Public Access Television asks out of its city cable TV contract

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

For 16 years, Public Access Video (PAV), owned by Jerry Abraham, has contracted with the city of Little Falls to operate its cable channels 6 and 12, through Central Minnesota Access Television (CMAT). In a letter Monday, he informed the Council that he’d like to terminate his contract, effective Nov. 1.

Programming consists of community events, government meetings in Little Falls, such as the City Council, School Board and Morrison County Board of Commissioners. Church services, videotaped by the church communities, are aired, as well as monthly shows by the mayor, county administrator, various organizations and other individuals.

“It’s safe to say, there are not a lot of cities our size that do the amount of programming that we do,” said Abraham. “It shows the city’s commitment to put money toward Channel 6 to help run it; not a whole lot of cities do that.”

Funding for public access television comes from a  license fee charged to city residents by the city through Charter, the city’s cable service provider.

Abraham said he sometimes helps with production of shows to be aired, but said he is not required to do so under the contract. However, should any community member bring in a video to play on air, it will be shown, although PAV has the right to determine the time slot and number of times the show will air.

Abraham told the CMAT Board Aug. 14, that he planned to ask to terminate the contract with the city and why.

He said he felt harassed and bullied by resident Robin Hensel. Abraham had for a time helped Hensel and  resident Theresa Skorseth record a show put on by the two who called themselves, “The Reality Players.”

He said, “I used to help her produce her show and at the beginning, some of the shows were actually pretty good. She did a show on climate change with a professor from St. John’s. That’s the whole idea behind local access television. I was kind of happy to see her do that.”

Abraham said when the shows began to be about attacking people, not just City Hall and grievances there, but “committees and people volunteering their time to help the city — attacking people personally and saying their names, I had trouble with that.

“I didn’t say she couldn’t do those shows,” said Abraham. “I just said I wouldn’t help her with the shows. Now every week she comes in, calls or sends emails with a cc to her attorney.”

Hensel told the CMAT Board that it was in April  2012 that she and Skorseth came to Abraham to ask him to videotape their show for airing.

She pointed out numerous shows with numerous people — sports wrap-up, a program for Camp Ripley, the mayor, Council Member Loren Boyum — all filmed in studio by PAV.

“And he was with Theresa and I after we met with the Cable Board in April 2012,” said Hensel.

The shows were taped in the studio until Hensel said she and Skorseth told Abraham about one of his employees cutting out five seconds of audio when Hensel was speaking during a Council meeting, which she called altering public data.

Hensel said after this incident was exposed, Abraham no longer agreed to videotape her show.

Hensel said she has spent $100 getting her shows videotaped and put on DVD to air on public access television. Some of the DVDs don’t work in the equipment at CMAT, Abraham said.

Hensel told the Cable Board she was troubled that Abraham said he’d been harassed and bullied by her. “I’ve never been anything but polite when talking to him,” she said.

But she said he hadn’t had the same response back.

She said she had asked at least four times, very politely and respectfully, to film the show in studio. She wants help with two television shows that she’s been helping to produce. “And he has said lately, no he’s not going to.”

Abraham said several times, Hensel has implied she would add him to her lawsuit against the city, which he said made him feel threatened.

Hensel said she felt Abraham was obligated to tape her shows under section 5.1 of his contract with the city, which outlines PAV’s responsibilities with CMAT, one of which includes “videotaping programs to be aired on Channels 6/12.”

“My plan was to work two more years and see the city through the cable franchise renewal with Charter, then to work part-time, or totally hang it up,” Abraham said. “But I’m tired of having to deal with what I’m dealing with right now.”

Abraham said he still wants to help the city with a technical conversion needed, that will require equipment upgrades.

He’d also like to help the city with policies to help with the problems he said he’s dealing with now.

“The city definitely has to develop some policies to address problems we’re having,” said Abraham, who has researched policies used by other public access stations.

The Council approved dissolving its contract with PAV, effective Nov. 1.

In the meantime, the CMAT Board Council representative, Loren Boyum, City Administrator Dan Vogt, the city’s attorney and Abraham will meet to chart the course for public access television in Little Falls.

  • tmac

    Hensel should be ashamed of herself.
    Jerry Abraham has done so much for this city and this school district and it is disgusting that Hensel seems to think that she can personally attack anyone she feels like yet she seems to have her attorney at hand anytime things do not go her way.

    • robin hensel

      tmac…..for your information I have never attacked anyone, including Jerry Abraham or anyone else associated with ch. 6. The opposite is true. I have footage of Mike Crecji aggressing on me, yelling at me and acting in a very threatening way, because I asked him a valid question just before a council meeting. I have proof that ch. 6 DID IN FACT ALTER PUBLIC DATA. I have every right to share information that not only myself, but Theresa Skorseth has discovered at all the meetings we attend. We are shedding LIGHT on some very troubling governmental policy and abuse and the residents have a right to know what is going on. I challenge you to point out anytime EVER THAT THERESA OR I HAVE EVER NAME CALLED OR DEFAMED ANYONE IN THIS CITY. I tried for months to convince Jerry to be fair to us and film us once again in studio. He has chosen to put himself in a very uncomfortable position, no fault of mine. It is a misdeameanor to knowingly alter public data. Videotaping of city government meetings is widely known to be public data. Just sayin. Robin

      • tmac

        One instance that comes to mind is you stated that the mayor was a liar.
        Are you saying that accidents do not ever happen(in regard to the few seconds that did not get taped?)
        Also, does it state in section 5.1 that Mr. Abraham must accommodate any and/ or all persons who wish to have a program videotaped?

        • robin hensel

          Tmac…..I gave you the exact language from the contract. Why are you elaborating on it? I have NEVER CALLED THE MAYOR A LIAR. If you make claims like that you better have facts to back up your statements.

          • tmac

            My mistake, I have not heard you call the Mayor a liar.I should have said that you inferred the Mayor was a liar.

    • robin hensel

      tmac….why are you unwilling to put your real name on your posts?

  • Clifton Evans

    The more Hensel cries about protecting her Constitutional Rights the more she tramples on the rights of all the rtest of Little Falls citizens. She has posted in the past the our City Council and Mayor are faciast. I propose that she has the role reversed.

    • robin hensel

      since when is standing up for ones own right ever been part of the definition of the word “fascist”…..better look it up. Whose rights have I trampled on…please clarify and be specific….time, date, name please. If you are going to make claims like this, you better have facts to back up your claims Clifton.

  • robin hensel

    Terry Lehrke….you forgot to mention one important word from Jerry Abrahams contract with the city…….DUTIES…..section 5.1 In other words…..CMAT tv has a duty to film the programs on channel 6/12. This would be an important word for the public to know for full transparency. Don’t you think?

    • Rick Witte

      Freedom, Robin, isnt it great? Does one not have the right to engage in commerce or decide not to? Does not one have the right to withdraw from a contract if the contract, or other party, allows. Yes, Freedom is a wonderful thing.

    • tmac

      Full transparency?
      First I would have to see the full contract.

      • robin hensel

        you can get a copy of city hall…….fill out a data request for the entire contract…read “section 5. DUTIES OF PUBLIC ACCESS VIDEO: 5.1 (c) Videotaping programs to be aired on channels 6/12.” Pretty clear language.

  • Ruth Karnowski

    That’s just too bad. One person who thinks the world “owes” her and a good man has to suffer her foolishness. Let’s hope Jerry has better things on his horizon.

    • robin hensel

      Ruth….I don’t think the world owes me anything. I will not ever accept discrimination in any form. I urged jerry very politely at least four times to reconsider filming our program in studio. He clearly treated us differently than the many other programs he films in studio because of viewpoint hostility.