Houston Public Access TV To Get The Axe Next Year
by Stefan Wray
Houston, TX -- Fred Fichman, Executive Director of Houston Media Source --
the public access TV station in Houston -- said today that he met with the
Mayor's Deputy Chief of Staff, and other City officials in Houston, who
verified that as of April 2008 there will be a major reduction in funding
for both the public and government access TV channels.
In April 2008, the franchise agreement between Comcast and the City of
Houston expires, and under Texas' two and a half year-old statewide video
franchise law, Comcast will be allowed to apply for a statewide franchise
certificate, essentially a permit.
At that point, Houston will continue to receive franchise fees from
Comcast, but there will be no earmarked or guaranteed operating funds for
Public, Educational, or Government (PEG) access. It is then up to the
discretion of the City as to whether to use general fund monies to
continue to finance PEG channels there.
Fred Fichman said that the Mayors Deputy Chief of Staff made it very clear
today that the City had no plan whatsoever to utilize general fund monies
either to continue funding Houston Media Source, or to even fund its own
Mr. Fichman went on to say that a discontinuation of the earmarked Comcast
funds for Houston Media Source would likely amount to a decrease of
$571,000 in HMSs budget. He said that City officials indicated that
through some of the remaining franchise agreements with smaller cables
providers, there could be as much as only $100,000 for HMS after a year
from now, however this is not enought to maintain current operations.
The only way for Houston Media Source to survive at its current level, he
said, is for HMS to immediately engage in major fundraising development,
and within a year be able to come up with a fundraising plan that can
sustain $500,000 per year or more.
Fred Fichman also noted that he found it quite amazing that this was
happening in the 4th largest city in the nation and one of the county's
largest media markets.