LAPA Leased Access Programmers Association

Leased Access Experience

We had been planning our local television station for over two years. There was previously a local television station across the street from our building that had gone out of business, and we had a retiring school teacher who ran a television station for his school that was going to come on board and help get everything setup.

We contacted our local cable company regarding the fiber cable that used to feed the old television station signal. Their technician confirmed that it could be readily moved across the street to our building and that we should be able to use it. Unfortunately when their home office heard about the arrangement, the fiber became a "managed service" with a price tag of over $1300.00 per month. This was too much for our modest startup budget. We asked if we could deliver content over the internet and were told no. We asked if we could set a server in the headend and feed the shows via internet and let the server stream the video. We were told that they were not allowed to have equipment not owned by them in their headend. I asked if we could give the computer to them, and they told us no, they could not have unapproved hardware in their headend. I asked if they could pick out a computer that we would purchase for them and they advised that they would look into the possibility, but we never received an answer. They did tell us that we could make VHS cassette tapes, not DVD's, that they would play on a channel, charging for the leased time and a fee for inserting each tape. They later purchased a DVD player and we were offered a similar setup for them to play our DVD's.

They also needed a million dollar broadcasters E&O insurance policy in case someone sued over any of our content, and several other guarantees that we would be filtering our content before broadcast.

Our retired teacher ended up taking a job with a local radio station and we were about to give up on the project when I ran across Charlie Stogner and LAPA. A veteran of the business, Charlie told us we could sign on as his affiliate and be covered under his insurance. He would lease the channel and we would use it for our broadcasts, similar to using someone’s bulk mail permit. The modest fee he charged was less than we would have paid for the insurance alone. He immediately contacted our cable operator, cut through the red tape, obtained permission to set a server in the headend, and got us up and running in a couple of weeks. We are now broadcasting in our local area from 11:00am to 7:00pm daily and plan to expand our coverage area and our hours by this fall.

Our cable company has been less than cooperative. It feels like they drag their feet and place obstacles in our way whenever possible.Originally placing us on the standard tier they have moved us to the digital tier because the FCC requirement is that we reach “most” of their subscribers, which in my mind would be 80%-90%, but in their minds is 50.01%.Another consideration not factored into the equation is the number of television sets in the subscription area.Most digital cable subscribers have one digital box hooked to one television and then several other televisions hooked to basic cable.Our channel can only be viewed on the television set with the digital box, additional sets perhaps in a den or a bedroom are not able to view our programming.

We have also had problems receiving any type of verification that our programming has aired.We have had several occasions where people have called in and said our programming was not on, or started late, or cut out.We can not receive the channel in our office, and to spite my pleas to provide us at low or no cost the single channel that we lease at our office to monitor, or provide the signal at the headend where we could use a slingbox to monitor the broadcast, they insist that we purchase the entire digital cable package for our office to view our channel.I monitor the channel from my home every chance I get.They usually start our broadcast near the proper time but consistently end the broadcast 1 or 2 minutes before it should.This seems trivial, but usually results in our tediously timed programming to be cut off in the middle of a segment.

If you are considering a local television station, which I believe we need more and more in this homogenized, bulk packaged media era of ours, I strongly recommend joining LAPA and signing on as a StogMedia affiliate.You will see savings and support far beyond the small royalty fees you will pay.  And the fees that Charlie collects will be well invested by him to secure the rights of the small independent programmer against the giant cable systems trying to squash them out of existence.