The history of Government Access TV in Las Vegas

By Steve Miller

Las Vegas Tribune

March 28, 2000

Hank Greenspun's Community Cable Co. was granted an exclusive Clark County TV cable franchise by the Nevada Public Service Commission in 1973. The "Community Cable Ordinance" stipulated that a Government Access Channel and a Community Access Channel would be made available immediately. By the year 1987, fourteen years later, neither had been implemented.

In 1987, after inquiring of the then-council and learning of their objection to being televised in action, I brought Cox Cable's predecessor Prime Cable before the City Council on a Show Cause hearing to defend their reason for not having implemented the government and community channels they agreed to provide.

The cable company's owners began fighting my efforts with their biggest guns.

I began being attacked regularly in columns in the Las Vegas Sun while my fellow councilmembers tried to thwart my every move to open city and county government.

Undaunted, in the spring of 1988 I agended an item before the city council threatening cancellation of Prime Cable's franchise for not complying with the 1973 ordinance to provide the community and government channels. I also threatened to open public bidding by other companies if the government and community channels were not started immediately.

Just to show how serious I was, I invited half a dozen national cable TV companies to come to town to make presentations before the City Council. Several accepted my invitation and they started heavy political lobbying and PR. My fellow councilmembers warned me of the political ramifications of my lone actions and recommended that I back off. I persisted.

The news story intensified in the Review Journal. At that time the Sun and RJ were not operating under joint operating agreements. The Sun tried to ignore the growing story.

Then I was invited to meet with Prime Cable's Brian Greenspun and Bill Chain at the Sun newspaper office. There Brian immediately threatened me with "Political Suicide" if I continued with my quest to force his company to open the community and government channels. I told him that he was an inspiration and exited his office.

I came home to find my TV cable cut from the telephone pole behind my house and thrown into my pool along with a bunch of nuts, bolts, and clamps. I intensified my quest to open up city and county government meetings to TV coverage.

During one of the recommending committee hearings I was chairing on the cable issue, Brian Greenspun repeatedly called me a "liar." I declared him out of order. He continued his name calling. I recessed the hearing and summoned the city marshal to the tenth floor hearing. I instructed the marshal to stand by to remove Brian if he persisted in disrupting the hearing. Brian behaved at the insistence of his attorney John Moran. The following morning's RJ wrote a story about the instance that proved embarrassing to Brian.

The negative stories about me in the Sun became more frequent.

With extensive RJ news coverage of my every move, Prime Cable begrudgingly put on a Government access channel, but insisted that the city pay for all production costs. On one of the first broadcast I stated that "No one is cheaper than Prime Cable" in response to the rest of the council obediently voting to allocate $95,000 per year for production.

I argued in vain that the cost must be born by the cable company in exchange for their exclusive franchise and for ignoring their original agreement for fourteen years. I emphasized how much money the cable company had saved by reneging on their original agreement for so long, but the rest of the council was afraid of joining in my "political suicide." Furthermore Prime gifted each councilman and the mayor with their home service free of charge.

Now its 2000 and the outcome of my effort is obvious. Unfortunately, the city council is about to squander almost $5 million tax dollars to build facilities that were the responsibility of the cable company in exchange for their exclusive franchise.

The Los Angeles Times Monday, July 8, 1991 stated"....Steve Miller was someone a lot of powerful people loved to hate. It was Miller….who proposed opening competition to the sole cable television network in town, operated by Brian Greenspun, who owns the newspaper, the Las Vegas Sun.

In September 1999, the Las Vegas Review Journal listed me in their special edition THE FIRST 100. The RJ editors stated: "Steve Miller -- City Councilman involved in government access TV and the CAT bus system."

In exchange for my efforts, Brian Greenspun made good on his "Political Suicide" threat.

Steve Miller is a former Las Vegas City Councilman, and Clark County Regional Transportation Commissioner. He was the author and Sponsor of the City of Las Vegas Ethics in Government Law and was voted the "Most Effective Public Official" in Southern Nevada by the readers of the Review Journal in 1991.