could have all come from one person calling over and over again and disguising their voice each time to make it sound like a lot of people calling. Unless the station logs the complaints, (who they are and what they are complaining about) we have no way of knowing whether or not the complaints are coming from more than one person.

Well, anyway, I am distributing a petition/survey asking people what they think of the idea of my show and would they support my show as well as other endeavors on a community access format. I would also welcome all mail either sent to me or the station in care of me giving your viewpoints on the situation or on community access. Here's where to write: Steve Silvestri, PSC #1, Box 285, WAFB, MO 65305 or call 816-563-4258.

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