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Tilton: Stop Restricting Public Access

For background on this letter, Visit this Page.

To sign our petition, click here.

August 14, 2012

Tony Tilton
MCAM General Manager
Office: 218.284.2700
2300 4th Ave. S.  Suite 242A
Moorhead, MN 56560

Dear Tony,

Today I received your letter dated August 12, 2012, handed to me by your employee.

The letter states that you sent me an initial letter in February. I have never received your initial letter and I am quite shocked at the content of the one you drafted August 12, 2012.

Your letter states that I am going to be moved from an individual membership to a nonprofit membership at the cost of $240 a year. You cite that this is based on the fact that I “use MCAM facilities and equipment to a greater degree than the individual membership allows.” As you know, from the beginning I have been using MCAM equipment to do taping of local government meetings and hosting them online through the People’s Press Project.

I object to the notion that I use MCAM facilities at all. I simply come to MCAM, check out a camera and tripod four (4) times per month and return the equipment according to your check-out policy. I do not use your facilities or any other equipment. The actual hours of use for the camera has been 8 to 10 hours of use per month. That can hardly be construed as use beyond what an individual membership allows. In fact, it’s nominal. Have you recently limited the number of hours equipment can be used by individual members? How can you monitor (or enforce) the number of hours an individual uses a camera while it is in their possession? How and when were members notified of this arbitrary new rule? I looked on your MCAM web page and did not find any such restrictions on the page.

With my limited use of MCAM equipment to do a public good by taping and hosting local governmental meetings, and the absence of using anything else in your facility, I see no need to change the membership. Both your method of giving notice, and your arbitrary decision seem unfair and opportunistic; intended – – once again- – to stop me from taping local government meetings. Therefore, I refuse to be unfairly and arbitrarily moved to a nonprofit membership and will remain an individual member at the cost of $12 per year.

I would venture to guess that I am one of the few members MCAM has left. What limited access people had to “public access” media services in the F-M area, you have restricted even further; limiting access to programming, equipment and training for the entire community. Since you became the General Manager (GM) there, the quality of services and equipment provided by MCAM has steadily declined or become non-existent. Meanwhile, the true intent of arbitrarily jacking up your pricing seems to be a way of financially attacking the work I do through the People’s Press Project. I cannot allow that to happen unchallenged. Therefore,  I will remain an individual member of MCAM at the already agreed upon price.

You should be mindful of the fact that I am using this equipment to provide a service to the community that MCAM, the City of Moorhead, the City of Fargo and public access (from cable franchise monies) should already be providing for our communities- – because all those entities receive millions from cable franchise agreements to do that work and provide public access programming and stations to our communities. MCAM’s former production coordinator and I worked on a proposal to the city to expand taping of government meetings by training and paying camera operators, myself included. The proposal went forward and eventually gained thousands of dollars of additional funding for MCAM to expand taping of government meetings. However, after you became GM, trainings and payment for work already being done were set aside. Although MCAM received the benefit of this additional funding they have done very little additional taping of government meetings.

Shortly after that you arbitrarily changed the agreement for camera equipment I had check-out and demanded the check-in of the camera equipment at a time when it was impossible for me to return it, even threatening to call the police if I didn’t scramble to figure out how to get it to you. As soon as the equipment was checked-in, you notified me that you were downgrading my membership use of camera equipment saying I could no longer use the high quality studio cameras to tape government meetings. You said you were going to sell the high quality camera equipment because it was old and outdated but have instead been using it on a limited basis to film football games. Since then you have only afforded me the use of low end and antiquated video equipment, which is frequently non-functional and makes the video quality for the public less desirable and viewable.

In contrast to your agenda, the previous production coordinator allowed members (and volunteers like myself who were on hand to help since there was no other staff) to train people on the use of those high quality studio cameras, and to use MCAM facilities to edit and produce public programming and government meetings. One of your first actions as GM was to end the training program we had in place so no new citizen journalists could become trained camera operators and begin taping more governmental meetings or creating public access or educational programs. You said no one would be able to use the studio cameras unless they were trained, but no trainings were ever offered again. Training and programming efforts for non-profit organizations like CCRI and the Boy Scouts of America, who were also poised to begin creating local broadcasts, were stopped dead in their tracks by you. As GM, you have hoarded, hidden, or holed-up the equipment of MCAM and have done little to no outreach in this community to give people access to the “free speech” dollars intended for them by cable franchise agreements with this city.

The agenda of silence you have developed against the work I am doing for government transparency in this community needs to stop. I have managed to continue taping and providing transparency in government, albeit on a limited basis, despite your repeated efforts to stop my work. But now I have to speak out. I doubt that anyone in Moorhead or Fargo, including the MCAM board members, will support this ongoing campaign stop the taping of government meetings and your efforts to stop concerned and engaged citizens who are trying to use the facility (MCAM) that was set up with money historically and traditionally intended for the purpose of public access, government transparency, and educational programing. Understand that my goal has never been to merely use MCAM equipment, but rather to see facilities like MCAM in this region properly funded, equipped, and used for their intended purposes so that the general public has greater transparency and access to information and greater engagement in local government. Your renewed attempts to stop these efforts are prompting me to request the assistance of local, state, and national media justice organizations and of concerned citizens to pressure city officials, government leaders, and MCAM to allow this facility and its equipment to be used in the manner for which it was intended.

Ending the use of MCAM equipment by revoking my membership will not stop the work I am doing. In fact, it may help fuel the need for more public access and transparency by showing the public what MCAM’s real mission has become under the general management of Tilton: to limit access of MCAM’s equipment; equipment that is a public trust not one man’s personal arsenal.

If you refuse to honor my individual membership status, I request that you inform me in writing what you based your decision on. I also want to be notified when your next MCAM board meeting is so that I and others may attend and appeal these adversarial actions to your board of directors.

Please know that no matter what decision you take, I and other community members will continue this fight for greater access and accountability- – including the accountability within MCAM and its use of the public’s money. We will find equipment that the public can use to tape, broadcast, and archive government meetings with or without the help of MCAM, and even despite your current efforts to stop us. I will be reaching out to individuals reading this letter (and throughout the community) to request equipment and funding to the People’s Press Project so that we can continue to provide the community with greater government transparency and accountability.

To donate to our cause or check out our latest work go to:

Thank you for your time and consideration.


Duke Gomez-Schempp


Audio Recording of Returning Cameras to MCAM

Audio recording of returning equipment to Ton Tilton in May of 2011. PPP leaders Cindy Gomez-Schempp and Duke Gomez-Schempp  return equipment to MCAM after Tony Tilton, MCAM General Manager demands that all equipment be returned to MCAM and PPP will be restricted from further use of the equipment.   Audio file on FMPPP website (mp3).


Skip to comment form

    • John McTighe on January 5, 2013 at 6:05 pm
    • Reply

    Hello Duke:

    We have met briefly and I came across the web site and I have a few comments in regard to my experiences with MCAM.

    I had ventured to a training the Duke and PPP hosted at the MCAM probably before Tony Tilton had become the manager. It was a good experience and I learned some things in regard to shooting video. I was allowed to take a look around the studio and the equipment. They appeared to have a robust recording studio area, along with a video editing area, inside the high school. My idea was to see if my Cub Scout troop could come and produce a video demonstrating some of the things we do for the community.

    About a month or so later, I contacted MCAM to see if I could arrange a time to use the facilities and/or the facilities for a video shoot. It was at this point I hit a brick wall.

    Nobody returned my calls, and when I finally spoke to Mr. Tilton, he had a number of excuses as to why the facility could not be used, and that the equipment and facilities I had looked at myself was suddenly no longer available to use- he said things were being updated, and that you had to have training to run the cameras, when I informed him that I did have training, he said they had all new equipment that I would have to get trained on.

    Hmmmm…. that did not seem like very good community access to me. So I scrapped the idea. After reading your correspondence, I can see he is very defensive, and offers little to resolve the matter.

    My question would be, Is Tony Tilton a volunteer? or what role does play as the General Manager, and how much is he getting compensated because he is not providing any community access-?

    Feel free to forward this to Mr. Tilton, someone should look into this further. Also, as you probably know, I am not affiliated with the PPP other than the trainings we had met at. Feel free to contact me at 701-306-7026.

    • Tony Tilton on August 14, 2012 at 7:17 pm
    • Reply

    I just read this missive. It is so full of lies I cannot begin and the personal attacks you throw are ridiculous. You do not even HAVE an individual membership with us, you never renewed it! We had a training program at MCAM that people took advantage of-you are seriously underqualified to train anyone-and we had it open to anyone who wanted access to it. We begin new training in September. MCAM has in no way restricted you and our equipment is OUR PROPERTY. We are a separate non-profit, NOT a government entity. You have a beef with franchise agreements and have a major axe to grind. We will not be party to your personal agenda.
    As I told you before and even showed you, the MCAM policies were there for years before I took over and you admitted to as much when you had not returned our property for OVER A YEAR! You admitted that “no one pays attention to that” meaning our policies. The board is 100% behind making sure that no one individual or group monopolizes our property. We are under NO obligation to send out $10,000 cameras (that were NEVER intended to be used outside of the studio) to someone who does not know what a simple record tab is, or to ANYONE for that matter. The policies you think I changed were in fact the same ones that MCAM had on the books but that you-and others-ignored. No longer. You cannot go to a library and take whatever you want and return it a year later then argue that you should not be charged for it! PPP will return our gear Thursday and you will receive a letter detailing this. Remember, you AGREED to become an organizational member and that was in front on witnesses. This is ridiculous Duke. Your invective is so over the top and blanketed with lies as to be completely laughable. But this is apparently nothing new, according to dozens of others around the metro who have detailed the same treatment when you do not get what you deem to be the right way. Sorry Duke, but in the real world people have to hold up to their end of a bargain and if you have a problem with it, tossing ff a potentially libelous missive is not the way to go about it.

      • duke on August 16, 2012 at 12:47 am
      • Reply

      The camera equipment MCAM was so concerned about was returned Wednesday, August 15 at 12:10 PM. The MCAM Employee checked the equipment in and and deemed the return acceptable and in the same condition as it was checked out.

      Here is a video record of the Equipment Return to MCAM:

    • Tony Tilton on August 14, 2012 at 7:02 pm
    • Reply

    Duke, I did not bother to read this entire missive. I sent that statement, which has been part of MCAM’s policies for years before I was even there, back in February. I gave you another copy as I hadn’t heard from you. You already agreed to become a organizational member when we spoke about this last year. You had been paying as an individual member before-something you have not done yet this year, by the way. You indicated no problem with that at that time. There are several other non-profits who are also organizational members who gladly pay the fee, which is used for basic maintenance and replacement-something you should know, as we’ve had equipment used by you come back in a non-working state.

    To be clear, I treat PPP exactly the same as any group who wishes to submit programming to us. I have NO agenda, unlike apparently you. I will speak to John Strand about this issue and the board will revisit the use of MCAM property by groups who cannot abide by the simple contract that they (and YOU) signed.

    PPP received a large grant-or so I was informed. Why not purchase your own $500 camera?

    MCAM exists to provide EVERYONE access, not just a few. PPP is not held in any higher – or lower -esteem than any other group. We provide services to all manner of non-profits of all idealogical bent. We air what is sent to us. We play no favorites.

    Apparently PPP thinks it should be treated differently that everyone else. You have said as much to me in the past. This is illegal, according to federal law, and will not be allowed.

    Remember, one major part of our member agreement is that material produced with MCAM gear is available to MCAM to run and that is for MOORHEAD content. To date, PPP has supplied MCAM with 1 video of a cultural event from last year. This does not represent our agreement in any way, shape or form. PPP serves this community in a variety of ways and MCAM has supported it. I resent being accused of anything less or for another agenda when the simple fact is that you promised to become an organizational member and now apparently have reneged on that.

    PPP has until the return of our equipment on Thursday to consider this. If we have not received some kind of understanding (which,again, you not only agreed to-you SIGNED a contract to abide by our policies!) by the time we receive our equipment, MCAM will be forced to place PPP on probation. If for some reason we have not received our equipment by the close of our office hours (clearly stated on the door 12 noon-4pm) then MCAM will have to deal with the apparent loss of our property in another manner.

    Again, I will talk to John Strand about this and see what he thinks. Last time I had to speak with him he assured me there would be no further issues with PPP. Considering the history of abuse towards MCAM policy and outright hostility to our basic policies-which again were part of our organization YEARS before I arrived on the scene-that was shown before I am not surprised but am saddened. As my years worth of emails and genial working relationship I am saddened at your propensity to go nuclear. If that’s what you want I can abide but it is not what I tried to work out with you. I hope you can rethink your approach Duke. This is the last time I will deal with this issue.


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