Aspen government TV short on funds
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” After five years of covering public meetings, CGTV is seeking a raise as high as 50 percent from the governmental entities it broadcasts, but it’s been a tough sell so far.
On Monday night, the town of Snowmass Village, one of the station’s three funding sources, said it couldn’t afford the proposed $11,734 increase proposed by CGTV, a Channel 11 spin-off of Aspen-based GrassRoots Television.
Since 2004, the Aspen and Pitkin County governments have each paid $24,000 to run programming on the station. Snowmass Village’s contribution has risen from $10,000 in 2004 to $13,333 in 2004-07, to $24,000 in 2008.
CGTV is seeking $35,734 from Snowmass Village and Pitkin County for 2009. Aspen pays slightly more because CGTV broadcasts its City Council work sessions.
“It’s too bad that Snowmass found itself in that situation,” said Pat Bingham, Pitkin County’s liaison to CGTV, on Tuesday, in response to Snowmass’s denial.
So far, said Bingham, Pitkin County has appropriated the additional requested money. But the county’s budget has not yet been approved.
Getting more money from the city of Aspen also has been a challenge for CGTV. The station’s executive director, John Masters, said the City Council was confused by, and uncomfortable with, the presentation of the funding request. GrassRoots has since rewritten the request with Aspen finance director Don Taylor and expects to present it again soon, he said. Taylor couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday
Masters attributed the need for more funding partly to inflation, but largely to a desire on the part of the station to have Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass pay the full cost of the operation. For nearly five years, CGTV has run it at a loss, said Masters. Money raised by the Aspen nonprofit GrassRoots TV has made up the difference.
Masters said that although GrassRoots was willing to make up the difference in order to get CGTV off the ground, it cannot continue to do so.
“We can’t lose money serving the governments,” he said.
Eventually, he said, money spent on providing government programming affects the nonprofit’s ability to provide community programming. Masters also argued that those donating to GrassRoots Television don’t necessarily expect their money to subsidize the government station.
Meanwhile, Snowmass Town Council members pointed out that entities such as the Aspen School Board don’t pay to run programming on CGTV. Councilman John Wilkinson suggested that GrassRoots ought to charge every governmental entity.
Bingham said that the decision not to charge the school district was made by the representatives from Aspen, Snowmass Village and Pitkin County in an attempt to bring new programming onto the station. She acknowledged that it might be time to ask the school board for money.
“It could be that we’re going to have to come up with some kind of fee because we’re being charged more,” Bingham said.
She also suggested it might be useful to look to other entities that might want to broadcast their meetings, noting that the hospital district, fire district or public safety council might be options.
Bingham also suggested that because of the rising cost of broadcasting on CGTV, it might be time for Pitkin County, Aspen and Snowmass Village to look into other options, noting that the governmental entities have a responsibility to the taxpayers to seek the least expensive option.
“Maybe this is a great opportunity for us to start looking at other providers who might be out there,” she said.
On Monday, the Snowmass Town Council also noted that its Granicus program, which offers web streaming and on-demand video, is very popular with its constituents. Granicus costs the council $13,200, according to the Snowmass Village finance department.
Masters said GrassRoots should soon be able to offer on-demand video of government and community programming in addition to television programming. A recent grant from an anonymous donor has allowed the nonprofit to upgrade digital equipment as well as make changes to its facility. Masters expected the equipment to be installed by the second week of December.
In the meantime, both Masters and Bingham said they will have to figure out what to do about the presumed budget shortfall for this year.
“We’re working on that,” Masters said.
In 2004, GrassRoots created CGTV to separate its government programming from its community-access programming, which is still shown on GrassRoots Television. For roughly four years, the channel has provided Aspen, Pitkin County and Snowmass Village a place to air government programming.
GrassRoots manages the station, and representatives from the three towns, working together, determine the station programming. Programming currently includes government meetings, government talk shows, and a bulletin board of community announcements.
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