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Your Opinion: Public access channel is not public television

Your Opinion: Public access channel is not public television

February 20th, 2013 by Michael P. Downey, Jefferson City in News

Dear Editor:

I am baffled by the discussion city leaders are having regarding the fate of JCTV. Some have suggested that the station could get funding from a government grant presumably from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB). That is simply not possible now or ever. CPB provides funding for stand-alone public television stations not cable stations such as JCTV.

The station does qualify for funds from the city's franchise agreement with Mediacom, and there is more than enough money there to fully fund the station at its current level and more. Most communities pay for their access channels with funds from the cable franchise agreements. Columbia pays for three. City leaders should explain why they are not doing that with JCTV.

Some city leaders have made critical statements about the station's programming. Apparently they wish for Downton Abbey and Sesame Street. But these programs are only available to PBS stations, not public access stations. Stations such as JCTV should broadcast programs that are uniquely Jefferson City, and that is exactly what the staff and volunteers of the station have done. If officials want different programs, they have the power to create their own. That's the beauty of public access.

City officials have never explained why they believe that funding for the TV station should be cut or eliminated or paid for by someone else. The city has not experienced a shortfall of funds; it has had a surplus. The university has been a good partner, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars of support for the station. In other communities, the city doesn't think twice about fully funding its public access channel. Why are we so different?

The timing is also curious. In the fall, the City Council voted to put off a decision on JCTV because Lincoln University was in the middle of a fiscal year. Well, Lincoln is still in the middle of the fiscal year. Why do city officials think they need to vote now? The city has the ability to end or alter its partnership with Lincoln virtually any time it wants.

The City Council needs to make certain it has complete, accurate information before making a decision that could cost people their jobs.