CABLE ACCESS ADVISORY COMMISSION

February 14, 2007

 

PRESENT: Ernest Bedford; Jason Brown; Don Deibert; Roy Green; Linda Malekadeli;

Norm Neher

           

ABSENT:  Bob Granstra

 

ALSO PRESENT:  Melissa Barnard – Library; Judy MacDonald – Secretary

 

I.                CALL To Order

By Malekadeli at 7pm

 

II.            APPROVAL - of November 8, 2006 Minutes

Minutes approved as submitted. 

 

III.        PUBLIC Comments

None.

 

IV.            OLD Business

 

1.    CAAC Goals, 2006-07

Beacom reviewed CAAC goals for this fiscal year (agenda packet) and reports the following:

§         Completed process on user fees and will start process to collect new revenues. 

§         Friends have a show on MCTV in an effort to increase awareness.

§         The organizational award went to Memorial Presbyterian Church and was presented during Honors Night 2006 which was held the last Thursday in November.  It was a fundraiser and was well attended and raised good money.

 

2.    Friends of MCTV Update

Beacom says show’s ongoing and have taped 3 episodes.  The last meeting was held the end of January where the aftermath of Honors Night ’06 was discussed.  Honors Night ’07 will be held the 1st Thursday in October.  Friends discussed fund raising ideas.  The challenge is to raise $50,000 over 3 years (or $8,000-$9,000 every 6 mos.).  Options for fundraising events are being reviewed and the intention is to hold an event before the end of June.  Diebert states he is supportive of Friends, but questions whether Friends should be on CAAC agenda since Council made a challenge to Friends to raise money, Friends are not connected to CAAC and a couple CAAC members are involved.  Beacom responds he puts Friends on agenda because it is interconnected, even though CAAC doesn’t have control over it.

 

3.    Legislation

Beacom reports that Governor Granholm signed new video franchising legislation into law.  Michigan Public Services Commission, (MPSC), has drafted a template for communities to use as an agreement with the cable or phone companies.  MCTV services are provided by Charter Communications.  One issue is what action, if any, Charter is going to take under the new law.  A second issue is if and when the phone company, (most likely AT&T), comes to town and takes business away from Charter.  A third issue concerns the definition of gross revenues as outlined within the agreement.  According to the agreement, Charter might have the option to start charging for in-kind services, (like getting our signal to them), that they currently provide at no charge.

 

Discussion followed with Diebert siting a WSJ article that describes the difficulty AT&T and Verizon are having implementing the technology.  Their subscriptions are low and they have a lot of technical cliches to work through.  Diebert states that it will probably be a couple years before we see anything.  Neher asks if Charter has the option of not carrying our 3 stations?  Beacom responds that the MPSC agreement requires Charter to keep what they currently have.  Green asks if legislation takes place at Federal level, will it supercede the State?  Beacom responds that the legislation passed the House, but got stalled in the Senate.  The FCC has passed some rules that are under a lot a scrutiny in Washington.  The states that already have agreements will follow their state agreements.  If there is Federal legislation that passes, then most likely the Federal will override the State legislation.  Diebert states that it sounds like this is not going to affect us much over the next several years.  Beacom responds, initially it won’t, but the big question is if the phone company comes to town and takes business away from Charter.  The phone company doesn’t pay until they take 30% of business away from cable which means the cable communication fund could see a reduction of 30% in franchise fee revenues.

 

V.                NEW Business

1.    Cable Communications Fund

Beacom reviewed the actions that have been taken since December 2005 in response to the projected Cable Communication Fund deficit of almost $500,000 over 5 years.  In summary there were proposed personnel cuts from full-time to part-time (Production Asst. and Office Asst.), adjustment in fees paid to MPS, and reduction in meeting coverage.  After input from the public in support of MCTV, City Council responded with a General Fund subsidy of $106,100 to keep us whole for this fiscal year.  Things have changed. 

 

Beacom reviewed the Cable Communication Fund Multi-Year Financial Plan. An audit was conducted and Charter’s last two payments have come in higher than several previous payments.  Budget revenues were revised to $470,000 based on projections at Charter’s current rate of payments.  Personnel services costs went down due to change in Office Asst. position from full-time to part-time.  Proposed revenues for the ’07/’08 fiscal year include $15,000 in charge for service for staff time on City in 15, $3,000 in user fees which become effective on March 1st, $10,000 in sponsorships (or underwriting), and $2,000 for equipment rental.  In summary, $100,000 is the goal of additional revenues and cost reductions we need to come up with each year.  We have $26,000 additional revenues due to increase in franchise fees, $38,000 savings due to full-time position going to part-time, and $30,000 additional projected new revenues.  This plan was presented by the City Manager and Fiscal Services Director to City Council at the planning retreat in January and Council looked at it favorably.

 

Neher questions how investment earnings were calculated.  Beacom points out assumptions made in plan; fund balance goal is $75,000, no increase in franchise fees other than the $470,000 we’re talking about this year, 3½% increase in personnel wages and benefits, and investment earnings projections at 3%.  Beacom indicates the new projected fund balance after 5 years will be $181,000 instead of a nearly $500,000 deficit.  The numbers will be looked at closely from year to year.  Neher questions the big dip in fund balance from $103,997 to $17,000 in 2012.  Barnard states it’s due to rising personnel costs.  Beacom says the flat revenues and increasing personnel costs have an almost exponential negative effect on the fund balance.  Diebert states the year before is where the downward trend begins.  Diebert concludes that at some point in time we either need additional City funding, or we need to continue cutting services.  He also offers that he thinks with what we are doing, we are giving ourselves a number of years to give opportunities for other things to happen that are positive.  Neher states that it looks like the projections have been made conservatively, but questions why there is a 3½% increase in personnel.  Isn’t that a little high?  Barnard states that also includes benefits.  Diebert states there could also be a reduction in franchise revenues in a few years due to AT&T taking away business.  Beacom says he is comfortable looking 2 years out and beyond that he just doesn’t know.  Green questions if the assumption is that there will be no change in franchise fees.  Beacom confirms. 

 

Beacom presents the Cable Communication Fund projections in graph form.  He states that after 5 years it will be fairly above the fund balance goal of $75,000.  Beacom also discusses the $12,000 budgeted for contingencies.  This amount was determined by what it would cost if a major piece of equipment had to be replaced.  This contingency has only been used a few times since he has been with MCTV.  Therefore, the decision was made to spread this cost out over several years with the $12,000 coming in and out of the budget.  Beacom points out that equipment needs to be replaced about every 5-7 years and he is not able to budget for that.  Brown asks how change to Hi-Def will effect the budget for new purchases of equipment.  Beacom says Ron Brown investigated some things a couple years ago and did a test with Charter in terms of sending out a digital vs. analog signal to see what it would look like.  One issue would be who’s going to bear the cost of the conversion (Charter or MCTV).  It costs several thousand dollars to convert.  In terms of Hi-Def, Beacom states he doesn’t have an answer right now.  It depends on when cable has to meet those guidelines.  He states we won’t have a lot of money to pour into converting.  The broadcaster’s deadline is either ’08 or ’09.  Neher says satellite still has only a handful of HD channels.  Brown states about 8 or 10 channels.  Beacom states we might have time because of the amount of old programs that are out there that are not in Hi-Def.  Brown says he is set up for Hi-Def post-production, but his clients are not able to use this yet.  Neher states he doesn’t believe the ’08/’09 deadline will be met.  Barnard asks Beacom to clarify what we are asking from the Commission with this budget.  Beacom says we are not asking for a vote or recommendation that they support it.  He states that what is in front of them right now is some proposed revisions to rules and ordinances so we can create these other funding streams.  Barnard states that Council hasn’t seen the total budget for ’07/’08 and still has the budget process to go through.  Beacom will be presenting to Council this same proposal as they look at it in context of the whole city budget.  Green asks why we are receiving an increased amount of franchise fees from Charter.  Beacom says that it is possible that when the City annexed neighboring properties, the franchise fees may have mistakenly gone to the Township instead of the City.  Green asks if there is some sort of report showing the number of subscribers.  Beacom says they do give a breakdown of the different revenues they collect.  Green asks how much lagtime there is after the end of a period before the report is available.  Beacom says the end of the period was December and he believes Charter has to complete it by the end of February.  Malekadeli asks if that was the $26,000 difference that we’re talking about.  Beacom says yes, over a year.

 

2.    MCTV Ordinance/Rules Revisions

Beacom reviewed the proposed changes to the MCTV Ordinances and Rules and Procedures (agenda packet).  In summary, the proposed changes will allow MCTV to 1) obtain revenues from recognition of underwriting support, and 2) obtain revenues from facility and equipment rental. 

 

Beacom states the primary use of equipment is to create programs for use on our channels.  Beacom expresses his intent in regards to equipment rental would be to honor an access user’s reservation in the case where a commercial operator requests equipment on a date that is already reserved by an access user.  Neher asks whether that is written anywhere or left up to Beacom’s discretion.  Beacom says it’s difficult to write the perfect rule, there has to be some discretion and a fair amount of authority given to MCTV’s coordinator.  This will help avoid situations like a commercial company operating their business with the use of our equipment.  Neher asks if there’s a plan to set a list of fees.  Beacom says we won’t know until we test the market.  Diebert expressed his concern about consistency with rates being charged, but does not know how to deal with that right now.  Neher stated that Beacom will be given a lot of discretion while everything is being figured out, but he’s guessing things will be solidified with the next version.  Green points out that this is small amount being raised by this means.  Beacom says that he is more optimistic about revenues from underwriting and we have more controls over that.  He explained the changes to the language were made with a minimalist approach.

 

Beacom says the process is to present these changes, get public input, then make recommendation to Council.  A special hearing will be needed to get public input on the proposed changes and a newsletter will be sent out to access users describing the proposed changes.  Beacom read the resolution.  Green motioned to accept resolution.  Brown seconded.  Motion passed unanimously.  A public hearing will be held on Monday, March 5th.

 

3.    CAAC Terms

Beacom reviews CAAC terms for informational purposes only.  Deibert and Neher’s terms will expire this year and the City Manager’s office will want to know somewhere in early April if they are interested in ‘re-enlisting’.

 

 

VI.            ANNOUNCEMENTS

1.    Invoices recently went out for the user fees effective March 1st.

2.    Several major productions at MCTV including the Dow Corning Tennis Classic which took place this past Sunday, MHS/DHS Hockey which takes place next week, and the last symphony Carlton Woods will conduct (one in March, one in April).

3.    State chapter meeting of the ‘Alliance for Community Media’ will be held on March 14th with a trade show in the morning put on by the Michigan Assoc. of Broadcasters at the Lansing Center, and a presentation from Leightronics in the afternoon.  The MPSC agreement will be covered.

4.    The next Friends of MCTV meeting will be February 27th at 7pm in the Library Lounge.

5.    Nat’l Library Week is April 15-21.  Theme is ‘Get in the Game at your Library’ – a connection with baseball and the Loons.  MCTV will host an Open House on Saturday, April 21, 10am – 2pm and will involve GMS with live arts activities.

 

VII.        ADJOURNMENT

Next meeting is the special meeting on March 5, 2007.  The next regular meeting is May 9, 2007 at 7pm.  Diebert moved to adjourn meeting.  Bedford seconded.  Meeting adjourned at 8:15pm.