C.A.T.: Why We Fight | Street Jazz

Thursday, February 18, 2010

C.A.T.: Why We Fight

Posted By on Thu, Feb 18, 2010 at 10:14 AM

The folks at Fayetteville's Community Access Television have become adept at protecting what is important to them, over the years. For 30 years, defenders have fought threats to public access in Fayetteville, and to the various organizations (Fayetteville pen Channel, Access 4 Fayetteville, C.A.T.) that provide provide public access to the city. Sometimes, as we have seen most recently, we even fight amongst ourselves.

It’s nothing new. Organizations do that, all the time. But because of the very nature of public access, our fights are public, and seem more immediate. “Who needs public access,”ask outsiders who know nothing of such institutional infighting, “when all they do is fight?”

But other organizations are racked by far more internal strife than public access - one just doesn’t hear much about it until the organizations shut their doors. Public access - despite all of the battles over the years - remains as strong as ever.

Unlike other non-profits, we have an incredible tool right at hand that many can use to air their grievances - television. And activists within the organization have always used it well to defend that which they hold most dear. And now, of course, there are blogs, Youtube, Facebook, listervs and other ways of getting the message out.

The most recent battle - between some on the C.A.T. Board and several C.A.T. producers -  never needed to happen.

Several months ago, when the C.A.T. Board began making decisions that struck many of us as not grounded in any sort of reality, several producers spoke up. Several issued Freedom of Information Act requests, seeking information.

And this is where the trouble began.

The C.A.T. Board had two options at this point. They could examine their recent actions, realizing that they had a public relations night mare on their hands, and open a dialogue with its critics, seeking to ally their concerns, and explain their actions.


They could simply dismiss their critics as “misguided and misinformed,” seeing them as manipulated by someone pulling their strings, and simply refuse to consider that their points had any validity at all.

They could have said, “Let’s get together and talk about all of this. We don’t want to be seen as arrogant and out of touch. Let’s have a conversation.”


Some board members could simply have issued surly “Come to a board meeting where you’ll be surrounded by people who disagree with you, and we’ll find room for you on our agenda.”

All the board had to do was to show the producers some respect, instead of automatically attaching the “misguided and misinformed” tag to them, and nattering amongst themselves about how those seeking FOIA information should be charged for the board’s valuable time.

Those who have been dubbed Gang of Three on the C.A.T. Board may be complaining about how they have been  treated, but they were the ones in authority. They set the tone for what has happened in the past few months.

If they haven’t developed any respect for the views of producers,  perhaps now at least they will have a new-found respect for the tenacity and ability of those who may rise up in opposition to them when they feel the board is out of touch with the organization, and unwilling to listen to the concerns those who actually come into the building on a daily/weekly basis.

Or, to paraphrase Colonel Hannibal Smith of The A-Team:

“You don’t understand. Fights appeal to us a whole more than they do to ordinary people.”

The C.A.T. Board Board has the perceived authority in this matter; the Olive Branch is theirs to extend, if they only have the wisdom to extend it.


C.A.T. - The creative work continues unabated

The true beauty of public access is, of course, is that even while all of this was going on, members of the community were creating brilliant programming. Check out C.A.T.’s website:



NWA Times ignores it all, as usual

The Northwest Arkansas Times, well aware of the mounting number of FOIA requests piling up at the door of the C.A.T. board, jumped quickly into a fray with a puff piece last week.


Quote of the Day

The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn. - Alvin Toffler 


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