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Fade to black for ECTV?

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The long-drawn-out decline of Evanston's community television non-profit may be entering its final chapter.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz plans to ask the Human Services Committee Wednesday to let the city take over operation, maintenance and management of the city's public access TV service.

The service, Channel 6 on Comcast cable in the city, is the last cable service still run by the Evanston Community Media Center, Inc., also known as Evanston Community Television.

The city and School District 65 both terminated the group's contracts to provide cable coverage of city and school board meetings a year and a half ago after technical issues prevented ECTV from broadcasting several meetings.

And later last year the city took over the job of producing meeting coverage for the school system, at a lower cost than what ECTV had been charging..

The two contracts — totalling $100,000 a year — had provided the bulk of ECTV's operating revenue.

ECTV board members have said they hoped to increase the group's revenue by drawing new paying members and selling production services.

But the group's latest financial report filed with the IRS shows that for the fiscal year ending in June 2015 it generated only $4,155 in membership dues and contributions while incurring nearly $87,000 in expenses.

The city has been scaling back its financial support for ECTV from a level that topped $400,000 a year before 2010, and the group has gradually reduced its staffing in response.

In a memo to aldermen, Bobkiewicz says that because of the group's financial situation it has reduced its regular operating hours to three days a week.

He says the group now has about 20 members, only five of whom are submitting content for broadcast on the public access channel.

Bobkiewicz says the city could maintain, operate and manage the public access channel using existing city staff with no additional costs.

He adds that the city could leverage partnerships "with community and school organizations to provide greater access and opportunity for residents to be involved."

He's also proposing that — instead of ECTV's practice of requiring paid memberships to use the channel's equipment — that membership be made available to all city residents "automatically and free of charge."


Update 9:45 a.m. 7/6/16: The Human Services Committee meeting scheduled for tonight, at which the ECTV proposal was scheduled to be discussed, has been cancelled for lack of a quorum. A new date for the meeting hasn't been announced.


Update 2:30 p.m. 7/6/16: The next Human Services meeting now is scheduled for 6 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 1.

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