BY SHAMUS O’FULE
APRIL 1, 2015: Every year Takoma Park gets more than a millions dollars it can only spend on video equipment. The equipment must be used for the city’s cable tv station.
The revenue comes from cable television firms operating in the county. Their license terms require payments to maintain “local access” facilities. This dates back to pre-internet times. Local cable access laws were an egalitarian measure and Takoma Park benefited from them.
Residents could (and still can) learn how to produce video cable programs for free. There were a number of regular resident-produced shows on the city’s Channel 13, such as The Takoma Coffee House.
Now, in the internet age of blogs and Facebook, anyone with a computer can be a broadcaster/producer/entertainer/agitator.
But, the cable money keeps coming in – and piling up. It frustrates the city, which has many other expenses it would like to spend it on.
The city council may have the solution.
At the March 27th city council meeting, Mayor Bruce Williams announced a plan to turn the entire city into a television reality show, in effect opening up the cable tv studio to include every home, building, street, park and storm water drain. All of those would then be eligible for cable revenue spending, he said, rubbing his hands together.
The show will be based on the city’s effort to win the Georgetown University Energy Prize. Takoma Park is one of the 50 semi-finalists in that $5 million prize competition. The competition ends in July 2017.
Local competitions for greenest homes, apartment buildings, neighborhoods and wards – already planned for the prize competition – will be integrated into the reality show.
Councilmembers will be team-leaders. Each ward will be a team.
“Winning teams will win fabulous prizes as they are winnowed down,” said Mayor Williams. “Losers will be evicted.”
Several council members asked for clarification on that point.
Losing team members will be evicted from their homes, said the mayor.
“That doesn’t include councilmembers, does it?” asked council member Seth Grimes.
“Of course!” said the mayor, adjusting his dark glasses, “if the consequences are not severe, the show won’t get high audience ratings. It’s all about ratings, baby.”
There was a long silence as the mayor consulted his smart phone.
“Well, Ward 2 has nothing to worry about!” said council member Tim Male.
“Oh, yeah?” muttered Ward 3 Councilmember Kate Stewart, cracking her knuckles.
“Don’t the people on these reality shows form alliances and then betray them and stab each other in the back?” said council member Fred Schultz.
“Sounds like regular politics to me,” said Ward 5 concilmember Jarrett Smith.
“I’m at a disadvantage, then, ’cause I’m not much of a politician,” declared Ward 4 council member Terry Seamens, snapping his galluses.
After the meeting Seamens, Smith, and Grimes were seen consulting at the back of the dais, laughing, shaking hands and glancing sideways at each other.
The show, tentatively titled “Mean for Green,” will be . . . (continued here).