Several months ago, Dee Dee Halleck, founder of Paper Tiger Television and Deep Dish Television, and long time activist and advocate, sent out an e-mail blast detailing her difficulties with access at New York's Manhattan Neighborhood Network. Apparently Dee Dee had dared to demand (a) access -- to Board meetings and organizational policies and records in addition to access to equipment, facilities and channel time; (b) inclusion -- of citizens and access producers in discussion and decision-making about the directions and priorities of the organization; (c) responsiveness -- of the organization to the needs and concerns of the communities served; and (d) transparency -- in the creation of policies, decisions, budgets, and procedures governing the organization. She had been denied access to a Board meeting, and with local citizens, she had been prevented from attending the grand opening of a new facility in East Harlem. She tried to put programs on the MNN channels, one of them showing her and Papoleto Melendez being refused admittance to the official opening of the MNN Barrio Firehouse Media Center. As a result, Dee Dee was suspended from MNN, and with her usual flair for effective media, she posted the program in question to YouTube, as well as an early documentary from the nascent activism of Paper Tiger that brought MNN into being.
Dee Dee also posted her correspondence with a new MNN Board member to her list. I read the documents and watched the YouTube videos with a certain amount of nostalgia. I had been involved in the startup of MNN in the early 1990s and had served as the organizations interim Executive Director during an extended period of transition in 2005. In her letter, Dee Dee said that she was "...worried that the organization has become cut off from some of its founding principles - especially that of transparency and accountability." Her concerns resonated with me. It seemed to me that those who had only recently come to public access -- staff members, and particularly board members -- might have a limited understanding of the origins and founding principles of public access, located as they were in the cultural context of the1960s, and might be unfamiliar with the vision of free speech, local community development and democratic participation that was at the heart of the public access project.
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