February 1, 2005

A Year of CAN TV Funding Struggles Comes to an End

Throughout 2004, Third Coast Press reported on CAN TV, the network of Chicago public access TV channels, and the funding fight over its future. In January 2004, the cable company RCN had defaulted on due payments to CAN TV, which brought tremendous protest and record-setting fines against RCN. Not long thereafter, RCN filed for bankruptcy.

In May 2004, Chicago Alderman Bernard Stone (50th Ward) had offered an ordinance to restructure the funding for CAN TV. The ordinance was passed by the city's Finance Committee, but didn't advance to the City Council. This led to months of negotiations with the Mayor's office. But both Alderman Stone and Mayor Richard M. Daley brought a revised version of the ordinance for approval. This ordinance would not have required the use of any of the city's money. Instead, it called for CAN TV to receive five percent of the city's cable franchise fee and allowed for additional funds to be collected from cable companies via the city's amusement tax.

But then Comcast, the city's dominant cable provider, entered the picture. Local Comcast officials had objected to the ordinance, saying that it would prove to be burdensome to consumers, even though the expected costs would have amounted to less than two dollars per year to Comcast subscribers. Still,Comcast asked for 30 days to present an alternate solution, which they got when the Chicago City Council deferred the ordinance for one month.

In subsequent negotiations, Comcast and CAN TV did agree on a contract in which Comcast would pay CAN TV on an interim basis the equivalent of what the Stone ordinance would have required. At the December 1 City Council meeting, a resolution replaced the ordinance, urging all parties to arrive at an agreed- upon long-term mutual solution by December 1, 2006.

There's an additional positive development. It turns out that CAN TV arrived at a financial settlement with RCN that fulfilled RCN's financial obligations in one of the city's five cable areas. The City released RCN from its franchises in two other areas in which RCN couldn't operate further. With all of these developments, the bottom line is that CAN TV looks to have enough finances to remain viable for the next three years.

What will happen thereafter is unclear, but CAN TV and affiliated supporting organizations have already begun organizing and planning to ensure that CAN TV has a viable long-term future.

To learn more about how you can participate,you can contact CAN TV at 312/738-1400 or go online at cantv.org.