Vancouver to FVTV: You’re Not Worthy
At Monday’s Vancouver City Council meeting, TV ETC. and CVTV were re-designated as the education and government access providers for the Comcast cable system.
But, in what was a first, the council, acting on the recommendation of the Vancouver/Clark County Telecommunications Commission, denied Fort Vancouver Community Television’s application to be re-designated as the public access provider.
Or, as I prefer to think of it, the Wayne and Garth channel.
Instead of featuring the excellent musings of two dudes who spend Friday nights (party time!) in a basement in a Chicago suburb, FVTV, on Comcast Ch. 11, airs programs that are “primarily religious or political in nature.” It is, in the eyes of the commission, a “poorly operated service.”
Bob Colleti, chairman of the telecommunications commission, told the city council that recommending the denial was not a decision the commission took lightly. FVTV has been given several warnings over the years, he said.
Among the concerns:
* Fiscal sustainability. FVTV relies on $50,000 a year from Clark County, and the commission noted a possibility the county will stop giving them money. The $50,000 pays nearly 90 percent of FVTV’s operating expenses (rent, utilities, office supplies and salaries.) FVTV, a nonprofit that relies on volunteers, earns some money from classes, producer memberships, donations and fees.
* Questionable accounting/ability to follow rules. FVTV has received $1.4 million in Public, Educational and Government grants from the city and county since it started in 2002. Those grants are only for capital purchases. According to the commission, FVTV has not paid state sales taxes on some equipment purchases, has used grant funds for operating expenses, has turned in incomplete receipts and has “grant funds that are unaccounted for.”
* Turning away locally produced content. The commission has received complaints that FVTV has rejected locally produced content which it is required to air.
* Not meeting the primary goal of public access. The commission has concerns that FVTV’s focus is on training producers and citizen journalists but not actually producing programs.
According to FVTV’s application, in 2013 it aired 2,496 hours of local programming out of 5,616 hours. I’m not sure how “local” is defined, but many programs are based in Portland.
Among the 210 shows aired in 2013: “The Meat of the Word,” “The Victory is Won,” “Jimmy Be Free,” “New Tang Dynasty,” “Cannabis Common Sense,” “DOA Pro Wrestling,” “Is The Rapture Coming Soon?” “Joseph Hozan Ministries“, “Psychiatry: An Industry of Death,” “Worship for Shut-Ins” and “Don’t Buy Those Bones.”
On Tuesday, county commissioners will vote on the recommendation to deny FVTV’s application. Jan Bader, the city’s program and policy manager, said the city and the county have to agree on the public access provider. If commissioners decide to give FVTV another shot, Bader will have to go back to the drawing board. If commissioners side with the city council, FVTV will be on-air through Dec. 31, then it will have to return all equipment purchased with PEG grants in the past five years to the city.
The city and county don’t have to have a public access provider, Bader said. Given the platforms people have today, including YouTube, Twitter, Facebook and blogs, many communities are choosing not to have a public access station, Bader said.
Comcast doesn’t want the channel dark, but Bader said she doesn’t know what would replace public access programming. The commission could put out a call for proposals to see if another group would be well-suited to run Channel 11.
On Monday, three FVTV board members pleaded for a chance to make Channel 11 a “true community asset,” but, as you’ll see in the video, the majority of the council was unmoved by their performances. The vote was 5-1 to dump FVTV. Councilor Alishia Topper was absent and Councilor Bill Turlay was the lone “no” vote. (Turlay was also the only member listed among FVTV’s 2013 programming. “Bill Turlay” aired 21 times while he was running for mayor.)
Paul Suarez, The Columbian’s web producer, did his best to make a clip of the highlights, but it’s still more than four minutes long. Bader and Colletti are featured, along with FVTV board members and city councilors Jack Burkman, Larry Smith and Bart Hansen.