Thank you to those who have shown your support and courage to speak up on this important issue so far.
The suddenly released plans to spend over $778,000 of PEG access funding deserves public and opened discussion.
WCCA, as well as others, as we understand, have been requesting a committee discussion regarding underutilized Public Access funds for over 15 years, our request for discussion on this has not been fully responded to. This, in my opinion, is another example where the city can be perceived to to have dropped the ball to illustrate it’s desire to enhance opportunities for community participation or development. It also can be seen as a matter lacking in transparency.
Since when, over the last 10 years, has there been a public discussion about such detailed studio plans, or the underutilized cable franchise funding, or any relative pre-planning for this basement studio, a studio, many seem to feel is unnecessary and redundant, with WCCA studio minutes away?
Given City Hall already has two fully equipped chambers, the actual need for a City Hall TV studio build for over $778,000 seems like a waste of public access money. The actual need for that was never demonstrated, and, in light of the real public community access needs that was demonstrated by WCCA , expanding a studio for government expansion is a real slap in the face to the broad community WCCA serves. This is not to say that WCCA does not appreciate the funding it does receive through the Cable franchise provisions. In short, in 2014, the City received over 2.1 million dollars in cable license fees and of that, WCCA was appropriated 765,166.85. The City, the government channel and WPS channel receive the remainder of that 2.1 million. In 1986 the City formed WCCA in order to facilitate and advocate for Public Access. The Cable Act set the parameters for municipalities to pursue support for their public access channels through a cable franchise license process. This process calls for community input.
Although WCCA and others have called for public discussion on this to suddenly read news of a planned studio in City Hall, in the T&G, was disappointing and unexpected. WCCA may have been aware that the City had plans on a back burner to build a studio, however, we were also under the impression there would be further discussion and community input on that through the Public Service and Transportation Committee before further steps would be taken. The primary roll of a City Hall government channel is to cover meetings in real time. There should be little turn around time to capture a meeting live and cable cast it.
I do not fault this City Manager, personally, he has been a supporter of WCCA. That is why this news, without further public discussion, was such a surprise. In my opinion, either the City Manager Edward Augustus appears to may have been misled or the process is flawed.
The two large meeting rooms already equipped with cameras and lighting plus a small fleet of field camera’s and and an edit suites, which the government channel has had for decades, are ample facilities needed for that task. If there is a month turn around to post a video of a meeting it should not be because of studio space lacking. This spending of PEG funds limits the public voices that WCCA serves in the long run. There are many cost and associated expenses to operating and maintaining a studio space. It’s use is also something that the Citizens should have some input and or information about.
We believe the Act of Congress that allowed for Public Access support was intended to serve and prioritize community use in a free speech venue shared by all citizens. The people in the public access community deserve the best. WCCA has and continues to be willing to share its expanded studios with ALL members of our community, including the City, it currently does that, including with City entities and departments. It simply was not made clear how the plan for what is essentially a 3rd studio in City hall will be in the best interest of the community. Will anyone really believe limiting broader community sharing be a healthier and best way to support local media and local community media needs?
Simply reiterated, I feel an opportunity for public comment is warranted. Therefor I made the request that this item be sent to committee for public comment.
Mauro DePasquale, 146 Morningside Road, Worcester MA 01602 # # #
Michael Gaffney wrote on FB:
“Finally! I’ve repeatedly asked for the financial information behind the cable franchise money that has been put aside for this project that has never been vetted at council (yes, I checked with the clerk.) I even have my request before committee. Then, seemingly out of the blue, a well developed plan is dropped on the council agenda. The monies should be used to enhance our public access channel, providing the city with reasonable access to studio time as needed. This would benefit all and reduce duplication of expenses. Further, the complete lack of transparency again and again is concerning. I do not want a government channel pumping out propaganda against neighborhood involvement. (Can’t wait to the hear the administration say there is no conspiracy, etc. As I know they troll my page.)”
Link to Walter Bird’s Editorial in Worcester Magazine