The free speech revolutionary: Annie Folger

Uploaded: Fri, Feb 17, 2017

Annie Folger reflects on three decades in public-access television

by Patrick Condon and Linda Taaffe / Palo Alto Weekly

photo by Veronica Weber / Palo Alto Weekly

Sitting in her office amid memorabilia spanning nearly 32 years in broadcasting, Annie Folger remembered the moment a studio was born in Palo Alto.

“Back in January 1991 when the first Gulf War began, we didn’t have a studio yet all we had was a bare room and no equipment but we decided we were going to try to go live, so we jury-rigged a camcorder into the cable system and invited viewers to call in and share their feelings,” recalled Folger, longtime Midpeninsula Community Media Center executive director, who retired Jan. 31.

“I brought a long extension cord for our telephone, and we ran it from the office into the studio, plugged the camcorder in and went live. People just started calling to tell us how concerned they were about this war going on. More and more, the phone just rang off the hook. We hung up from one call, and another call would come in.

“A studio was born in that moment. That was our first (live) show … and we let it be known that all communicators, dreamers and community builders would be welcome in communicating their ideas. That was us from the get go,” said Folger, a petite, 71-year-old brunette known as a “revolutionary” among her colleagues in the broadcast world.

From the earliest days of community-access television, Folger has advocated on a local and national level for people’s rights to express themselves. Her advocacy stretches back to just about the time Congress passed the Cable Communications Policy Act of 1984 that paved the way for cities to collect fees from cable operators to fund public, educational and government access channels.

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