Do you want to live in a world without "The Fantasy Bedtime Tour"?

What would we do without “The Fantasy Bedtime Hour” or “If Christ Returned to you Today?”

Do you want to live in a world without them?

Both can only be seen on San Francisco Cable Access Stations 29 and 76, so we may find out. Zane Blaney, Executive Director of the San Francisco Community Television Corporation (CTC), says California’s new cable laws might force San Francisco’s local cable access stations off the air.

It’s part of a national trend that’s about to hit our borders. Across the country, cable access stations are closing up shop.

“Can't happen in San Francisco? Think again,” Blaney said. “California's new statewide cable franchises law as well as similar laws in other states are causing operational funding for public access to dry up and disappear.”

That would be tragic. There’s only one good reason to own a TV in San Francisco, and that’s San Francisco Cable Access.

For nearly 30 years, its open access to broadcast space and free equipment rental policy has kept a never ending parade of freaks on the air, ranging from “The Hippie Gourmet” and “Tranny Talk” to all kinds of rants from the lunatic fringe. . . not to mention the worst karaoke on TV. Ever.

As befits San Francisco, it doesn’t censor -- at all -- as long as the content is legally the producer’s and it meets decency laws (meaning that naked people. . . presented artistically. . . are only available after prime time). It’s an amateur producer’s dream. It also gives people without a big budget access to cutting edge (or at least edgy) equipment and a way to get their message across. Local non-profits have been taking advantage of it for years.

But the digital “space” taken up by Cable TV. . . and even the physical cables themselves. . . are generating too much revenue to leave well enough alone. Large cable television providers like AT&T, Comcast, and Verizon want more access, and so across the country state legislatures are passing corporate supported bills killing local community access stations. Because the world just absolutely needs more channels run by the same 8 people.

That’s why San Francisco Cable Access is holding its first ever telethon this weekend, to raise money to keep the station on the air -- and in local control.

“None of us have ever participated in a telethon before,” Blaney said in an email. “This is, in fact, a test to see who's watching and whether they find value in the local, grassroots, community-based programming on Access SF.”

The telethon, which is sure to be stacked with some of San Francisco’s most talented TV auteurs, is also likely to have some of its least talented. Because -- come on -- even San Francisco has a lot more bad artists than good.

But that’s the point of public access broadcasting: everyone gets a turn. And that’s worth promoting.

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The Access SF telethon will be aired live on channels 29 and 76 tonight and
Saturday from 6 PM to 12 Midnight. For more information visit www.accesssf.org. -- Benjamin Wachs

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