Event News

Weekly News From the President: ACM Conference, Eric Möllberg, Public Policy Updates

ACM Annual Conference 

A big thank you to everyone who made this year’s ACM National Conference in Minneapolis a success: our staff, volunteers, sponsors and exhibitors, and you, the members who joined us from around the country.

There are too many things to remember about this last week: The Open House and Truck Rally at SPNN, strategic planning with the Boards of Directors of ACM and its Foundation, the inspiring opening Keynote from Dr. Tea Rozman-Clark of Green Card Voices, who spoke about the power of storytelling to build communities. The Plenary conversation and panel about challenges ahead in our field and our communities and strategic re-visioning. The brave work of T-Time in Olympia working for trans communities in Washington State, the inspiration and joy of jesikah maria ross who led us in song, celebration and community, reminding us that, “Relationship Building is our Superpower”, a walk off home-run with the Saint Paul Saints and a beautiful night of baseball with community media folks. 

There were all the individual moments as people connected with each other, to learn and meet new colleagues and friends from Maine to Maui.

Remembering Erik Möllberg

Amidst the conference, on Friday morning came the horrifying news that our colleague and friend Erik Möllberg had died in a motorcycle accident in Indiana.  Erik had just been with us at the conference to talk about the work he had been doing to build WELT, the low power community radio station in Fort Wayne, and to catch up with folks.  

I had known Erik for only the last dozen or so years, as I worked more on the national level with ACM and traveled to regional events more and more.  We’d talk about work and life and all our interests: he was a skilled archivist who was trying to preserve the history of access television; he loved the perspectives of international community media work, and traveled through Europe to learn from colleagues throughout the continent; he was THE person to talk to about Indiana telecom legislation and media organizing; and in the last few years, he had been up to his ears in building community radio in Fort Wayne.

Erik Möllberg and Mike Wassenaar at the 2017 ACM Conference

I asked him how he was, and he told me with a smile on his face how busy he was and how every day was filled with the enthusiasm of people who wanted to express themselves and build community through WELT.  Sure, the radio station was bringing new people to community media in Fort Wayne by the dozens to volunteer and to create, but I knew most of that was Erik.

The man hated bureaucracy and BS with a passion, and yet he served on the National, Regional and state chapter Boards of ACM over the years with dedication and what I liked to call his Scandinavian common sense. He disliked drama and wanted to work on what was important and fun.

I’ll remember the late nights we spent in 2012 in Tucson with him on guitar and me pitifully plucking my ukulele.  He tolerated a lot to have a good time.  I’ll also remember moving from Minnesota to DC in 2013 and staying overnight at his house on the lake in Indiana. I had driven some 14 hours to get there, and it was late but we stayed up talking into the night. I had a long drive the next day and decided to get some much-needed sleep.  When I woke up the next morning, Erik had hot coffee and was making me hash browns from scratch.  He loved a good breakfast but how did he do that?

Erik Möllberg, was station manager for WELT-LP FM in Fort Wayne

There are so many of us who have been touched by Mr. Möllberg.  He embodied the best of us.  I will let you know what we hear from his family in the days ahead about remembrances and support.

Public Policy Update: 6th Circuit Court of Appeals

This last week, there were two important court rulings that affect community television in the U.S.  

On Wednesday, July 12, 2017 the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals vacated much of the FCC’s ruling in the 621 Orders from 2008 and remanded them to the Commission for further consideration (Montgomery County, MD et al., vs FCC).  A key issue for PEG organizations that sprang from the rulings has been the FCC forcing local governments to be charged for free and “in-kind” services against franchise fees. This has caused increased costs for school districts, local governments and PEG organizations as cable companies have found a way to charge for services they had agreed to give for free. ACM has been working with allies on this case since 2007, and filed an amicus brief with the Alliance for Communications Democracy in support of the local franchising authorities who fought the FCC at trial. 

Public Policy Update: Ranck vs. Mt Hood

Then on Thursday, July 13, 2017 a US District Court in Oregon threw out a class action lawsuit against the Mt Hood Cable Regulatory Commission which had claimed that PEG fees had been incorrectly spent (Ranck vs. Mt Hood…).   The judge in the case found that the plaintiff could not demonstrate harm in the matter over how the fees were spent, and because the fees were pursuant to a contract between the Multnomah County and cable providers, the plaintiff was an incidental beneficiary and didn’t have right of action in the case.  It’s a good ruling that insures that local governments can regulate how PEG fees are spent, rather than be subject to individual viewers who may or may not like what they see on their PEG channels!  

We’ll give you updates on what the rulings may mean for you and your partners in coming weeks.

Mike Wassenaar
President & CEO
The Alliance for Community Media