LIVERMORE -- Tri-Valley mayors are joining forces to encourage Congress to allow public access TV stations to use cable subscriber fees to pay for operations.
On June 23, at the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Dallas, Livermore Mayor John Marchand led fellow mayors in a resolution calling for restructuring the 1984 Cable Act to enable Public, Educational and Governmental (PEG) fees paid by subscribers and providers to be used for operating costs. The funds are currently only allowed to be used for capital improvements.
"Hundreds of community access stations have gone out of business because they can't cover operations," Marchand said. "It's a very minor change where there's no cost increase (to the cable customer), but it unburdens local governments from having to pay."
Each Tri-Valley city -- except for San Ramon -- contributes to the operating expenses of Tri-Valley Community Television, or TV30, based on the number of subscribers. Livermore will contribute $144,500 from its 2014-15 fiscal year general fund to fund the channel's continued operations. Pleasanton will spend $140,300, and Dublin $92,000, according to Livermore senior management analyst Donna Pontau.
"A lot of people use our community access television to watch our council meetings," said Marchand, who spoke in favor of the rule change at the conference. "It also enables us to engage the public. This is a way we have to maintain transparency and open government."
According to Tri-Valley Community TV's Executive Director Melissa Tench-Stevens, TV30 has taken a financial hit of more than $500,000 per year in funding formerly available for operations, as a result of the Digital Infrastructure and Video Competition Act of 2006.
"Amending the law by just adding the word "operations" would bring the use of this funding back to its original state and allow us to use already allocated funds for any purpose," Tench-Stevens said in an e-mail. "This would give us the ability to focus on significantly increasing our programming even more, continuing to shine a light on the youth of our valley, provide information for those in need, increase our educational and community programming and most importantly, ensure our future."
Pleasanton Mayor Jerry Thorne and Dublin Mayor Tim Sbranti, who also serve on the board of Tri-Valley Community Television along with Marchand, co-sponsored the resolution, which was passed unanimously by more than 100 mayors at the conference.
"What we want is the option to be able to use the PEG funds for capital or operations," Thorne said. "That's what the U.S. Conference of Mayors decided and I think more mayors across the country would agree. It would cut back on the amount of money the cities would have to kick in."
The resolution will be sent to Congress for consideration.
Contact Jeremy Thomas at 925-847-2184. Follow him at Twitter.com/jet_bang.