November 7, 2008

CAN TV Ordinance Doesn't Pass Amid Recessed City Committee Hearing

About 100 CAN TV staff and supporters, who filled a Chicago City Hall conference room for an October 31st finance meeting, left the conference room in disappointment when the meeting ended in recess before a vote could be called over an ordinance to help fund CAN TV.

The meeting of the City of Chicago Committee on Finance ran about four- and-a-half hours without a break, from a listed 10AM start time until about 2:30pm. The meeting was called in recess by Chicago Alderman and Finance Chair Edward Burke (14th Ward) when the meeting recorder was forbidden from continuing to work, and there was no replacement recorder ready.

The ordinance in question, sponsored by Burke and by Alderman Bernard Stone (50th Ward) would assure that, with the advent of new state law, a 1% funding stream for public, educational, and government access channels in Illinois would be directed to CAN TV, thus placing CAN TV's income on a much more steady grounding. Additionally, a small portion of the City's franchise fee would be directed to CAN TV to help fund a gap caused by the current structure, which has failed due to the failure of cable competition to materialize citywide. CAN TV Executive Director Barbara Popovic testified in support of the ordinance, and answered questions brought by various committee members.

The committee members expressed support for the proposal and for CAN TV, and even jokingly jockeying to offer their respective city wards for a new permanent home for CAN TV offices and studios.

After Popovic testified, Norma Reyes, Commissioner of Consumer Services, testified against the ordinance and offered a counterproposal where the 1% funding stream would be divided 50-50 between the city and CAN TV, claiming that the city's channels fall under the PEG classification pertinent to the ordinance.

Committee members were skeptical of this counterproposal, with Alderman Stone questioning the city's claim that its channels are entitled to a portion of PEG funds on top of the 5% already collected by the City as a franchise fee. Alderman Walter Burnett (24th Ward) also doubted the counterproposal. "My show is on CAN TV. I don't have a show on [the city's channels]," Alderman Burnett said, to rousing applause from the assembled CAN TV supporters.

The ordinance to help fund CAN TV was listed as the sixth item on a meeting agenda that had 34 listed items. The committee postponed the sixth item to the end of the meeting for reasons that, to this reporter, were not made clear.

The ordinance, had it been approved, could have come to a vote at the November 5th Chicago City Council meeting. At this writing, it's unclear when the finance meeting will reconvene from recess.

CAN TV supporters are encouraged to continue contacting Chicago Aldermen to ask that the ordinance to fund CAN TV introduced by Aldermen Stone and Burke be passed. The website of the City of Chicago Committee on Finance is: