Facing cutbacks that could reduce her budget by a third and shut down Hillsborough Countyâs educational channel, Louise Thompson, executive director of Tampa Bay Community Network, issued a audacious proposal this week: Take over all three cable television access channels.
âBringing the PEG [Public, Educational, Government] channels under one roof will save the county more money than it does under the administratorâs proposed budget, and, most importantly, will assure that cable viewers can continue to enjoy both the Education and Public access channels, which are not funded at all under the administratorâs proposed budget,â she wrote in an e-mail. âThis could be a win-win solution for everyone.â
Thompson estimates she could save the county $1.5 million by consolidating the channels with Speak Up Tampa Bay, the nonprofit that manages TBCN. Hillsborough County spends nearly $3 million to operate all three channels; more than half of that goes to the governmentâs channel.
Thompson says other cities across the country have a similar set-up and TBCN has more than enough room for more editing suites. If Speak Up Tampa Bay board of directors approve of the idea this week, Thompson would immediately approach the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners with the idea.
Itâs an interesting proposal that could save public access in Hillsborough County. But for public access supporters in Pinellas, the situation looks ever more dire.
(Disclaimer: Creative Loafing Mediaâs President Ben Eason is a longtime board member of TBCN/Speak Up Tampa Bay)