Atlanta Renews People TV Contract, but Funding Remains Inadequate
(APN) ATLANTA – At the Monday, June 06, 2022 Full Council Meeting, the Atlanta City Council approved another year of funding for People TV, Inc., the City’s public access station, after the City of Atlanta previously took the shocking move of taking over the station.
City of Atlanta Ordinance 22-O-1393 was introduced by Councilmembers Byron Amos (District 3), Andrea Boone (District 10), Keisha Sean Waites (Post 3-at-large), and Antonio Lewis (District 12).
The ordinance authorizes the mayor to reinstate People TV’s operation of public access television for one-year, effective June 06, 2022, with annual funding of 180,000 dollars.
On May 26, 2022, the ordinance passed favorably out of City Utilities Committee in a vote of six to zero, with Alex Wan (District 6), Boone, Howard Shook (District 7), Liliana Bakhtiari (District 5), Dustin Hillis (District 9), and Lewis voting in favor.
The ordinance then appeared on the Consent Agenda at Monday’s Full Council Meeting, where it passed on consent.
However, as previously reported by APN, 180,000 dollars is not going to be sufficient to fund the station.
The City took over the station when People TV’s contract last expired, and the City claimed that it would be transitioning into an expanded model of public access television involving a new request for proposals.
However, after two months of City-sanctioned television in the name of “public access”, it became clear that the City had no plan; or if it did have a plan, it was unable to carry it out.
During the City Utilities Committee Meeting, producer Johnny Nutson urged the Council to appoint members to the People TV Board of Directors, and to properly fund the station.
The City Council and current and past Mayors have knowingly failed to appoint a single Board Member to the People TV Board since Councilwoman Mary Norwood, then the Post 2-at-large member, appointed a member several years ago, leaving several vacancies on the Board which have existed for years.
Chairman Shook inquired about the Board vacancies.
Theo Pace, Deputy Chief of Staff for Mayor Andre Dickens, said the administration would review the issue of Board vacancies.
“The Council needs to know clearly what our obligations and responsibilities are so we can pitch in,” Shook said.
“We really would appreciate it if you all would bridge the old and the new, have a roundtable discussion so we can come up with a happy medium,” Councilwoman Boone said.
“As you know People TV has serious historical significance in the City of Atlanta, and we would really really really appreciate you all sitting down with those who made it what it was, and let’s bring it back strong,” Councilwoman Boone said.
“The Mayor’s Office and City Utilities need to sit down and look at People TV in a holistic manner,” Councilman Amos told Atlanta Progressive News.
Amos said the City bears some historical responsibility for not supporting People TV with adequate funding or Board appointments.
“We need to put the spotlight on the people who’s running People TV as well. Both sides need to admit fault and admit failure and figure out how to move this thing forward,” Amos said.
“As a City Council, we got people on the Board that we still haven’t appointed.” Amos said.
“I have been asked to make an amendment to the budget by Patricia Crayton and Dr. [Johnny] Wilson,” Amos said.
“They must understand it can’t just be a budget amendment, it must be a thirty to ninety day review. We can’t just keep piecemealing stuff. I can’t do a budget amendment that doesn’t fix the problem,” Amos said.
“I was asked by the [Dickens] Administration to introduce this bill,” Amos said, referring to the contract renewal ordinance.
“We’ve been underfunded for years,” Patricia Crayton, People TV’s director, told the Committee.
“It has been crucial to be off the air at election time. All of these things has not happened because you’ve silenced the people,” Crayton told the Committee.
Councilman Antonio Lewis said he was confused by the various public comments on People TV, and that he would like to “bring us all to the table, bring everybody to the table at one time.”
A City Utilities Work Session that had been scheduled regarding the City’s public access station has been canceled.
“God is good. I’m just a witness to carry out his plan,” Crayton told APN. “They took it wrongly. There was so much hate going around to take it.”
Crayton told APN that the City intends to pay People TV monthly, at fifteen thousand dollars per month.
That barely covers their monthly expenses: Their rent for the studio is nine thousand dollars per month to developer Selig. Two to three thousand per month goes to payroll. Then there are utilities, and a loan repayment to the U.S. Small Business Administration in the amount of 463 dollars per month.
And the station is three months behind in rent, Crayton said.
“I don’t know why he won’t write this off as a tax deduction,” Crayton said of Mr. Selig.
As previously reported, the City of Atlanta claimed to have taken the station away from People TV in order to “revision” public access and create a community media center like the Brooklyn Research and Information Center (BRIC) in Brooklyn, New York.
“They got a two million dollar budget, number one,” Crayton told APN regarding BRIC.
“They [the City of Atlanta are] setting us up for failure each time. People keep telling me, ‘They want to close the station down, but you keep keeping it open,’” Crayton said.
“For us to do what they want us to do, I need a million dollars. The building I’m in now, I need three furnaces,” she said, adding that at least 75,000 dollars is needed for an equipment upgrade.
When the City took over the station, LaNese Harris told the Council that the City had partnered with nonprofit organizations to temporarily create content.
“LaNese Harris called the police on four producers who went down to her office wanting a show,” Crayton said.
“She didn’t have no programming. She didn’t have in place no people who could do nothing,” Crayton said.
Crayton said that while the City had taken over the station, that the content included a public service announcement from Meals on Wheels, an advertisement from Agnes Scott College regarding their meeting spaces, content regarding Atlanta Public Schools (which has its own separate channel), and “a guy playing saxophone over and over again.”
“The Council and Mayor are supposed to put people on our Board. They haven’t put anybody on the Board in seven years that got connections,” Crayton said.
“They getting what they pay for. What do you expect for 180,000 dollars?”
(END / Copyright Atlanta Progressive News / 2022)