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Who controls the horizontal? 

It's amazing how right what's-his-name is. You know, the guy with the beard. On the radio. He loves dogs. Oh yeah, Dave Congalton. Back in December, he made a fuss over pointing out that New Times' then-pretty-new editor, Ryan Miller, was going to turn this paper into a religious rag. And darned if he wasn't right. Dave didn't just make a prediction, he stated fact: "More and more religion will creep into these pages because of Ryan."

Now here it is, a mere more than half a year after a Christmas-week look at mass-marketing faith, and there's a big, belly-full of Buddha on the cover. Can this editor not talk about religion? Enough with the big guys in the sky already! Next week, the masthead is going to say Watchtower. Mark my words.

I won't be reading it, though. Not because of the god stuff. Nah. It's just that print is oh-so passe. TV is the medium of the future. Actually, the Internet is the medium of the future, but I don't own a computer I crank all of this out on an old-fashioned typewriter, in case you were wondering so that whole worldwide web-thingie is over my head.

Television, though. Glorious television. Sweet, sweet goddess of cathode and ether. And maybe plasma. And whatever's in those new-fangled high-definition numbers. You can see all the way to Sunday on one of those things. Seriously. You can count Tony Cipolla's nose hairs, or you could if he had any. The glare off of his gleaming teeth is practically blinding. I have to wear sunglasses when I tune in to see how many acres the fire-du-jour has burned.

But local broadcasting. That's the Wave of Tomorrow, and it's here today. It's the be-all, end-all unless we're talking about Charter Cable's Channel 2, the one piece of the broadcasting pie that members of the public can get their sticky little fingers on. And everybody knows what happens when Joe and Jane Everybody get to play with the tools of mass media. All H-E-double-hockey-sticks breaks loose.

To be perfectly honest, I never watched public access TV for that very reason. If I wanted to see somebody in a tinfoil hat ranting about how "THEY'RE HERE! THEY'RE HERE!" I'd take away my Uncle Chipper's meds again and spike his Nyquil.

Oh, it's a stereotype and I know it. Uncle Chipper never wears tinfoil. He's more of a Saran Wrap sort of guy. And, I suppose, public access television isn't all nutjobs and conspiracy theorists. There's actually a lot of great programming when you get down to it. Thoughtful stuff. Local stuff. Stuff made by the people, for the people, often featuring the very people right there in glorious color and tinny studio sound.

Except given how they've all been acting lately, I wouldn't know how great the whole deal is. You wouldn't know it, either. Ever since meetings for the channel's board apparently devolved into grudge matches and a little bit of bird-flipping, it's been hard to take the seriousness of the participants seriously.

Folks like San Luis Obispo County Public Access Board member Justin Purchin have pointed the finger not the middle one, at least in this case at Ron Bearce and other participants of his ilk, blaming them for the city's funding fizzle. The SLO City Council, see, voted to tighten its purse strings and let only a little tiny trickle of dollars leak out for the board to lap up, at least until they make a few changes to their bylaws and such. The bylaws are apparently Byzantine. Labyrinthine. Kafkaesque. Take your pick. The council members couldn't make heads or tails of them, and want the people with the pens to start clearing up the murk.

The temperature taken after that decision, at least with the board's secretary, Gail Lightfoot who likes to let everyone know why liberty matters was a bit frosty. Like Justin, Gail puts the blame less on convoluted paragraphs and sub-paragraphs and more on, well, Ron. And others of his ilk. She hates to see the channel become a battleground for personal disputes, she said, but the mortars have long been flying and more than a few of the participants have felt their share of shrapnel.

It's easy to see where Justin and Gail are coming from. Rabble rousers and malcontents get all the attention. Nobody ever pipes up with a rousing, "Hey everybody, we're all doing a great job!" and if anybody ever does, hardly anybody else ever listens.

But all it takes is one guy to get up and say something negative and suddenly he's got the world by the ear. Listeners will scoff and snort and whine and blog and roll their eyes, but they'll still listen. That's why they're called "listeners." The squeaky wheel gets the grease, and all that, and it's true. I hate squeaky wheels. I grease them up as much as possible just so I don't have to put up with their infernal squeaking anymore. And I'm practically deaf, so imagine what it's like for people who have 20/20 hearing.

When all is said and done, however, which is just about where we're at City Council-wise, you have to admit that a unanimous vote from SLO's big five is pretty damning. It's not like Dave Romero and Christine Mulholland agree on much. If he wants to pave it, she wants to save it. If he wants Italian, she feels like Chinese. They're like the yin-and-yang of local politics but there I go. I'm not gonna get sucked into that big Buddha bit, no matter what the man upstairs says.

No matter the result, the damage is already done. You can't put the public broadcasting genie back in the bottle. But that's the beauty of working with "the public." You never know what you're going to get, or how what you've got once you've gotten it is going to react with the stuff you already have. That's why they call it "the public." Well, maybe not.

Mostly, I'm interested to see how this all plays out. Now that I know everything's that's been going on behind the scenes at Channel 2, I'm inclined to start tuning in. It's like our own little local soap opera, which is good, because Days of Our Lives was getting pretty predictable.


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