October 25, 2008

CAN TV funding future faces key ordinance vote

(CIMC) - On Friday, October 31, the City of Chicago Committee on Finance will vote on an ordinance which would provide a more stable funding stream for Chicago's fleet of public access cable TV channels.

Chicago Access Network Television (CAN TV) is the focus of a proposed city ordinance, which would assure stable funding from local and state cable revenues.

CAN TV was established by the City of Chicago in its original cable ordinance with the anticipation that adequate funding would be provided from cable franchisees. The ordinance to fund CAN TV would amend Chapter 4-280 of the Municipal Code of Chicago in light of a number of changes, key among them: the passage of Illinois state video franchise law, and the failure of meaningful cable competition, which determines CAN TV's funding formula. As cable competition has dwindled due to increasing concentration in cable markets, so has CAN TV's funding base, which the City is stepping up to rectify through this ordinance.

The ordinance also assures that, with the advent of new state law, a 1% funding stream for public, educational, and government access channels in Illinois is directed to CAN TV from new cable providers, like AT&T. This is consistent with the funding provided to CAN TV during the first 15 years of Chicago's cable franchises, and will help create a stable funding source for CAN TV.

But should the ordinance fail, CAN TV would stand to lose a quarter of its current funding base, and would almost certainly be forced to cut staff and services. Given the healthy growth in cable revenues at a rate of 5-7% annually, and the importance of expanding local communications as technologies evolve in the digital age, it is critically important to preserve local media resources like CAN TV. The time is now for the City of Chicago to stand firm and assure the health of the organization it created to serve Chicago residents and groups.

Presently, formal support for the ordinance appears to be strong. 37 of Chicago's 50 aldermen have signed the ordinance, which was introduced by longtime Chicago Aldermen Edmund Burke (14th Ward) and Bernard Stone (50th Ward). But this is Chicago, and it's not over until the ordinance passes, a process that comes to its first test at the upcoming City of Chicago Committee on Finance hearing on Friday October 31, at 10am at City Hall, Room 201-A. Every Chicago resident with an interest in sustaining CAN TV's service to the community is encouraged to show support by attending this hearing and urging support of this ordinance from the Mayor and City Council.

CAN TV is home to a number of activist-oriented regular TV shows, including Chicago Independent Television (the monthly TV show of Chicago Indymedia), Labor Beat, Democracy Now!, CAN TV Community Partners, and regular call-in shows for a host of political activist groups including the Iraq Veterans Against the War and the Gay Liberation Network. A failed vote on October 31 ordinance would almost certainly affect the future viability of some, perhaps all, of these shows.