CABLE ACCESS ADVISORY COMMISSION

APRIL 12, 2006

 

PRESENT: Don Deibert, Todd DuBois, Bob Granstra, Roy Green, Jim Huber, Linda Malekadeli

 

ABSENT:     Fred Johnson

 

ALSO PRESENT:  Ron Beacom – MCTV, Melissa Barnard – Library, Brandi Pfohl – Secretary

 

I.                     CALL To Order

By Malekadeli at 7pm

 

II.                   APPROVAL Of November 9, 2005 Minutes

New Business - Item 2 Budget Response Plan.  Added the wording of the resolution passed: “The Commission supports the Cable Communications Fund Budget Response Plan as submitted by City staff.”  Minutes of November 9, 2005 were corrected and approved.

 

III.                  PUBLIC Comments

None

 

IV.               OLD Business

1.      CAAC Goals

Beacom reviewed current goals.

 

2.      Federal/State Legislation

Beacom reviewed proposed federal and state telecommunications legislation.  In Washington, D.C., the “COPE Bill” was presented by a subcommittee on Telecommunications and the Internet chaired by Michigan Congressman Fred Upton.  It was approved by that subcommittee. The Michigan Municipal League (MML) interpretation is that it creates a national franchise system allowing new cable providers to cherry pick profitable customers rather then provide service to all.  It would allow incumbent providers to get out of their current local cable franchise agreements as soon as new entrant offers service.  Also fails to provide sufficient enforcement authority over local management of rights of way.  It does not keep local government revenues whole. The MML wants members to contact legislators asking them to only support legislation that maintains local control of cable franchise process, and ensures the build-out requirement. The use of the public rights-of-way by private companies means that everyone should share in the benefits. 

 

In Michigan, House Bill 5895 and Senate Bill 1157 lessen the definition of what gross revenues are.  Granstra asked if the League of Women Voters program on

the “Future of Access Television” was running on a regular basis.  Beacom stated yes. MCTV is also sending it to other access centers in the state and the country to be shown on their stations.  Malekadeli stated she had composed a letter for the Commission to sign to send to their representatives.  Deibert stated he has sent his own letters and would also sign this one.  Malekadeli encouraged the public to contact the representatives.  Deibert suggested that staff should send out a supplemental newsletter with updates on the legislation.  Granstra asked if Verizon and AT&T are the main phone companies behind legislation.  Beacom stated yes.

 

3.      Budget Response Plan

Beacom reviewed the response plan that was presented to the commission and City Council in November and December. Council accepted the report but wanted to see more information after the City received the second quarter payment from Charter and the results of the franchise fee audit.  Beacom reviewed the new response plan submitted to City Council on April 10. Given continued flat revenues for Charter, more cuts are recommended:

 

-Reduce the full-time production assistant and the full time office assistant positions to part time.

-Eliminate the internship position.

-Reduce the meeting coverage of boards and commission to just Council, Planning and the Zoning Board.

-Seek $50,000 from “Friends of MCTV” to support capital equipment purchases.

-After current agreement ends, reduce future payments to the Midland Public Schools from $20,000 per year to $16,000 per year.

-Revise tape duplication policy and fees

-Move the costs for replacement of the MGTV 5 message board and the streaming video fee from the Cable Fund to the General Fund.

 

These projected cuts will mean the fund will reach the fund balance goal of $75,000 in five years.  Green asked what the effect will be if the proposed legislation passes.  Beacom stated there would be a further reduction in revenue.  Green asked whether a customer with a different video provider will be able to receive the access channels. Beacom stated they should be able to.

 

 Malekadeli asked if we have explored charging individuals and organizations fees for using MCTV.  Beacom said it has been discussed. There is concern that it could discourage some access users from volunteering or submitting programs. He also said if a fee was charged, the amount raised wouldn’t solve the budget problem.  Malekadeli suggested charging $25-50 for “outside shows.”  Granstra asked about other funding including money from the foundations and the General Fund.  Beacom stated City Council mentioned General Fund support in December.  Regarding grant money, a “Friends of MCTV” would have to be developed to start raising money. Beacom stated most foundations will provide money for equipment and facilities but not for staff costs.

 

 Malekadeli stated MCTV is going backwards. Are there any other avenues to explore?  Beacom stated the growth of services has collided with no growth in revenue.  City budgets across the country are facing challenges.  Granstra said public broadcasting has sponsors for day or a half day. Would that be a possibility here?  Beacom said we’d have to see if there are limitations in the cable franchise agreement and in City ordinances. Beacom asked who would get the sponsors. Granstra stated he would rather see money spent now to get more money than cut staff right away.

 

Deibert stated the commission should approve the response plan and also look into some of these fundraising suggestions. Malekadeli stated she worked as a fund raiser. She said it’s not that difficult to find ways to raise money from foundations and write grants. We should delay this action while we try to find other ways.  Beacom stated staff would support the commission’s efforts to look for other money, but postponing the budget response plan at the current rate of spending would continue to increase the projected deficit.  Malekadeli questioned whether other areas have been cut like new equipment.  Beacom stated all major items have been except for the plan to replace field equipment in 2008-09. He said that replacement has to be somewhere in the budget.

 

Green stated the deficit will be over $400,000 at the end of 2010-11 if no cuts are made. He said City Council is looking for cuts now.  Deibert stated we may not like the results, but the fact is the deficit is there and the cuts are needed. We can still continue to look for ways to raise money. Granstra did not agree with the reductions in services and personnel. He said it would result in a reduction of shows produced. He again said he wants the cuts delayed so there’s time to find additional funding. Once the cuts are made, that’s it.  Beacom stated it’s a difficult spot, but policy mandates that we cannot have a deficit.  Huber asked about how much is saved by eliminating the production intern.  Beacom responded approximately $19,000.

 

Green stated the Commission could approve the response plan which would meet the fund balance goal. The Commission could also approve a plan to seek more money.  Green asked when the cuts would begin. Beacom stated if Council approves the budget changes in late May, the process will start after that and be finalized by July 1.  Any adjustments need to be made before then.  Huber questioned whether the full time positions are “year round.”  Beacom stated yes.  Huber questioned how many hours would the part-timers be scheduled. Beacom stated the Production Assistant would be 24 hours per week and the Office Assistant, 25 hours per week.  Granstra questioned what the impact would be on productions.  Beacom stated MCTV will be closed on Monday and Friday nights and only open on Saturdays for training.  Office Assistant will probably be scheduled 5 hours a day, 5 days per week.  This means Ron Browne and Beacom will fill in the gaps.  Malekadeli stated reduction in productions will reduce viewership.  Huber stated that’s only a possibility.

 

Beacom stated Council meets on May 1. One option would be to have a subcommittee meet to develop some ideas and have the whole commission meet again. Council will again discuss the budget on May 8. Council makes its final decision on May 22.  Deibert stated the commission needs to be supportive of the staff plan because it’s been done within the City’s guidelines. To not recommend it, would diminish the commission’s credibility with Council. Malekadeli stated the commission does not have to agree, if we have to, what are we here for? DuBois agreed with Deibert. We can still work on finding other avenues for money.  Granstra stated if we allow this process to continue, then we can’t reverse the cuts that will be made.  Granstra stated we could stop it for a year. We’ll know what’s going to happen with the legislation and the franchise fee and maybe find other funding. Right now, we have just 30 days to figure this out. DuBois stated the reality is we only have 30 days or less anyway. There was a lot of time and money spent to put this plan together. Deibert stated we can’t delay the process. Commission has to deal with the realities.  Beacom stated the commission could meet again to develop ideas, get them on the table, and see what the majority wants to send to Council. Green stated the commission has a narrow time frame to develop a proposal.  Council just wants to balance the budget. Malekadeli stated a subcommittee could meet. Granstra asked how much money is needed per year to meet the goal. Beacom said on average about $100,000.

 

Deibert moved to approve the recommendation as presented and include in the resolution a plan to have a separate meeting to explore more options to enhance revenues. Dubois seconded.  Granstra stated the current response plan puts too many things in process that cannot be reversed.  Our funds do not come from the General Fund, the cable franchise fees do not affect the city, this could be put on hold.  Malekadeli said she’s in agreement with Granstra that the plan cannot be reversed.    Deibert again stated the commission should approve the recommendations and then set up a separate meeting to come up with other ideas and submit those to City Council. Malekadeli called for vote on Deibert’s motion. Motion passed, 6 – 0. 

 

Granstra asked if staff could give commission guidelines on types of fundraising and what steps to follow.  Beacom stated he would look into it.  Questioned whether commission wants to meet as a subcommittee or as a whole.  Granstra suggested subcommittee first, then as a whole.  Malekadeli, Granstra and Green offered to serve on the subcommittee, which will meet on Monday, April 24 at 5pm. A special Commission meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 2, at 5pm. 

 

V.                 NEW Business  – CAAC Terms

Beacom stated three commissioners’ terms are up, Malekadeli, DuBois and Johnson.  Malekadeli has been reappointed.  DuBois and Johnson did not seek re-appointment.  Council is looking for applicants.

 

VI.               ANNOUNCEMENTS

1.      ACM Spring Conference, May 4-6, 2006

Beacom reviewed plans for conference.  Stated Edith Doil will be receiving the Roxie Cole Leadership Award.

 

VII.       ADJOURNMENT – Next regular meeting, May 10, 2006

      Huber moved to adjourn, Granstra seconded.  Meeting adjourned at 8:30pm.