Pinellas, Hillsborough TV stations scramble to retain funds

09/04/07 Mitch E. Perry
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Tonight in Clearwater, producers and supporters of public access are going before the Pinellas County Commission to urge the Board not to cut funding for the television station.

Tonight is the first of two public budget hearings, but advocates say this may be their only real chance to persuade a majority of Commissioners not to accept the recommendation of the Pinellas County Communications Department to completely eliminate funding for the channel. (Full funding for the Education and Government Channels would be preserved.)

Meanwhile, a similar scenario will take place tomorrow night in Tampa, as supporters of the Tampa Bay Community Network, also known as Speak Up Tampa Bay, go before Hillsborough County Commissioners to save the $355,000 in funding that station could lose.

In addition, the Education Channel, is also facing the possibility of its budget being completely cut from county funds.

Anne Goldenberg is executive director of the Tampa Educational Cable Consortium, that’s the nonprofit group that runs the Education Channel in Hillsborough County.

Goldenberg says her organization has been working on a proposal that would restore 75 percent of the county’s funding back.

The Education Channel is not funded solely from the county. It also receive funding from Tampa, Plant City, the Hillsborough County School Board, the state and corporate donors.

But Goldenberg says any type of future programming is dependent on having the majority of the funding restored by the Hillsborough government.

When the possible cuts were first discussed at a Board workshop last month, Commissioners Rose Ferlita and Mark Sharpe seemed to want to find a way to maintain some funding for the station.

Goldenberg says she has floated her proposal to Commissioners in just the past few days, and is anxiously awaiting their response.

The budget hearing will take place at the Hillsborough County Commission meeting at 6 p.m. tomorrow at the County Center, 601 East Kennedy, second floor, Tampa.

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