Seattle's only public access station, the Seattle Community Access Network (SCAN), will be starved into oblivion by the city's 2011 budget, which cuts funding for SCAN from $650,000 to $100,000, and opens up the bidding process for a public access provider who can work under that tight budget. (SCAN staff maintain that $100,000 isn't even enough to keep the lights on and pay someone to monitor the door at their studios.)

So today, SCAN staffers held a press conference at their studios in North College Park, begging residents to pressure city council members to save the station by re-allocating the funds they cut (or at least giving them a transition fund to work with).

The press conference was ineffectual and boring, attendance was dismal, and all bets are that SCAN's ploy won't work. Puget Sound Access (PSA), a public access provider in south King County, says it can provide many of the same services as SCAN for under $100,000.

SCAN Executive Director Dian Ferguson started the presser by saying she was "appalled" by the cuts. She then targeted the Seattle Channel, one of the city's two government channels (and another recipient of franchise fees), for similar cuts, arguing, "I have heard over and over again that we are all old and antiquated and that no one watches tv anymore. If that’s the case, why don’t we cut the Seattle Channel and put them on YouTube as well?" This was a weak rhetorical move that sounded like the cries of a dying animal lashing out at everything around it. Ferguson also issued a veiled threat to council members who vote against SCAN's funding by reminding the handful of audience members that council elections are a scant few months away.

Then the sad apostle-producers of SCAN came trotting out to plead their cases. Marlee Walker of the show Blues To Do said, "If the people do not have their own voice on television, free from corporate or government influence, which in Seattle is public access, then they truly have no free press." Feel moved? Okay then. Gilbert Wardian, producer of To Your Health, and Ed Mays, producer of Pirate Television, also spoke. They were incomprehensible. If these dudes couldn't even hold my attention in person, no wonder SCAN is fading into irrelevance. At least they served me pumpkin pie with whipped cream.

More thrilling public access news after the jump!

Ferguson closed the presser by reminding the audience to contact city council about restoring SCAN's funding (theoretically, the council could have a change of heart and allocate funding before the final vote on November 22. But that's just not going to happen). Then at least two audience members mentioned that they would like to pursue federal criminal charges against the council for what they believe to be a violation of the Cable Franchise Policy and Communications Act of 1984. Batshit crazy alarm triggered!

Here's the thing: SCAN does do some valuable stuff. Somali, Ethiopian, and other refugee communities use broadcasting time to figure out how the hell to live here. There are advice and call-in shows in all sorts of languages that are easily accessible through the tv. This service is effective because while not every family can afford an internet connection—or even a computer—almost every family owns a boob tube. SCAN also provides training and workshops for people interested in doing television, including internships they offer to local media students. But nothing in this press conference today showed me why SCAN needs an additional $500,000 to do this job when someone else could do it for $100,000.

Thanks for the pie.