To many, channel’s problem is funding |

To many, channel’s problem is funding

Foothills Community Access Television, western Nevada County’s community television broadcaster, needs more money, many say.

FCAT, which operates on $30,000 a year, receives $5,000 a year from AT&T Broadband via the city of Grass Valley and another $15,000 a year from the county. Altogether, AT&T Broadband pays about $114, 500 a year in franchise fees to the county, Grass Valley and Nevada City to serve 10,000 subscribers in western Nevada County.

“I think they should give us 25 percent of the franchise fees,” said longtime producer Eric Tomb, a former manager at the station. “That would be a good beginning.” Tomb stressed he was speaking for himself.

Grass Valley City Councilman Steve Enos wants a new all-government channel and more money for community access television.

“A lot of communities have negotiated with AT&T for more money for community access television,” Enos said this week. “We haven’t been, and I hope to change that in the future.”

In the spring, Enos managed to persuade the majority on the City Council to set aside $12,000 for a future all-government channel. That channel may not necessarily be run by FCAT, he said.

City Councilman Gerard Tassone, who negotiated with TCI – AT&T’s predecessor – for funding for a public access station in 1994, said FCAT was supposed to try to get more money on its own.

The city never intended in the early stage to allocate a portion of the franchise fees collected from subscribers, he said. The $5,000 the city gives to FCAT does not come out of the franchise fee.

How do other communities handle community access television?

AT&T has 10,000 subscribers in Davis, the same number as in western Nevada County, according to AT&T.

Yet Davis Community Station operates on $360,000 – more than 10 times the budget of FCAT’s. About $200,000 is a franchise fee AT&T pays to the city, said Kari Peterson, the station’s executive director. The station receives another $75,000 in grant money from AT&T, she said.

Cable companies may be allowed to pay lower franchise fees in the future, and Davis Community Station may need to do more fund-raising and grant writing, and seek some underwriting, Peterson said.

“Our goal is to diversify and create less reliance on the franchise fees,” she said.

Jeff Shaw, a 1993 Nevada Union High School graduate, is a coordinator at the station in Davis.

“It’s a valuable social service,” he said of community access television. “We provide a good outlet for people who are underrepresented in the community.”

The city of Davis also uses franchise fee monies from AT&T to run an all-government channel.

Tomb, who continues to volunteer and produce shows, now wonders if FCAT should reorganize and start anew.

FCAT is more stable now that it was a year ago, and now is a good time to start fresh, he said. “We have the luxury of time and we don’t have to rush into a decision,” he said.

“We should sit down and discuss the possibility of coming up with a new community access station,” Tomb said, adding that it would be a continuation of FCAT. “I don’t exactly know what form it would take.”

AT&T contracts with the county and Grass Valley, and Tomb said those two bodies should join forces with FCAT to get more money up front. AT&T’s contract with the county expires in 2004.

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