Wednesday, September 3, 2008

The most censored person in Binghamton

8/5/08, update 9/3/08
Update May 5, 09: NY GReen Fest "uninvited", Unsubscribed from BroomeCountyNYGreens list

This is what I go through to make sure YOU have media access, folks!
Lawsuits! Anonymous Threats! Arrest!

Just for fun,

I'm thinking about the times I've be censored and censured.
Not sure about all the dates... I'll fill them in as I remember them...

  • WSKG

    In my efforts to explore how one might gain access to the electromagnetic commons, i.e., our broadcast airwaves, I first start out with our local "Public Broadcasting" affiliate, WSKG.

    Sounds like a great place to start, right?

    There turns out to be little public about WSKG.
    Their "Open Studios" project wasn't open at all.
    It was a small for-profit commercial studio which anyone could rent for a small fee,
    which operated out of their facility. Is that legal?

    WSKG is chartered by NY State, which is charted by the Sovereign People.
    It is run by a non-profit, called WSKG Broadcasting, Inc.

    During this time, and continuing into the present, WSKG has refuses all discussions of independent radio or TV show proposals with me and other local independent producers.

    Furthermore, some public service broadcasters, notably the Pacifica Network, have empowered Local Advisory Boards which help govern the station. Any member of the public can be a member of the LAB (or Local Station Board, LSB).

    I learned that WSKG supposedly had a Community Advisory Board, but they had no real power and hadn't met in many years. Why bother, right? If what you do has no effect?

    So me and my friend Peter Hudiberg started bugging them about their CAB. So after stalling for a long time, they finally reformed it, in a totally suspect manner. There was a lot of funny business about who they selected.

    Peter was pretty single focused on just getting Democracy Now! on "the big station" (WSKG-FM). When we started, DN! was not available anywhere in Binghamton, except Adele Brown was playing it Monday's on WHRW, which w/15oo watts and a short antenna covers a limited area.

    However, I also remember Peter asking, "Don't you think 15 and a half hours of classical music PER DAY is a bit excessive?" I completely agree.

    Public Broadcasting? What about public access? Where are the legions of people demanding more Orchestral music from Dead White Europeans from 1500-1800? What about folk music? What about the other 5 inhabited contenents?

    I wanted much more sweeping reforms, which I called "Plan:WSKG", calling for more openness and transparency, more diversity of music and public affairs, more localism and more availability of access to community producers, and more public control of the station w/empowered advisory board.

    After George W. Bush's war started, a few locals got really angry
    about the NPR network's coverage of the anti-war movement.
    They formed a petition and wanted to take it to the CAB meeting
    to present it. (I did some backend work, but otherwise wasn't involved in this.)
    So how does WSKG respond? They cancel the meeting and they call the cops
    on the petition-bringers! Soon, "No Trespassing" signs went up in the parking lot.

    "No trespassing" at a Public Broadcasting station!
    I wish I had pictures of that!

    I suffered continued harassment and threats during my tenure on the Community Advisory Board (some anonymous, some threats, some libelous) much of this harassment I believe came from Trustee David Burch (Lockheed Martin program director). I was eventually banished from the CAB (along with Peter Hudiburg) in closed session.

    A couple of years later, they even threatened to have me arrested if I didn't leave a public meeting. The CEO was accused of several counts of sexual harassment, and I called him out for this and for years of abusing the public trust. I refused to leave, and was thus arrested for trespass (at a public meeting!), and order-of-protection issued keeping me away from the premises for 6 mos. This was based on a lie by the same trustee (he said I threatened him).

    Also, "orders of protection" are meant to protect people from other people. This order of protection was issued to prevent me from participating in and observing WSKG's public meetings, which is complete misuse of the law.

    Nonetheless, I stayed away for 6 months as ordered. I was tired of fighting and getting no where. The place was so corrupt.

    As an addendum: The week they had me arrested, the ex-CEO's job was posted on an employment website. I take no joy that he lost his job. I would have been happier if the station somehow became properly public.

    For me, it was nothing personal. It was simply about performance. I don't care who is the CEO as long as the station is public!

    Update: I really like the new CEO Brian Sickora. He has quadrupled (4x) the amount of locally originated programming.
    He says he wants to have a slot for community producers. He seems open to a partnership with O2E-TV,
    which is pretty amazing considering the history!

  • Tarik Abdelazim

    Tarik is my friend, and often I think he is also my arch nemisis.

    From the first time I met him, he came to an early IMC meeting,
    I got a weird feeling around him.

    I remember him just staring at me.

    To me, it seemed like how a cougar might look at an antelope,
    or how a young buck might look at an older male deer.
    I really get a shiver just thinking about that look.

    Tarik is the son of wealth, but he sells himself as a populist.
    What is really weird, out of the entire first batch of the Binghamton IMC, we had

    1) son of a millionare surgeon,
    2) wife of a millionare CFO,
    3) an artist living on a trust fund

    ...all selling themselves as progressives... not exactly what you'd call working class folks.

    So Tarik, is young, good looking, charismatic, has a brilliant mind, he's a great orator, and he's rich.
    I have seen Tarik do some really amazing public service work, such as the organization of the
    St. Pat's Four tribunal. Tarik has great potential to do great things. I came to consider Tarik my friend.

    Tarik goes to the second National Conference on Media Reform, and gets all jazzed about Public Access TV. He comes back and says, "Let's do it! Let's build a media center!!!" It was time for Binghamton's cable franchise renewal.

    So we form a group called C-SCAM. Citizens Seriously Concerned About Media. I'm pretty sure
    the name was Tarik's. He has a genius mind for public relations.

    Tarik, Stephen Schweitzer, Lynn Case and myself were the principles. We did a ton of research.
    Published useful info on the website. I was asked to be on an ad-hoc cable commission, with Bev Palmer and others.

    For me, the ONLY thing that ever mattered was a PUBLIC ACCESS TV Facility.

    So somewhere, it turned weird. At one point Tarik (and/or Stephen or Lynn?) met with
    the Binghamton City Council. For some reason, I didn't go. So they all start telling me
    "the media center* is off the table". Well yeah? Who says that? Not me!

    * "Media Center" was Tarik's word. I didn't use it because a "media center" may not be public access.

    So at one point we made a video about problems with the proposed cable contract.
    It was Stephen and I on camera, with Tarik, Diane, and Fumiwo off camera.
    We made a big deal about franchise fees, and showed that Binghamton City wasn't getting their due.
    BIG DEAL! Who cares of the city gets even more money and provides ZERO funds for a
    public access facility?

    So during this production, Tarik tells me I can't mention a "media center". WHAT? That's the only thing that matters to me!
    But Tarik somehow convinced me... maybe by the proposed "access points" could turn into a media center.
    Besides, Bucci was a lame duck mayor, and the odds were looking good for Matt Ryan becoming elected,
    and if that happens, then we were sure to get our media center!!! But right at the end of the show,
    I shouted MEDIA CENTER!!! into the camera. Just to show that they couldn't control me.
    And I got to edit the piece. So even though Tarik and Stephan said: You will kill this if you mention a media center!
    I still mentioned it anyway.

    Side note: he then used the "media center" as bait to get my consent to an illegal use of IMC equipment to make a "Matt Ryan for Mayor" video, which I was -- until that point -- quite vocally against. "Just get Matt elected, and you'll get your media center" was his exact words. Well, Matt got elected, one a second term, nearing the end of his second, and there's still no public access "media center" I can find...

    Epilogue: After Matt got elected, Tarik was appointed deputy Mayor, Stephan became a Vista, and I got banished from Binghamton IMC. Tarik orchistrated my banishedment. Stephan was treasurer. They removed $2770 illegally from the IMC bank account. I still don't know what happened to that money.

    As late as 2008, Tarik is saying that the reason for the failure of the "media center" is because I (Bill Huston) mentioned on the media that the media center would cost a million bucks. Which is false. I rember saying $250k to build it, and $250k per year for 10 years to run it. Total = $3M. OK, so let's say that number is high. That means the "deals off"???!!! Well in that case, no new car would EVER be purchased!!! In any deal, there has to be a starting point for negotiations. This was was I thought would be a reasonable amount for a) capital and b) operations, and I've looked at this for a while. But apparently for Tarik, it wasn't the amount that mattered. It was the mear fact of a media center which he (apparently) was against from the beginning.

    Can this man be trusted?


  • 90.5 (2007-2008)

    Hassled for months for announcement about a village meeting about the new WalMart in Johnson City, saying it was an "illegal political call to action". The finally backed down when I pointed out that the phrase "call to action" (political or otherwise) is not mentioned anywhere in the entire Code of Federal Regulations, where the FCC rules can be found. I've been banned from access to the web server, accused of running an open proxy. UPDATE 9/08: After having been a DJ there for 6 years, GM Mike Saltzman has finally revoked my clearance, citing that I "failed the rules test, and borderlined tech".

  • University ~2005

    Cancelled 3 of my listservs, Peacenet, BCVeggie, and the WSKG Community Advisory Board discussion list. This was due to "complaints" from people on the CAB (hand selected yes-men and yes-women).

    What's the connection between WSKG and BU? The license of both WHRW and WSKG are held by SUNY, and John Pierre Milleur, Dean of Harpur College was on the WSKG Board of Trustees during the time of my advocacy for change, and my eventual banishment in closed exececutive session.

  • George Haeseler -- As invited arbitrator, gave blessing to the IMC coup d'tat, and engineered my being stripped of treasurer duties and officer of Broome County Peace Action (with accomplice John McGuire)

  • Binghamton Press and Sun Bulletin / Gannett -- cavileer edits to my letters, and deletion of a message on the online forum critical of Marc Newman.

  • Time Warner Cable / Dave Whalen -- many many times... latest is: my prime-time public show "Binghamton Saturday Night" has been moved to Sunday at midnight against my permission, due to "bad language" (student protest video). I argue this footage has news value. Also, he (Time Warner) has no legal right to do mess with my timeslot or otherwise burden my speech (by their lack of support for public access etc), and there is specific statutory prohibition of such actions. But no court will enforce the law, and neither does the fraudulent "Public Service Commission", about as "public service" as WSKG is "public broadcasting"

  • ~2004 Federal Judge Thomas J. McAvoy (NDNY), in dismissing my lawsuit against Time Warner. He committed several obvious errors: He cited dicta, non-published decisions, non-controlling decisions from foreign circuits, cases which were fatually dissimilar in important areas rendering them inappropriate in this case, etc. etc. "Time Warner is a private person and not a state actor and therofor not subject to First Amendment claims" -- from Huston v. Time Warner Entertainment, et. al., Decision and Order.

    Also Justice Sonia Sottormeyer -- now on the United States Supreme Court (with justices Raggi and Meyer) at the Second Circuit Appeals Court. While I had prepared comments on the errors of the lower court (an appropriate discussion for the appellate court), but they wasted my 5 min. of oral arguments with a discussion of the merits of the lower court case (appropriate for the district court, but NOT the appelate court). This confused, startled, and blindsided me, and I crumbled completely. I only figured out that it was a trick on the ride home. 20/20 hindsight.

  • May 2009: I was "uninvited" from my panel at the 2009 NY Green Fest by Rachel Treichler, after Wilton Vought threatened to boycott if I attended. I guess he turns to a pillar of salt if he catches a glimpse of an Untouchable like me. There's Green Values in Action! (NOT) And I guess Rachel feels that Wilton's participation is much more valuable than mine, and that censorship and banishment are appropriate and consistent with Green Values. Also, Wilton tried to have my posts moderated/deleted on Peacenet after I simply said "thank you Wilton", and he also (as moderator) unsubscribed me from BroomeCountyNYGreens email list. Not because of anything I had said on that list. Just because ... well, I don't know exactly. You'd have to ask Wilton.

...that's all I can think of for now...

With this, I'm not intending to dwell on some negative thing in the past.

I'm just trying to get inside the head of the censor, and the inner censor inside me.
What is it about my voice, my words which makes certain people want to shut me up?

What makes someone try to control the speech of another?

I'm trying to find examples in my life where I have censored someone else.

Why have I suffered this fate, as I try to explore and create Democratic Media?
I don't know, perhaps to strengthen my commitment to
Public Access Media which is Open To Everyone!

Bill Huston
Binghamton NY
607-321-7846 c

email: WilliamAHuston at gmail

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