MI: Tctv2 supporters hope for better reception

Posted on December 21, 2007 - 3:37pm.

from: The Record Eagle

Published: December 21, 2007 09:30 am

Tctv2 supporters hope for better reception

By Melissa Domsic

TRAVERSE CITY -- Local officials are likely to pull the funding plug on public access television, but a private effort to raise cash could prevent the community channel from fading to black.

Traverse City is among a handful of governments that continue to fund tctv2 and the city plans to do so through June 2008, said City Manager Richard Lewis, who added he expects Elmwood and Garfield townships to follow suit.

But that financial support could end then, and require other mechanisms to keep the local access channel on the air.

"I don't think it's our role anymore to go over and dictate what's going to be happening at that channel," Lewis said. "It belongs to the public ... the government should stay the heck out of the way."

Traverse City, Elmwood and Garfield are the three official remaining members of the Cherry Capital Cable Council. The city and nine surrounding townships formed the council in 1993 to coordinate franchising and regulate cable rates and television.

Cable franchises are now statewide, so local governments no longer create and control their own.

Council members previously oversaw public access funding from the cable company, but a 2005 franchise agreement does not require Charter Communications to provide money for those operations.

Since 2005, cable council members provided 30 percent of franchise fees they collected to keep tctv2 running. Bingham Township never signed that agreement and by the beginning of 2007, seven participating townships had left the council. Funds now come from the three remaining members, as well as unofficial members Paradise Township and the Village of Kingsley.

Long Lake Township made its final payment in March 2007, township Supervisor Karen Rosa said.

"For the money we spent, we felt we did not have good accountability from tctv2 from what exactly was being spent with our money," she said. "Also, when (government) channel 99 started being talked about ... I guess I felt that's where the meetings should be."

Some residents also questioned tctv2 program scheduling, Rosa said.

The Traverse Area District Library supplies administrative services and oversees operation of the channel, but library officials decided to terminate their involvement if the council dissolves next summer.

A recently formed group of area residents called Friends of TV2 hopes to create a nonprofit organization to run the station.

"It'll give us some fundraising opportunities that we didn't have before," said David Poinsett, an Elmwood Township resident who started the group. "It also gives us the opportunity to expand the coverage."

Poinsett said he wants to solidify the group and come up with a proposal by April 2008, which is when city commissioners would like to consider a plan.

The recent creation of governmental channel 99 means more changes.

Lewis expects to be able to show nearly 100 meetings a year on channel 99 for about the price the city paid to air 24 meetings a year on tctv2.

The freed airtime on tctv2 potentially allows the channel to focus on more citizen-produced programming, its supporters said.

"We're almost a community forum more than a TV station," said Mike Kroes, tctv2 station coordinator. "We hope they'll want to change the world, but if they want to make a show about their kid's garage band or their Aunt Martha's cherry pie, that's fine. There's no gate keeper here."

( categories: MICHIGAN | State Franchises )