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Public access hits yet another snag

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. 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."There are too many issues to resolve here," said council member Paul Kess, who also serves on the committee.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.In a March 1 letter to the council, Klun listed a series of concerns with the ordinance recommended by the committee, including that it:* Removes authority over the channel from the council, which conflicts with contract terms with cable provider Charter Communications;* Creates conflict of interests by having public access directors serve on the still-to-be-formed advisory board;* Appears to understate the rules and procedures needed to balance the public's interest;* Appears to skew the function of the advisory board toward a service provider contract, raising issues of access, management and inclusiveness;* Greatly reduces the advisory role of the board.Kess said the committee would reconvene to address the concerns.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.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.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.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.

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