Public access hits yet another snag

By Tom Coombe

A special city committee spent nearly five months to develop a plan for rejuvenating Ely's public access cable television channel, but members may be sent back to the drawing board. <BR><BR>City council members removed a cable television ordinance from Thursday's meeting agenda, after city attorney Larry Klun took issue with several aspects of the plan advanced by a temporary advisory committee.<BR><BR>"There are too many issues to resolve here," said council member Paul Kess, who also serves on the committee.<BR><BR>The committee had recommended an ordinance establishing a cable television advisory board to oversee public access operations, and a sample agreement between the city and a still-to-be-determined entity to coordinate public access operations.<BR><BR>In a March 1 letter to the council, Klun listed a series of concerns with the ordinance recommended by the committee, including that it:<BR><BR>* Removes authority over the channel from the council, which conflicts with contract terms with cable provider Charter Communications;<BR><BR>* Creates conflict of interests by having public access directors serve on the still-to-be-formed advisory board;<BR><BR>* Appears to understate the rules and procedures needed to balance the public's interest;<BR><BR>* Appears to skew the function of the advisory board toward a service provider contract, raising issues of access, management and inclusiveness;<BR><BR>* Greatly reduces the advisory role of the board.<BR><BR>Kess said the committee would reconvene to address the concerns.<BR><BR>Committee members had advanced the ordinance, as well as a sample agreement between the city and an organization to carry on day-to-day operations of public access programming, including scheduling, coordination of live and delayed broadcasts and control of public access equipment.<BR><BR>Many committee members said they envisioned that an agreement would be struck between the city and Ely Public Access Television, the organization that has coordinated local programming for several years.<BR><BR>Kess, however, has recommended that the city seek proposals before turning over public access operations, as well as money generated from franchise fee payments and a one-time, $25,000 allocation for equipment from Charter, to EPAT.<BR><BR>Under terms of the proposed agreement, the entity selected to run public access television must regularly carry city council meetings for both live and taped broadcast, schedule programming, operate a message board on the channel for community announcements, and train community members in use of videotaping equipment.<BR><BR>