The board of Evanston Community Television announced today that it’s not renewing the contract of its long-time executive director, Steve Bartlebaugh.

In a news release the non-profit group said it has made many belt-tightening moves over the past several months, including reducing full and part-time staff, but continues to face financial hardships.

Bartlebaugh, who has worked for ECTV since 1994 and has been its executive director for 13 years, will wrap up his on-air career at the center with the live cablecast of next week’s Fourth of July parade.

The group is planning a celebration of his career at the lagoon pavilion at Dawes Park at 7 p.m. July 12.

ECTV is in the midst of a move to the city’s municipal service center to eliminate its rent and utility costs.

The board says it plans to rely more on board members to handle day-to-day operations and the build-out of the new facilities.

ECTV manages public, government and educational access cable channels in Evanston.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Maybe D65 can borrow a page from this playbook…

    …and lop off the superindendent and let his Asst. Super run the show?

  2. another good person leaving the scene and then what?

    This is sad news. Steve has been a tireless worker at ECTV for all these many years. He has, often, single-handedly produced and directed, let alone served as cameraperson for some shows. The idea of having Board members now serving in his role does not bode well since it will depend on their availability, their level of interest at all times and other factors that, as volunteers, cannot be sustained on a high-level (No offense, but….)

    Soon this move to new quarters will lead to the next phase: part time broadcasts, fewer shows, more problems and, eventually, the new quarters will become nothing more than a storage facility for abandoned broadcast equipment.

    Is this a sign of fewer dollars for all community matters or a sign of the decline of community-access TV?

    1. end of community access TV

      I can't speak for everyone my age, but I don't know a single person under age 40 who watches community access TV.   Web based news is the way of the future.  Evanston needs to get on board.



  3. ECTV Franchise Fee

    Comcast pays a franchise fee that I am sure is passed on to subscribers. Does that go to ECTV or has it been "reallocated" for other City uses?

    Steve has enabled ECTV to have many of the City meetings and functions available to individual households, allowing us to see the City at work. He has also faciltated the video training of citizens.

    Who is left?

    The Board is a part time activity. How can these people substitute for an experienced person such as Steve.

    We are allowing an important City asset to disapper.

    1. a phone and internet connection can give you this too

      In today's day and age, why do we have to pay anyone to let you see the meeting and function of city council meetings at work?   My 8 year old kid can make a video with my phone, and in 5 minutes, I could post it on the internet-

        Surely, someone already at city council meetings could do the same and post the videos on the city website without getting a $350,000 salary for doing it-


      1. Not really

        Jen, $350,000 is the donation from the City to help run ECMC, NOT the director's salary. Before you comment, you should make sure you have the facts.

        1. point noted

          Noted that it's not just one man raking it in.  However,  I'd hardly call $350,000 of my tax money a "donation."  it's just another tax in this mismanaged city.

          My point was that this is too much money to pay anyone, whether it be man/group, division, to cover the local news in our town..    Almost anyone can make videos nowadays and even kids could upload videos to a website.   Cable television for news coverage is quickly becoming outdated, and web based news sharing would be more cost efficient and better for most residents. 

          For any citizen who uses ECMC to learn more about television… we have a world class unviersity in town with one of the best radio, television, film programs in the country.   I suggest that people go there to learn from the best, and that Evanston puts its tax money to more productive uses.  

          Evanston needs to start being more forward thinking with news service.  I'd like to also say try to be more wise with the money spending, but I fear we'll have to wait until the next election as all but Wilson seem to feel like money grows on trees.  

          Maybe if we can just get those firefighters to water the other trees in town after they finish the firework prep….


          1. Well, the franchise fee that

            Well, the franchise fee that you and I pay as cable subscribers is supposed to go toward this public access television. $350,000 is not a lot of money when you are talking about having and maintaining high-tech equipment, salaries, benefits, etc. You have to film, then you have production, which also takes time. And remember, sound is everything. You can't take a flip cam and expect to hear all elected officials in a meeting. Someone needs to be knowledgeable and tech savvy to deal with filming. The question is, if ECTV ultimately disappears, what will the franchise fee go toward? It WILL go toward something, and maybe something unrelated to communication. How will that make us feel? Maybe it will go toward potholes?

            Uploading videos is one thing; however, ECTV provides LIVE broadcasts of meetings, hearings, etc., that I think provides a great community service. I mean, if you want to know what's going on in the community, just turn on the television and watch your local officials LIVE and IN ACTION. Additionally, what kid is going to sit through some of those marathon meetings they have to film; some of which go after midnight, and some are held on weekends? And what volunteer is going to do that on a continuous basis? It is a grueling and thankless job, but people will complain if they cannot watch their meetings from the comforts of their homes. That is part of the making government accessible and transparent to everyone, isn't it?

            As far as Northwestern University, you're talking about a prime sum of money to go there and/or just take a few classes. That kind of education is not accessible to just anyone.  ECTV is accessible to EVERYONE! Anyone can create a program. Apples and oranges. It's part of the whole freedom of speech that we all enjoy.

        2. Funding cuts

          The City cut ECMC's funding and they do not get $350,000.  The gave ECMC $100,000 last year.  Look at the City's Budget.  The City has been cutting ECMC's funding the past few years.

  4. Wally continues the Shell Game

    We pay a fee as has been noted here if you get Cable, what is the fee for a tax or to allow the public access to Cable?  Wally has been raiding that account also, just like the 3 million they take from the water fund. Get the picture the city is moving fast in the direction of Stockton Cal. 

    The amount of the fee last time I looked was over $300,000.   Everytime the Mayor, council members and Wally give our money away to one of their friends or pet projects, its money that has to come from somewhere.  So they are taking all the money from the cable station, so they can open up  a wine and cheese bar, or give money to start up companies.

    Anyone want anothe 8% effective tax increase like last year?   Its coming along with a raise for the Mayor and council members! ( while they cut Steve's job )

    Maybe all of this is part of Wally and the Mayors master plan – to limit free speech at the council, if the meetings are not on cable, citizens will have one less avenue to learn about the fiscal mismanagement of the city!

    1. Save Money

      Property tax bill arrived in the mail. The city of Evanston was a 17+ % increase. How much can we save if we eliminate Wally and Elizabeth?

  5. Ponzi’s portrayal of Wally

    Ponzi’s portrayal of Wally & Co. as sinister may be correct. That said, it’s impossible to characterize Bartlebaugh’s leadership over the past few years as anything other than inept and naive.

    A guy who can survive in an age of “indifference” by the City should have no entitlement to a job leading an organization through an environment that has been transformed by 360 degrees.

    The age of “indfference” by the City to ECTV in the years preceding Wally were good for someone like Bartlebaugh whose affable personality concealed his extremely limited skillset.

    It was a period when no one asked what the city and community was getting for the nearly $350,000+ it was annually throwing Bartlebaugh’s way without checks and balances in place at any level.

    Nor did anyone ask what Steve and his buddies did in the 75 weekly hours the center was fully staffed and open while a diminishing number of community members used the facilities as each year passed. Or why ECTV accumulated reserves before budget cuts but insisted on full employment and operating deficits once the funding cuts started. What was the plan?

    Nor did anyone ask, where the constituency for ECTV was or how many people actually watched the self-indulgences of a few individuals and organizations on the channels. Nor did they ask why the adaptation of emerging technologies by other communities’ media centers wasn’t being duplicated here.

    The questions get worse. Originally, Wally only saw in ECTV a place that was overfunded. When he realized what he had in Bartlebaugh, he went for broke. And, here we are in this totally transformed environment with ECTV being much less than a skeleton of its former self.

    What’s ECTV celebrating at Steve’s departure? There should be investigations instead. Now, you should ask yourself whether Steve’s “skillset” or ECTV’s services were and/or are remotely relevant for creating any value from the assets that remain.

    I need not remind you that these are assets that cable subscribers have paid to accumulate over the years through a separate fee on their cable bills. It’s great that Vito and truthferret have such great memories of what Steve did in the age of “indifference.” Unlike the rest of the City, at least they have something left of ECTV to show for it.

    1. WOW

      Based on this rather critical review of the Bartlebaugh era, it would appear that you must be one of the present or former Board members of ECTV. If so, it would appear that someone other than Wally should have "pulled the plug" on Steve a long time ago since, as you indicate, Steve has been there longer than Wally. Thus, the Board, whether you are or have been one of its members failed to meet their obligation as watchdogs, makers of ploicy, etc.

      If so many funds were misused or wasted by "Steve and his friends"  and, if  programming and content declined, where were the "watchdogs" and why did it require the City manager to act after so many years of such waste and (apparent) corruption? 

      Another question worth asking:  If there has been so great a decline in how ECTV works and programs, etc., why have they now spent more money to outfit a new facility in City space? I realize it might save money, but only if the City writes off the space and charges no rent. But do they do that for the non-profits,  that have occupied parts of the Civic Center? If not, then ECTV will still have expenditures.

      Then again, if the cable fees generate money every month that goes to ECTV, where is that going? Also does the City pay ECTV to televise Council meetings and other City events and why not?

      As to the "age of indifference", is that the same age that created (and still seems to create) numerous City programs throughout the town even when no funds were available, awarded grants to every community group that arrived at the Civic Center with upturned palms, still believes that a new Crown Center will recover the 13-15 million it might cost, funds every new business venture, continues to pretend that they can achieve a 7.5% return on investments for the pension fund (see your Sunday Trib insert), etc?

      The "age of indifference" appears to be one that elects and continues to elect the same personalities without much care as to what they do on Monday nights until the new real estate bill arrives.

  6. Reconcile “Celebration” and “Non-Renewal” ?

    How are the Events justifying a “Celebration of Bartlebaugh’s Career” ( from Press Release above ) and the Events Precipitating “Non-Renewal of Bartlebaugh’s Contract” related ?  Are they based on the same set of events and same time periods…just different interpretations ? Or are they distinguishable because the  “checks and balances” governing ECTV communicate at different frequencies than one another ? If it’s the latter, it seems like the “Celebration” must be designed to divert attention away from the Events Precipitating “Non-Renewal of Bartlebaugh’s Contract.”  I’d like to know because I want to either “Celebrate” or “Hold Someone Accountable.” Or maybe both ?

  7. Bigger issue than how Community TV should work!

    Lets assume Community TV will be gone in a few years, where will the Cable Fee go?  That is what will Wally and the Mayor and Council do with the Cable Fee?   Why are we paying a Cable Fee?  The tax was justified to provide public access to citizens.  If we have NO public access why should we continue to pay the fee?

    The issue why isn't the city cutting our Cable bills by reducing the cable fee, since it is not using the money for public access?   The answer is simple, take a look at your tax bill, close to 1/2 of the tax to the city is going to pay Pension cost.  Our council members and Wally play the game, that they have not raised your taxes to run the city but they keep on forgeting to tell everyone they are raising your taxes to pay for pensions.

    This mess is not sustainable, if you consider the city is also paying out large amounts for other debt service. to cover the over 300 million in capital debt.  The council members keep on spending, look at all the recent excesses, Wine and Cheese, Health Clinic, employee compensation study, staff approving giving people money to open up internet business, the list goes on and on.    Bankruptcy?

  8. Community TV—those over 40

    I don't think even those over 40 watch community TV.  I'm 65 and have not and would not bother with it.

    Yes Web news is much more useful.  In reality EvanstonNow is probably the one real-time news source.  The city does send some notices but most what I get is self-promotion not news.

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