Our Opinion: Turn off city government contribution to JCTV

News Tribune editorial

The Jefferson City Council is scheduled to vote Monday on whether to shut off its contribution to the public access channel, JCTV.

We encourage council members to do so.

First, ending the city’s contribution is not necessarily a death knell for the station. Lincoln University, which operates the station, may choose to invest in it, particularly as a learning laboratory for communications students.

Second, although a reduction in city funding and the possibility of termination preceded the city’s existing budget shortfall, the council also on Monday will be asked to decide how to bridge a $1.68 million budget gap this fiscal year.

Second Ward Councilman Shawn Schulte, who will offer the resolution to end the contract, said he wanted to be upfront with the involved parties — Lincoln, JCTV, city officials and the public.

The action should come as no surprise.

Jefferson City last year budgeted $110,000 — a $55,000 cut — to continue JCTV operations through this June. The city’s message was the station needed to demonstrate public support, including monetary support. The response has been lukewarm.

Admittedly, the public access station was originated by Jefferson City. In 1988, the City Council approved a one-year, $50,000 contract with Lincoln to operate the station.

At that time, the city’s contribution was derived from the franchise fee collected under an exclusive contract with the city’s cable provider.

In past decades, the landscape has changed dramatically and, although the city still collects a franchise fee from its cable provider, the money now is part of general revenue.

JCTV supporters contend the city could, and should, continue using franchise fees to finance the channel.

A counter-argument is JCTV is not an essential, or widely demanded, city service.

Public access television held enormous potential to connect city residents, activities and government when the council made an investment in 1988.

And, although public access channels have been successful in a number of communities around the country, that potential never was realized here, despite past attempts to revitalize the channel.

At some point, our elected council members — on behalf of city taxpayers — must hit the “off” button.

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