Public Access: City, county use different cable channels [The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.]
(Fayetteville Observer (NC) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Aug. 23--The city of Fayetteville and Cumberland County have taken separate paths to continue broadcasting their meetings.
On July 1, Time Warner Cable ceased operating the public access Channel 7 as part of deregulation approved by the state in 2006.
For more than 20 years, local governments and members of the community used the channel to air meetings, public service announcements and other programming.
This summer, the city took over the management of Channel 7, establishing a fledgling new cable station that is expected to cost about $140,000 a year.
The city continues to air council meetings and has begun producing other programming to help fill what officials are calling "FAY-TV7."
In the spring, city officials offered Cumberland County an opportunity to become a partner in the new government access channel. The county's share for the channel would have been $42,000 a year.
That cost, said Tracie Davis, the city's chief spokeswoman, included 40 percent capacity of the channel for broadcasting content and public service announcements and bulletin board-type messages for the county on TV.
The city manager, in a March letter to Time Warner Cable, asked to have Channel 7 transitioned to the city's control July 1.
The county commissioners said no thanks, opting in May to air their board meetings and two monthly shows over Channel 5 on cable TV.
Fayetteville Technical Community College manages and operates Channel 5 and airs educational programming on it. The college charges the county nothing to air programming, including the commissioner meetings.
One Cumberland County commissioner, Marshall Faircloth, went on social media this week to boast the county was paying nothing to air its meetings on the FTCC Channel 5.
"When TWC relinquished access to community channel 7, Fayetteville GRABBED it!" Faircloth posted to his Facebook page Monday.
"When Fayetteville told Cumberland that our previously FREE access would now cost $44,000, we switched to FTCC's channel 5 at no cost to the county taxpayers," his post said.
Faircloth's posting misstated the cost by $2,000 -- and he didn't mention that the county is paying $25,000 to FTCC's Innovation Center to produce 20 30-minute programs on various county subjects and issues.
Airing the shows on Channel 5 is free, said a county spokeswoman, Sally Shutt.
The county and city already had their own camera and broadcasting equipment to record their meetings to be aired on the former public access channel.
At the City Council's urging, the Public Works Commission agreed in June to contribute $85,000 a year to the city's FAY-TV budget. The PWC also does marketing programming for cable TV.
Mayor Tony Chavonne said the city's offer to the county was an opportunity to avoid duplication and operate a joint government access channel.
"We were willing to share with that," Chavonne said.
The mayor said the commissioners made "an evaluation not to do that, and that's fine. It's not like we were trying to make money."
City officials said they are still getting set up with the new channel and hope to air content 24 hours a day. Some of the recent programs they have produced were a recycled art exhibit downtown, a recent community watch advisory meeting and look inside the city's Senior Center.
City officials cited a survey earlier this year as one reason to take over the channel. The survey, of about 1,000 families who filled out questionnaires, reported that 24 percent of residents relied on the former public access channel for news about the city -- and 10 percent in the survey said the channel was their preferred source.
According to the survey, 67 percent said the newspaper was their primary source of city news, followed by 55 percent for local TV and 45 percent for the city's website.
Staff writer Andrew Barksdale can be reached at email@example.com or 486-3565.
(c)2013 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
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