Hillsborough eyes communications department budget

06/11/08 Mitch E. Perry
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Members of the Hillsborough County Commission today proposed eliminating the Government Television station.

The board is looking at ways to offset $87 million in lost revenue from property tax changes and a slowing economy. The idea of dismantling or severely diminishing the county’s Communications Department, which currently has a budget slightly less than $4 million, was first on the workshop agenda.

Commissioner Mark Sharpe said he wanted the county’s television station to be more dynamic, offering more citizen community advisory meetings, and fewer produced shows.

Lori Hudson, director of the Communications Department, says a recently enacted state law on cable franchise means they have to produce more live programming.

Commissioner Al Higgenbotham said there could be fat within the Communications Department that needed to be cut.

Commissioner Jim Norman questioned the relevancy of having a Government cable channel at all, asking how many other counties in the state have such a channel. Norman applauded the county for the controversial decision to eliminate funding for the public access channel, Speak Up Tampa Bay, which is still staying afloat.

As the Commissioners criticized some video vignettes that seem at times to dominate programming on Hillsborough Television (HTV), County Administrator Pat Bean seemed to take umbrage, saying they were good for the morale of county employees.

Lori Hudson says her department has been unable to get any Nielsen ratings. She said surveys to county residents indicate that most citizens have watched HTV at some time, mostly live meetings. She said the biggest concern is a move by Bright House Networks to move the station from channel 22 to 622.

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