PEG fee should keep lights, cameras on at Access Tucson
An open letter to Mayor & Council
As next week's City Council meeting approaches — and as we move toward the November 2 election — it would be premature to make further cuts or take action to diminish the respective roles of Access Tucson and Tucson12.
While I cannot speak to the wisdom of combining Tucson12 with Arizona Public Media (from either a mission or financial standpoint), I hope that both organizations will continue to report on the Tucson community.
However, Access Tucson is a different sort of organization whose city funding comes via the $1.38 that is charged on each Cox cable subscriber's bill as a "PEG-Access" fee. Right now, those fees flow into the General Fund; some allocation is made to Access Tucson, although that allocation has be slashed by 60% this year.
If the city continues to compel Cox to collect over $3 million annually via that fee, it would be duplicitous (at best) and basic "bait and switch" (at worst) if those funds did not flow to Access Tucson per the existing Master Operating Agreement that runs through June 30, 2012.
Access Tucson — although still a center for free speech — is in the midst of a change in direction: one that is more entrepreneurial and focused on fund-raising, youth training classes and fees to supplement the city's allocation.
We cannot expect to achieve all the goals of this reinvention with minimal funding and staff. But we believe that the current funding MUST be left in place through the conclusion of the Master Operating Agreement. At that time, the City will renegotiate its franchise agreement with Cox, and Access Tucson will be better able to demonstrate its strong community partnerships and ability to stand on its own.
In addition, please keep in mind that Access Tucson can provide live broadcast and repeated showings of City Council, Board of Supervisor and other jurisdictions' meetings at a much lower cost than Tucson12 or the proposal by Arizona Public Media.
Yes, the City is in its most serious financial situation in years. As a member of the Parks and Recreation Commission, I know firsthand of that department's struggle.
But the $300,000 that is allocated to Access Tucson will not solve the structural deficit; and if it is used to prop up the General Fund, then the Cox subscribers and Tucson citizens have been misled for years about the intent of the PEG-Access charge.