Public access television producers throughout Los Angeles are up in arms because of a city agency's recommendation to make them all compete for limited air time on just one channel LA36, a quasi-public channel.

For years, cable operators, such as Time Warner, were legally obligated to carry 14 free public access channels throughout Los Angeles, as well as pay to operate 12 public access studios, all in return for the use of public cable easements.

But at the end of the year, the cable companies' legal obligations to pay for the studios and provide the 14 broadcast signals will end as a result of landmark legislation passed two years ago by the Legislature.

AB 2987 lifted the public access requirement statewide as part of a compromise that cable operators struck with telecommunications firms, allowing firms such as AT & T; the right to provide television and Internet services in the home. The overall intent of the legislation was to spur competition that would lower the costs of such services.

However, as a result of ending the public access requirement, Time Warner and other cable operators statewide have been taking over dozens and dozens of the public channels for commercial use.

Now those who produce largely religious and political public access programs, such as L.A.'s politically charged Full Disclosure Network, believe that the city should pay to keep their shows on the air.

The City Council will take up the matter on Wednesday, with the Information Technology Agency recommending that the city maintain full or partial funding for three channels: LA CityView 35, the government channel which broadcasts City Council and other meetings; an "electronic billboard" channel that scrolls information; and LA36, a public access channel run by a non-profit corporation that raises about a third of its annual budget on its own and broadcasts
concerts, high school sporting events and other programming. A fourth channel would be programmed by the University of California system, which plans to provide its own funding.

The ITA said it expects LA36 could run four to five hours of nightly public access air time, but opponents of the plan say that is far too little for a big city like Los Angeles.

"They're trying to squeeze us all into one tiny space, while they waste an entire channel with an electronic billboard," said Leslie Dutton, executive producer of Marina del Rey-based Full Disclosure Network.

City officials admit that the "electronic billboard" channel is a low cost "place holder," designed to generate millions of future dollars in franchise fees from broadcasters who in the future might want to lease the channel.

Love & Marriage

Even in a down economy when publishers are finding print advertising a more difficult sell, some entrepreneurs still have faith in L.A.'s niche markets.

Latino Bride & Groom, a 116-page glossy bilingual magazine, was recently launched by Fiesta Publications, a Los Angeles magazine publisher founded by former boxer Jesus V. Jimenez.

The magazine, which targets upscale
Latinos throughout Southern California, largely features pricey designer wedding gowns, but it also spotlights wedding rings and honeymoon getaways. It was conceived by Editor-in-Chief Veronica Guevara, who worked for several years as a fashion-industry marketing executive and photo editor at Bridal magazine.

"I've found that traditional bridal magazines lacked the cultural focus and feel for Latino fashion and there are Latino designers out there that could use the exposure, too," Guevara said.

Jimenez said he was able to get more than 60 advertisers, including Tiffany, Sheraton and fashion designer Lazaro to buy into the quarterly. The inaugural fall issue sold for $5.95 on newsstands, with an annual subscription priced at $14.95. Jimenez claims the fall issue had a circulation that topped 100,000.

Fiesta Publications also publishes Latino Parenting, Asian Bride and other magazines. The 18-year-old company plans to launch Latino Prom and Latino Cuisine magazines in 2010, Jimenez said.

THR Leaning Consumer

In an effort to reach out beyond its core entertainment industry readership, the Hollywood Reporter created a new interactive Web site last week that focuses on reviews and videos.

THReviews.com features all existing review content from trade publications owned by parent company Nielsen Business Media, including THR, Billboard and others. Works reviewed include films, television, music, concerts and DVDs.

Nielsen plans to eventually roll out a component that can capture information from consumers such as movie and music rankings and use that information to help Neilsen's corporate subscribers build a database of consumer behavior.

While it's difficult to differentiate between consumer and professional viewership, it's believed that about two thirds of the viewers of the Hollywood Reporter's main Web site are consumers.

Staff reporter Brett Sporich can be reached at bsporich@labusinessjournal.com or at (323) 549-5225, ext. 226.

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