When our voice thrives, so does our community


POSTED: Friday, October 23, 2009

Public demand for community television is at an all-time high. In 20 years, 'Olelo Community Television has broadcast more than 50,000 hours of original local programming, with more than 6,000 hours airing this year alone, and grown from half a channel to six, and from one facility to eight. 'Olelo has trained thousands of Oahu residents. Each year it helps about 250 nonprofit organizations and community groups get their message out. The newest facility, at the state Capitol, enables lawmakers to timely disseminate information for civic engagement.

'Olelo Community Television was the subject of a recent state Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs hearing; a decision is expected by Dec. 31.

Oceanic Cable is negotiating a new DCCA franchise for the next decade, beginning Jan. 1, 2010; at stake is 'Olelo's funding and support. 'Olelo derives its income from the 3 percent Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) access fees that Oceanic collects from customers. In 2000, the DCCA capped this, diverting more than $5 million away from 'Olelo. All of 'Olelo's training, facility use, airtime and other operating expenses are supported by the roughly $3.4 million it receives from Oceanic, after the $1 million given to the University of Hawaii and the state Department of Education for educational programs. 'Olelo also seeks provisions to keep pace with technology: live teleconferencing and cable casting abilities at each community media center; additional channels; and video-on-demand services.

Currently, six 'Olelo channels give viewers an up-close look at their community. Coverage of government fosters civic awareness and participation. Local entertainment, sports and cultural shows are showcased. Educational programs from Hawaii's schools and the UH also air. Through six school-based facilities, 'Olelo has trained students in 31 percent of elementary, 66 percent of middle and 87 percent of high schools on Oahu.

Twenty years ago Hawaii's leaders envisioned an engaged community empowered by community media. Today 'Olelo is a national leader and one of the largest PEG access organizations nationwide. I and other senators signed a letter to the DCCA in strong support of 'Olelo.

'Olelo President and CEO Keali'i Lopez sees a future where 'Olelo is an integral part of every Oahu community, empowering people to be heard. It can go even further. Imagine if 'Olelo joined some of the country's more than 3,000 other PEG organizations. For example, Hawaii's 35 years of experience trying to achieve near-universal health care access gives us a valuable perspective in the current national debate. If 'Olelo aired on a national network, other states could hear of our successes.

Tourism would benefit, too. Hawaii's allure would be enhanced if 'Olelo programs featuring our lovely scenery and people were seen in other states. Wouldn't it be fun to watch sports coverage of your mainland cousins, nieces or nephews via a national network?

A hearty congratulations to 'Olelo on its 20th anniversary, to Keali'i Lopez for her dynamic leadership, and to all the staff and volunteers who have contributed to its success.


State Sen. Will Espero, who has appeared on 'Olelo over the past 10 years, hosts “;Espero Conversation”; at 9:30 p.m. Sundays on Channel 54.