After yesterday’s post, I realized that a bit more background is in order to convey the flavor of the latest faceoff between Akaku and the group calling itself Maui Media Lab, and why it sets off some internal alarms.
I wrote a story back in 2003 that included this section describing an interaction between then-Akaku director Sean McLaughlin and Maui developer Everett Dowling, although Dowling’s name wasn’t reported at the time.
Sean McLaughlin on Maui tells a tale of arranging a lunch meeting with an island business leader who he hoped would help underwrite Akakü’s broadcast of a series of candidate forums during last year’s election campaign.
Before McLaughlin could make his pitch, the developer interrupted.
“He says, ‘Before we get started, let me just tell you I hate Akakü,’” McLaughlin recalled. “‘You guys use public funds to give a voice to people who misrepresent my projects. If I could, I would shut you down, I would put you out of business because you are giving a voice to irresponsible people.’”
McLaughlin said he offered a standard response — that the answer to irresponsible speech is even more responsible speech rather than censorship.
But the businessman responded: “Sean, I can buy that [favorable programming]. I don’t need you for that. I need you to not let those people on your station.”
Akakü did not give in, and it isn’t clear from McLaughlin’s telling whether his developer friend ever seriously pushed his attempt to silence critics. But it’s a clear warning of the pressures facing access providers.
Dowling later acknowledged the conversation. And he did get serious two years later, personally lobbying hard for legislation to slash Akaku’s budget. See this Maui News story, or Google “akaku” and “dowling” and browse the results.
That history became more relevant when I sat down and did the first round of basic checks on Maui Media Labs, the outfit that has suddenly challenged Akaku this year.
According to state business registration records, the officers of Maui Media Lab Foundation are part of Maui’s development community. President Duffy Herman and treasurer Tricia Morris are a husband and wife team that own Herman-Morris Enterprises Inc, and its business purpose is described as “MORTGAGE BROKER AND INTERNATIONAL TRADE & REAL ESTATE DEVELOPMENT”. They operate as Premier Mortgage Company.
Media Labs vice-president Dan Goodfellow is an officer of several related construction companies operating under the Goodfellow Brothers name on the West Coast and in Hawaii. Goodfellow’s construction firm has done the site work for Ev Dowling’s Maui developments, among other things.
The technical work is done by the related Maui Media Lab LLC, in which Herman and Sam Epstein are listed as managers.
According to a Maui News story earlier this year:
Most of the programming is supported by businesses who pay for commercial airtime and organizations that provide content to fill their dedicated IPTV channels. But Pulelehua Maui Community Television is entirely free and accessible to everyone who wants to see their content broadcast.
Does this reflect Dowling’s attitude, expressed in the earlier quote as sort of a threat, that the business community can simply buy favorable programming and doesn’t need (and perhaps doesn’t want?) Akaku to get that done?
The backgrounds of the principal players obviously don’t tell the whole story, but they do show clear connections between this latest challenge to Akaku and that small community of developers on Maui, at least some of whom have been keenly unhappy with the open forum that Akaku both provides and encourages.
It’s a context and background the encourages further reporting to get to the real issues.
With that said and out of the way for now, things can go to the dogs. Well, in ths particular case, a dog and cat duo. An odd couple, Rhya the Rottweiler and Nemo the cat. A most mellow cat who strolls easily through the dog territory. There are other dogs in today’s offering, so just click on this pair for more.