Moving of ‘Ōlelo channels suppresses Hawaiian voices

As a Native Hawaiian born, raised and educated in Hawai‘i, I find parallels of what transpired to the Hawaiians of the past with what is currently happening with the moving of public access television channels in Hawai‘i’s cable TV channel lineup. This is reminiscent of the abolition of Hawaiian hula, chant and dance and the suppression of speaking the native tongue of our ancestors.

By moving channels 49, 53, 54 and 55 (the channels of ‘Ōlelo Community Television) in the current lineup to higher channels in the lineup, Spectrum Cable is effectively silencing the voice of the people of Hawaiʻi. This forces the average cable subscriber to have a premium subscription in order to have access to community programming.

Public access channels have always been grouped with the local television stations and networks in the lower channel numbers. It is where viewers who rely on it know where to find it.

Public access television like ‘Ōlelo is a vital link to a lot of things currently happening in our neighborhoods, towns and cities that affect all of us on a daily basis. It is how numerous local producers, educators, Hawaiian civic groups and private citizens get their messages across and where residents can find information on controversial issues such as Kawainui Marsh and its role in the future of Kailua town.

Moreover, a lot of the viewers of these channels are of Hawaiian ancestry, older in age and are financially unable to afford the premium cost to have an upgraded cable box. Spectrum would effectively silence these voices. Once again, Native Hawaiians are relegated to being pushed out and squashed in their own lands, something that has been repeated one too many times.

The resolution introduced on Feb. 8 in the Honolulu City Council chambers was impromptu and held with short notice. Many who signed up online to testify did not show, and the turnout for residents to speak out was tempered.  About 25 people spoke for almost two hours with pleas of keeping the channels where they are.

From religious leaders and pastors to local fishermen and residents, young and old, Hawaiians and non-Hawaiians, all unanimously supported the measure to keep the public access channels where they are. It seemed like all the council members and representatives were in sync with their constituents. There was no testimony by any Spectrum employees or management.

Big corporate companies that take over entities that play a pivotal role in the everyday lives of over a million people in the state of Hawai‘i should have specific parameters on what they can and/or cannot do. When is it morally or even ethically right to change people’s lives when you are a newcomer to this place and you are one of the few cable companies providing said cable services?

It is not fair to the people who are at the lower income tier and those who are fighting for civic rights in our native land. Spectrum should reach out to the local population and humbly work for compromise and customer satisfaction as they have an obligation to their customers to provide service.

This writer attended and testified before the Honolulu City Council in support of the resolution to suppress the relocation of public access channels.


by Ian Jenss, Special to Ka ‘Ohana