cuts mean channel 13 must turn to volunteers
In an economizing time for the nation, the State and the Village of Yellow
Springs, funding for programs that could be considered nonessential is
A tight budget has led the Village to eliminate the paid volunteer-coordinator
position for the local public access station, channel 13.
Cutting channel 13s paid position was originally recommended in
December by Village manager Rob Hillard.
The elimination of the contract position from the budget is a function
of the budget procedure with reduced revenue being projected and capital
needs being better understood, Hillard said in an interview Monday.
Its a prudent move that makes sense in terms of the long-term
health of the Village.
The move means that local videographer Patti Dallas, who was hired in
2000 as the stations part-time volunteer coordinator, will be out
of a job.
The Village receives an average annual franchise fee of $25,000 from Time
Warner cable for allowing the company to use local electric lines for
cable access. The money from the franchise fee goes into the Villages
general fund. In the past few years the Village has used the franchise
fee to build a capital fund for channel 13, to fund the stations
regular operations and to pay Dallass salary, which last year was
Last year, to balance the Village budget and enhance funding for capital
projects, Hillard said, the Village eliminated the procedure of adding
to the cable capital fund, but maintained the part-time coordinator and
regular station operations.
This year, Hillard recommended that the Village keep the station going
but eliminate the volunteer-coordinator position. Channel 13s budget
is project to decrease to $5,000 in 2003 from $15,000 in 2002.
The Village has planned other budget cuts this year, including eliminating
the paid coordinator for the Village Mediation Program and not adding
additional funding to the Village green space fund. The Village has several
capital projects waiting to be completed, and funds for general public
works maintenance are low, Hillard said.
Its about reinvesting in the community in terms of roads,
equipment, police cars, Hillard said. [The stations]
needs should be compared with capital needs.
At its meeting Monday, Village Council approved the first reading of the
2003 Village budget. A second reading and public hearing for the budget
will take place at Councils next meeting, Tuesday, Feb. 18, when
Council is expected to approve the budget.
The Village Cable Advisory Panel has said that the station does not need
a paid staff member and that volunteers should run the channel.
Elsie Hevelin, the panels chairwoman, said that channel 13 survived
for years solely on volunteer participation and should continue to do
so. She also said that the function of a public station would be better
served by not having a coordinator who is paid by the Village.
An access channel for the people, not the government, should not
be influenced by the Village, she said.
Dallas has said that she thinks channel 13 cannot be run by volunteers
alone and that the Village needs to pay someone to manage the station.
Panel member Jim Rose deferred to Hillards judgment about the ability
of the Village to accommodate a paid position.
I believe Rob Hillard is a believable, honest person and his opinion
is something we can trust, Rose said, adding, I think the
board and the village owe a great deal of gratitude to Patti; she did
a great deal of work in promoting the station.
Dallas learned much of her videography and editing skills volunteering
for channel 13 with local resident Ken Tregillus, who served as the stations
volunteer manager for about 14 years. But by the late 90s volunteers
at the 15-year-old station were scarce. And Tregillus, who was doing what
he could to keep operations running, needed to cut back his time at the
station. Then the Village hired Dallas to recruit volunteers.
Patti was effectively the station manager and did all the work,
Tregillus said. She worked very diligently to find volunteers, did
a lot of taping herself and really kept the channel lively.
At the station Dallas juggled a lot of different activities, she said.
She solicited and trained volunteers, maintained equipment, managed the
community bulletin board, planned programming and taped many local events
and meetings when volunteers could not do it.
Dallas also created programs about community issues and profiled local
residents. During 2000 she added 33 new programs, such as A Musical
Tribute to Mary Schumacher, Does Higher Education Have a Future?
and Japanese Aesthetics, all of which she produced and edited.
She also arranged to tape and air programs not previously on the channel,
such as AACW Blues Fest workshops, community meetings and school performances
With the help of seven or eight active volunteers, Dallas spent an average
of 20 hours a week recording the life and times of Yellow Springs.
Faith Patterson, president of AACW, said that Dallas did a good job of
including AACW in station programming. We all know there was never
any such monster as a half day, she said. Patti does a half
day, but she does so much more than that.
But the question remains: can a village of this size afford to pay someone
to create local programming?
Former Village Manager Kent Bristol, who is now the executive director
of the Miami Valley Cable Community Council, which oversees four local
access channels with eight primary member communities and 20 affiliates,
said he is doubtful that Yellow Springs can manage to pay to staff a local
Yellow Springs for its size was donating quite a bit of resources
for programming, Bristol said. It was a good effort, but I
dont know that it ever lived up to its promise.
Most communities in the area with populations under 40,000 do not have
paid staff members running their public access channels, Bristol said.
Municipalities around the country are making similar budget cuts in public
access programming, he added.
Bristol said that Yellow Springs has ample media outlets for communication
and disseminating information. Getting information out in Yellow
Springs has never been a problem, so if its a choice between public
safety and information, I think public safety has to be the priority,
In a presentation given by the cable panel at Councils meeting Monday,
Robert Walker, the unpaid station manager of channel 13, said that the
station has 19 volunteers, seven of whom are new.
If channel 13 is to depend solely on volunteers from now on, Tregillus
said that he is not hopeful. Walker is only peripherally involved, Tregillus
said. Antioch College student Shiori Morita has been volunteering at the
station since 1999 as a Bonner Scholar and as a co-op student. She was
working for the station four to five hours a day some weeks this past
fall and never once worked with Walker, she said.
Walker, who is also a member of the cable panel, did not return phone
calls seeking comment.
Panel member Paul Abendroth said that the panel has spent the past year
defining the role of the station manager more clearly.
The role [of station manager] is evolving, and [Walker] is working
with the rest of the panel, Abendroth said.
He said that panel members were working to better define all the roles
for potential volunteers at the station so that newcomers can step in
and fill the channels needs more easily.
Some of the panel members are already covering responsibilities temporarily
until more volunteers can be found. Hevelin said last month that panel
members and volunteers will make sure programs are available for broadcast.
Abendroth said that he would like to see more local meeting coverage for
bodies such as the Miami Township trustees and Village Planning Commission.
But Tregillus also complained about the panel, saying members had done
very little to help or to recruit other volunteers.
Patti has been very misused by the panel, he said, referring
to reports the panel requested from Dallas that were never used. Dallas
did a lot of work to get a $3,500 grant from channel 21, a
Columbus public access station, when it dissolved, but she got no
recognition from the panel, Tregillus said.
Abendroth said he did not want to comment on this issue.
Tregillus has had a long history at the station, and said that he will
continue to volunteer when he can. But he will not return to the station
on a regular basis to keep things running as before.
I will hope for the best, but Im not counting on it at the
moment, he said. I wouldnt be surprised if the station
just reran old tapes and maintained the bulletin board.
Tregillus was headed to the station Tuesday morning to play the previous
nights Council meeting on channel 13.
Im going to pick up last nights tape and run it . .
. possibly until the end of time, he said.