41 Days to Black for People TV; Council Slow to Act
(APN) ATLANTA — People TV will end its programming on December 31, 2011, if the City Council and Mayor of Atlanta do not take action.
As previously reported by Atlanta Progressive News, after the Georgia legislature passed franchising legislation that allowed AT&T to compete with Comcast for cable services, Comcast drastically reduced its contribution for People TV. The final 100,000 dollar payment under Comcast’s current contract with the City of Atlanta is about to be depleted, and People TV has been unable to bring in enough other funding to maintain a viable operation.
It has become an easy refrain of Council Members to urge People TV to come up with a plan for its own viability; however, there are at least two problems with that.
First, People TV has a shortage of Board Members and cannot get a quorum at its own meetings. But several of these vacancies by law must be filled by Mayor Kasim Reed. And he has failed to fill these vacancies, suggesting an intentional effort of the part of Reed to sabotage People TV.
Second, it is difficult for People TV to attract other funding when the City–People TV’s main source of funding–has not committed to any more support for the station. And the City has an unrealistic expection of what types of grant funding may be available for People TV.
Council Members have so far introduced two pieces of legislation in support of People TV; however, they have both languished in Committees.
In Finance Committee, an ordinance is held that was introduced by Councilmembers Kwanza Hall (District 2), Natalyn Archibong (District 5), and CT Martin (District 10). The ordinance, “authorizing the Chief Financial Officer to amend the FY 2012 (XXXXX) Budget by adding to Appropriations in the total amount of $XXXXX and the FY 2012 (XXXXX) Budget by adding to Anticipations and Appropriations in the amount of $XXXXX; to make a transfer from the FY 2012 (XXXXX) Budget to the FY 2012 (XXXXX) Budget in the amount of $XXXXX; for the purpose of increasing the funding allocation for People TV, Inc; and for other purposes,” was held on November 02, 2011, by the Committee.
In City Utilities Committee, an ordinance is held that was introduced by Chairwoman Archibong. The resolution, “A Resolution by Councilmembers Kwanza Hall, Natalyn M. Archibong and C. T. Martin as amended by City Utilities Committee requesting that the City of Atlanta increase the funding allocation for People TV for the operation of public access; and requesting that People TV present a Strategic Plan to City Council; and for other purposes,” was amended and held on November 01, 2011, by the Committee.
Hall said the legislation he co-sponsored with Archibong and Martin was “my attempt to figure out a strategy to find some money in the budget to help ’em out.”
“It would require a plan [from People TV] to go with it,” Hall said. “So far there’s been a lackadaisical overall strategy for organizing. They need a plan to be self-sustaining, using the best practices, taking advantage of all the assets and partners, including those who want shows and college students.”
“It’s a wonderful asset for the community that shouldn’t go by the wayside,” Hall said.
It is important to note that all Comcast subscribers pay money in a franchise fee that goes to the coffers of the City of Atlanta, but none of that money goes to People TV.
Charlotte Engel, the Executive Director of People TV, had to terminate People TV’s lease in West Midtown at 190 14th Street because of the lack of funds, to end at the end of 2011.
Engel also sent a letter to Mayor Kasim Reed terminating People TV’s contract with the City.
“I am writing to letting you know that today the Mayor’s office has confirmed the termination of the contract between the City of Atlanta and People TV, Inc.,” Engel wrote in an email dated November 16, 2011.
“It’s sad to have received this letter and we can only hope that the Mayor’s office will truly consider continuing access television for Atlanta,” Engel wrote.
On Tuesday, November 22 at 10:30am the City’s administration will have a stakeholders meeting for all concerned residents of the City of Atlanta to discuss community access television and People TV, to take place at the Mayor’s office.
Several producers and advocates from People TV showed up at the Tuesday, November 15, 2011, City Utilities Committee to make comments.
Mayor Reed’s Office sent a representative, Katrina Taylor-Parks, to the November 15 meeting.
“I do want to go on record to say the Administration definitely supports public access television. And it’s obvious the Council does too because there’s legislation on two Committees regarding this topic,” Taylor-Parks said.
“There are options that are on the table. It is not the intent of Mayor Reed for that station to go dark,” she said.
“The intent of that meeting [the November 22 meeting] is to be on one accord with an agreement to move forward,” he said.
Adrian Coleman, Patricia Crayton, Brother Anthony Muhammad, F. Pres President, Ron Shakir, and Rev. Benford Stellmacher spoke in favor of saving People TV.
“I would hope that this body and this committee would find it necessary to allow this vehicle, which is at People TV, to give them a platform to express themselves an emotional freedom of speech. But taking this vehicle away from the people, it really, really allows us not to have a platform by which people can be heard. Coming to Council meetings and having two minutes to speak is not enough time for people to be able to express themselves to tell you about the concerns and tell you about the needs and tell you about the problems that exist in the community,” Stellmacher said.
“On most of the shows that operate on People TV, it’s an opportunity even for some of you elected officials to come and state your positions and platform and many of you have used that media opportunity at People TV,” he told Council Members.
“It seems to be a lack of interest to the City Council about People TV. We haven’t got the involvement, cooperation, we don’t where people stand, we don’t know where we are,” he said.
“We are very serious about representing the voiceless, the homeless, those who are without. This voice should not be taken away from them, they don’t have nothing. They don’t have the opportunities that some of us have had. The only way they can make it known, make it heard, and we have given some opportunities to people,” he said, telling stories of three people who turned their lives around because of People TV and went on do great things.
“When you don’t give attention to something you control, and it’s in your hands–you control us having People TV or People TV being taken away from us–we want you to know how great you guys are for having allowed us to have People TV. Because you don’t know how many lives you have saved, how many people have been blessed, how many people have been born again through their religious programming, how many people have become great models because they’ve been seen on People TV,” he said.
“This legislation that took place knocked Comcast out the way, AT&T came on board, and AT&T hasn’t stepped up to the plate to give nothing – that’s where the pressure should be put on. Comcast have given some money to try to keep it afloat. AT&T hasn’t been challenged yet. But they’re coming into our community, taking our money, and walking out of our community with all the problems that we have, and they don’t want to put anything in our coffers,” he said.
“I would ask this Committee, if you would please, to identify the funds to allow People TV to operate… We need your help. We’re asking for your help. And it’s always said in every campaign I’ve worked in, if you need me, call me. Now, is that the truth, or is that a lie?” he asked.