February 13, 2003
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Channel 13’s fuzzy picture

One of the more intriguing scenarios coming out of the Village’s 2003 budget is the way the boards that oversee the Village Mediation Program and the local public access channel are reacting to cuts in their budgets.

Both VMP and channel 13 are losing funding for their part-time workers, forcing the VMP Steering Committee and the Village Cable Advisory Panel to find ways to keep the programs going. Both bodies will use volunteers more to cover the cuts. Members of both bodies also are generously getting more involved in their programs. Beyond this, however, the two committees’ responses go in different directions.

Last month the VMP Steering Committee held a public meeting to discuss the future of the program because the Village will no longer employ a coordinator for VMP. The committee has a plan to get through this year and secure grant money in 2004 to fund its most crucial function, reacting to villagers’ problems. In 2003, the committee plans to cover the function, which is similar to a case-management responsibility, with volunteers and a part-time person. The committee will pay that person by squeezing some funds from its budget and by using stop-gap money from the Village, which the committee secured last week from Village Council.

The Cable Advisory Panel also has a plan — sort of, we think. Like VMP, channel 13 is losing a paid position, a volunteer coordinator who helped keep the channel running for the last couple of years. The gist of the panel’s strategy can be summarized in a response recently made by its chairwoman, Elsie Hevelin: channel 13 has been run by volunteers in the past and it will continue to be run by volunteers. Otherwise, the panel has been vague about its plans. While the cable panel was asked to attend Council’s meeting last week to discuss the budget cuts, the panel instead gave a report on its 2002 activities, only briefly discussing its strategy for this year.

Though the panel is working to better define the different tasks at channel 13 to help new volunteers get involved at the station, its members have not explained how they will get more volunteers to contribute more programming. The panel also has said that it wants to increase meeting coverage to include the Miami Township trustees and the Village Planning Commission. While showing tapes of meetings is a great community service, it does not always make for great television. Channel 13 should do more than just show meetings.

The reality is Yellow Springs is too small, and the Village has too many needs, to pay someone to run cable TV. This means those associated with the station need to have a vision for channel 13 as well as understand what the community wants from the station. With channel 13 in a transition period, the cable panel needs to do a better job explaining what it sees as the future of public access television in Yellow Springs.

—Robert Mihalek