West Hollywood Tightens Restrictions on Public Access Television -- Right Before City Election
During the hustle and bustle of election season, it's so much more convenient to throw a citywide campaign party without annoying anti-incumbent activists making a fuss on the telly, wouldn't you say?
Whether or not that played a part in the recent decision of West Hollywood city officials to cut Public Access Television's live studio time in half and wrap the rest in red tape, the change comes at a suspiciously convenient moment for WeHo City Councilmembers. (Once again making them look like a mini L.A. City Council. Aww -- pint-sized corruption!)
Three of the five -- Lindsey Horvath, John Heilman and Abbe Land -- are up for reelection this March. And thanks in part to the LA Weekly's own "West Follywood" expose, they're taking more heat than usual for their longtime pro-developer antics.
Today, largely unconcerned with WeHo's new outdoor smoking ban, resident and 20-year showcaster on the public network, Mark Heinemann, is erring paranoid on another, more under-the-radar ban of sorts:
He says that a couple months ago, the city started shifting Public Access Television time slots. "People started asking me, 'What happened to your show? I can't find it,'" he says. Then, a couple weeks ago, daily live slots were axed to one day a week, and a glitchy new system of submitting pre-recorded material was put in place.
Here are the changes:
- WHPA will no longer offer studio space for live series programming to members. We will only accept taped programming for series consideration. However, live programming will be offered on regular Thursdays to all eligible producers on a first come first served basis with time spots available at 5:30pm, 7pm and 8:30pm. This is time set aside for live broadcast, this is not series programming.
- Non-live or to-tape studio in studio 2B will be available to producers on regular Wednesdays and some Fridays.
- Live-to-tape studio on the West Hollywood Park auditorium stage will be available to eligible producers on one Friday a month.
- All studio times will be available to all eligible producers on a first come, first serve basis.
However, Heinemann, who's stuck in a wheelchair, says he's deterred by the "first come, first serve" stipulation, and says that although he can appreciate a push for fresh talent, his show "The Other View" had a steady neighborhood following and doesn't deserve to be pushed into an obscure slot.
Plus, he notes the city has effectively made the process more difficult for all interested parties, new or old, at a crucial time for state of the city discussion.
"The closer it gets to the election, the more impossible they've made it," he says.
We couldn't reach anyone from City Hall to answer our questions about the policymakers behind the hurried changes, and their possible motivations. In a Public Access Televsion newsletter, though, we did find a (somewhat perplexing) explanation:
These changes are meant to create more available studio time and should result in shorter periods between studio bookings for all producers. We hope you will be thrilled with the new changes and we encourage eligible producers to schedule studio time.
It's safe to say that a deliberate public-convo deterrent wouldn't be out of character for WeHo city officials.
And Heinemann, known around town for his in-your-face government criticism, is a top public enemy (the kind they can squash with their pinky toes) of outside developer giants coming into West Hollywood and erecting their ultra-modern, slightly garish apartment complexes, shopping centers, etc.
Heinemann's No. 1 target: the proposed 10-story Movietown Plaza project (doesn't it just sound evil?) on Santa Monica Boulevard, pitched to the WeHo City Council by notorious campaign contributor -- including to WeHo ballot darling Abbe Land -- and Forbes' "Richest American No. 187," the great Alan Casden.
For the sake of fabulousness, we'll let high-fashion, sometimes land-use activist Miss Cookie Crawford tell the love story between WeHo and its real-estate giants:
"Suddenly, without warning, a battle cry cleaved our quiet village in twain when height averaging was yanked from the building code in 2001. (Height averaging is when a new building can only be as tall as the average height of the block's existing structures. Who knew?) The grab for land development was on, and our now-aging starlets were unceremoniously tossed to the curb as their balconied apartments were ripped down to make way for looming condominium structures that bore a unified, "home cheapo" look.
We wept. Our glamour was shrinking! ...
It was all so...tawdry. We'd expected appreciation for vintage architecture from a predominantly gay City Council, but it turned out that they had wretched taste. Our reputation among smarty-pants aesthetes plummeted, and it stung. Wounded and breaking off into neighborhood groups, we decided that we liked our drama better when it was up on the screen. Architectural historians heard us choking on construction dust and, with countless preservation agencies, begged West Hollywood to reconsider the buildings it was recklessly feeding the Godzilla-like developers who stomped into town, almost crushing City Hall with the sacks of gold they dumped on it."
The main problem is, aside from Heinemann and Cookie and a few other kooks, no one cares. WeHo has an average voter turnout of under 20 percent -- and though there might have been some revived interest after the "West Follywood" story broke and three sprightly new candidates jumped on the ballot, a decrepit Public Access channel does nothing to keep the effort rolling.
And the two other city-run channels, Channel 10 and Channel 6 on AT&T, are all citizen-free and kumbaya'd to the max -- basically costless publicity for current councilmembers.
So break out of the 20-percent apathy bubble and help us solve this mystery. Have you been watching Public Access Television in WeHo? Has it been all re-runs and non-election-related fluff as of late, as Heinemann claims?
And if so, what are you going to do about it?