Public Access Channel goes on without county funds
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02/05/08 Mitch E. Perry
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:

After attempting to cut funding for years, the Hillsborough County Commission last fall pulled the plug on financing the county’s Public Access Channel.

Forced to reduce the budget dues to mandates from the state Legislature last year, the board also cut in half funding of the county’s Education Channel, and warned station operators that there may not be any funding at all next year. The third channel, the county’s Government channel, also saw its budget cut by more than $200,000 – but it’s entire budget is just a little less than $2-million.

Now comes the possibility that the channel may try to allow commercial ads on the channel. At their board meeting tomorrow, Hillsborough commissioners are scheduled to receive a report from the County Attorney’s office regarding a proposal to allow commercials on HTV.

Louise Thompson, executive director for the Tampa Bay Community Network, the county’s public access Channel, says its been difficult the past three months operating the channel without the county’s share of funding.

She says she’s been soliciting donations from across the country to keep the station viable.

Another problem for the public access channel is a fight regarding the use of a video truck originally purchased for the station by the county back in 2001.

A few months ago, County Administrator Pat Bean wrote Louise Thompson about how the Channel could pay for the truck, estimated to be worth about $55,000. In lieu of paying for it, Bean suggested the channel could keep it, as long as county residents could continue to have access to the channel.

Thompson said she wanted to charge user fees, but Bean refused.

Again Hillsborough Commissioners are scheduled to receive a report from the County Attorney’s office regarding a proposal to allow commercials on HTV, the Government channel.

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