Fight fishwrap with fire

After reading your editorial “Opinions” in the November 26 issue, I realized why I avoid reading your column as often as possible. The combination of sarcasm, ignorance and personal insult you display just reinforces my opinion that your newspaper is good for nothing but fishwrap, and I would hesitate using it for that purpose suspecting that the bad ink would contaminate the fish.

It is apparent that your criticism of the City Council’s efforts to obtain a governmental channel and a studio, equipment and training for community members from Falcon reflects your bias and prejudice in favor of Falcon that emanates, obviously, from the revenues you generate from their advertising and the insecurity you feel for competition from television news as another source of community information.

If you were informed, or if [you] are and choose to ignore it, you know that Falcon, in the franchise agreement they assumed from their predecessor, expressly promised to provide studio, equipment and training to the citizens of Malibu in exchange for the privilege to conduct their business and collect subscriber fees and make a (healthy) profit from our community members. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, Falcon has the highest profit margin in the cable industry: Malibu has the highest monthly rates in the country (and they charge $10 more than other cable companies for pay-per-view events) and we are their victims.

Since they have failed to live up to their contractual agreement for over eight years, the liquidated damages provision in that contract assesses a $500.00 per day penalty which is still accruing. Since you were a licensed attorney at some point in your life, you should not be afraid or ignorant about the words “liquidated damages.”

Instead of bringing that fact to the attention of the community and seeking, as a good newspaper reporter would, straight answers to the hard question of why Falcon has violated the mandatory terms of the agreement and has yet to pay over $1,700,000 in damages owed, you object to the City Council taking the initiative by budgeting 10 percent of that amount to give access to all citizens of the community to the television medium, in the spirit of the FCC mandates, and you fail to give credit where due: to the first City Council to have the guts to send a message to Falcon on the eve of the expiration and renewal of their franchise. Shame on you!

Then you get personal by saying that a studio would benefit only “Nidia Birenbaum . . .and a few others.” Would the few others include all of the students who participate in sports events at our local schools (previously produced programming by Nidia Birenbaum pro bono) which Falcon now refuses to provide coverage for without payment by subscribers? Have you worked tirelessly for no pay as a volunteer on a City Commission as Nidia has, to benefit the whole community? The (lack of) nerve of you to single her out for criticism when you yourself have done nothing to advance the interests of the citizens.

Is it so onerous on the corporate behemoth Falcon/TCI to get a camera and a small studio with equipment with weekend classes to train and certify any member of the community who wishes to produce or learn a trade in television? Currently, Nidia Birenbaum, Gena Chanel and Beverly Taki travel to studios as far away as Marina del Rey, Westchester and Hollywood which are provided for by MediaOne to their subscribers, at little or minimum cost. Would many more members of the community be willing to learn and produce programming for airing locally if they had the facilities and opportunity Falcon promised, yet failed and refused to provide, here in our community?

Perhaps some of the Real Estate related business people, besides Beverly, and the Realtors she frequently presents, could also express their views and opinions through local production facilities; along with surfers, environmentalists, religious advocates, community activists, and a broad spectrum of our community, including our youth and elderly, that may wish to participate. But no, Arnold York just does not think it’s really needed.

Your objection to the governmental channel is, in my opinion, based on the fact that you are not pleased with the City Council because your personal favorite candidates have been forced into early retirement or just have not made the grade (votes). Well, too bad, Arnold, the citizenry of Malibu know how self-interested and insecure you really are and have been in espousing your bad opinions; but fortunately, our elected leaders and active citizens know better and do more for us with far less expected in return.

Daring you print this!

Sam Birenbaum

The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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