While these tiny community stations have weathered repeated assaults by the cable industry (and now the telephone industry), and have too often been trivialized by commercial media outlets, access TV continues to thrive in communities across the country. And it continues to provide a vital platform for citizens and nonprofit groups to reach their communities on what remains the dominant mass communications medium today - television.
While many channel-surfers welcome these channels as local, noncommercial alternatives to the fare served up by commercial outlets, public access TV's mission is distinct from commercial cable channels too. Although commercial channels work primarily to deliver eyeballs to advertisers, access TV provides an electronic public forum to the community. Public access television programmers enjoy First Amendment protections to ensure that these stations encourage the broadest range of ideas and opinions.
Here's a short video I produced for Chicago Access Network Television to help educate viewers on this important distinction.