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Local governments cut funding for public-access TV

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Local governments cut funding for public-access TV

  • Controversial political programming is the reason for funding cuts in Eugene and the surrounding county, says a public access television producer.

Sep. 9, 2003 — Local officials in Eugene and in Lane County, Ore., recently pulled the plug on government funding for public access television in reaction to controversial programming on the system, say critics. Officials reallocated approximately $15,000 that the two governments had marked for Community Television in Lane County this year.

Many of the shows aired on Community Television (CTV) express views and ideas ranging far across the political spectrum. According to The (Eugene) Register-Guard, the anarchist-themed show “Cascadia Alive” was recently investigated by the U.S. Secret Service after the show included a music video containing an image of President George W. Bush with a gun to his head.

“The reason CTV lost its funding is because [city officials] are afraid of the issues raised by ‘Cascadia Alive’ and other independent producers,” Amy Pincus Merwin told the Register. Merwin is a political activist and producer of “Informed TV,” a community affairs and news program on CTV.

Eugene City Councilor Bonny Bettman confirmed Merwin’s sentiments, saying the funding cut was definitely a political issue. “There are conservative factions on the council, and they don’t favor [community television].”

Two additional public access television stations exist in Lane County, channel 21 (Metrovision) and channel 23 (educational programming). Both stations have maintained their government funding. Apart from a small amount of money provided by a public school district in Eugene for equipment upkeep — a local high school also uses the television studio — the $15,000 made up CTV’s entire budget.

Said Eugene City Councilor David Kelly, “This is a very small amount of money concerned in a city budget of $80 million.”

Community television has existed in Lane County since the deregulation of cable broadcasting in the 1980s. Initially, 40 percent of the fees cable companies paid to cities and towns were required, per Federal Communications Commission regulations, to be spent on public-access television. Those regulations were later changed, allowing cities to divert the fees to their general funds.

As has been the case for the past three years, since CTV branched off from Metrovision, funding for CTV was part of Eugene’s annual budget. But at the City Council meeting June 23, 2003, Councilor Scott Meisner filed a motion that stripped CTV of $7,500, which was reallocated to various community arts programs. Milo Mecham, principal planner of economic development for the Lane Council of Governments, says Lane County revoked the same amount, its full share of the funding, to reduce the government’s 2003 budget deficit.


© 2003 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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