Friday, October 10, 2008

Temporary reprieve for WYOU

Good news out of the Mayor's office today: Cieslewicz has decided not to drop public access channel WYOU's funding for at least the next year, giving it some time to get its ducks in a row and plan for a more independent future.

Cieslewicz wanted to give the nearly $140,000 designated for WYOU to City Channel, which broadcasts government meetings and civic events. This would spare the city from having to use property tax dollars to help supplement funds for City Channel.

After a recent meeting with WYOU's board of directors, Cieslewicz called the station and said he would leave WYOU's budget alone for 2009, but warned that the station would only get half its current allocation the following year.

So it's not all roses and candy for WYOU, but it's better than nothing. I wrote about my feelings toward WYOU before, expressing that I think it's an important community resource and deserves funding, but that I also understand that the city (and the whole country) is up against pretty dire economic circumstances and needs to make tough decisions about where to put its money.

Fact is, this would have been less of an issue had we not passed that inferal Video Competition Act, which has allowed Charter to drop its local cable franchise agreement in favor of a statewide one, meaning that "all financing for public, educational and government channels, or PEG channels, is set to end by February 2011."

Basically, instead of the cable companies helping to provide funding for public stations through small fees charged to its subscribers (something they really ought to have to do, seeing as how the airwaves are public in the first place), we're to be left having to shift the burden to taxpayers/the city. And since the city can't really afford that, WYOU and other such channels will have to scramble to raise their own funds--which ain't exactly easy, but they're already planning for exactly that scenario.
The station will also do more outreach to let the public know its mission and explain its importance to the community.

"City Channel is the channel that uses actual tax dollars and not WYOU," Swansboro said. People need to start asking questions like, "Why is the government channel more important than the people's channel?"

Swansboro said Cieslewicz didn't know much about WYOU when they met.

"He didn't know that we taught classes. He didn't know that we had children's groups in here. He didn't even know that the executive director had been fired in April. I think he found out that he can't count on his people to give him information, at least about WYOU," Swansboro said.

Cieslewicz said he was happy to learn that the WYOU board is already planning for a day without PEG access fee support.

"I was very pleased that the board and I could agree on a phase-out of city cable fee backing and that WYOU -- like WORT on radio -- is likely to live on with broader community support," the mayor said.

Let's hope so, anyway.

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The Lost Albatross