The non-profit Evanston Community Media Center would face a 40 percent funding cut if Evanston aldermen adopt the city manager’s proposed budget.

The media center last week issued a news release claiming the center would have to close if the budget cuts were imposed.

The non-profit Evanston Community Media Center would face a 40 percent funding cut if Evanston aldermen adopt the city manager’s proposed budget.

The media center last week issued a news release claiming the center would have to close if the budget cuts were imposed.

But in an interview Monday with Evanston Now, ECMC Executive Director Steve Bartlebaugh said the group has an annual budget of slightly over a half million dollars.

The city manager is recommending reducing the city subsidy to the group from $348,000 to $148,000.

In addition to the money from the city, ECMC receives about $80,000 each year directly from Comcast as part of the cable franchise agreement negotiated with the city nearly a decade ago. That money is designated for new equipment purchases.

ECMC also receives about $30,000 from School District 65 to run the district’s educational access cable channel 19, and it receives smaller amounts from subleasing some of its rented office space, from production fees, classes, memberships and fundraising.

The city subsidy in part defrays the cost of running the city’s government access cable channel 16, but most of the money goes to provide facilities for the public access programming on channel 6.

Bartlebaugh says the media center has about 100 volunteer members who on average produce over 25 hours of new programming a month. He says a core group of 20 to 50 people produce most of the shows. New shows typically are produced once a month and are rerun throughout the month on the public access channel.

He says the center’s leadership hasn’t had time yet to develop a plan to figure out what to do if the funding cut does take place.

Under the franchise agreement with Comcast, the city imposes a 5 percent tax or fee on cable bills, which raises about $900,000 a year. The city has traditionally given a portion of that money to ECMC.

But faced with a $9.5 million revenue hole in its $90 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that starts in March, city officials have been looking for ways to trim spending.

Other proposals the City Council will face when it begins budget hearings Saturday morning include closing the city’s branch libraries and raising fees for trash collection. The proposed budget calls for eliminating 47 positions from the city’s full-time equivalent staff of 840.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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6 Comments

  1. Leader in New Media
    What kills me, is in the Pioneer Local article: http://www.pioneerlocal.com/evanston/news/1966104,evanston-cable-cuts-123009-s1.article

    Bartlebaugh claims to be a leader in new media. How can you be a leader in new media with a broadcast studio outputting to cable!

    Or heck, check out the ECMC website, obviously a bad command of web tools.

    What confuses me to no end is the fact that you have to be a MEMBER (ie: pay in some amount of money per year) to have a show, use equipment, etc. Yet the biggest claim coming out of public access is so everyone has a broadcast voice (I’ll go ahead and say it, the argument is for economic minorities.)

    I mean, if you really were for the people, you’d drop membership, relocate to a free classroom type setting at the library or something, have your ECMC staff teach others how to use FInal Cut and non-linear editing on Macs and there would be a small, HD cam loan program to produce shows.

    And gee, what a struggle it is to actually get to that studio.

    Public access? Pah. Times have changed.

    I always liken this to earlier talks about a newspaper (print) bailout from the government. Things change, and I personally feel ECMC or ECTV or whatever the official name is this week, has not kept pace.

    Also, that Pioneer Local has such a spin on it! “Less sophisticated video in house” in referring to the City’s “new media” efforts under the new manager.

    You ever watch an hour of public access? I’d categorize that as less sophisticated video. For probably 12 times the cost.

    Bye bye ECMC.

  2. This seems like a waste
    It does seem silly to fund the ECMC when all you really need to produce content is a flip cam, computer, and a decent web connection. The city is moving to using media on the internet and cable is certainly not the monopoly it was 2, 5, or 10 years ago. More and more people are consuming media via the internet, satellite dish, etc, which means fewer and fewer people are getting access to this stuff. I think the city should cut the subsidy to $0.

    1. ECMC “subsidy”?
      There is no subsidy. ECMC receives only part of the money generated by the cable franchise fee (0ver $800,000), the bulk of which goes into general revenue.

      None of it comes from property taxes.

      How many of Evanston’s approximate 80,000 are sufficiently computer savvy to receive video over the internet? Many are not old enough to vote. Is that part of the plan, to keep voters in the dark?

      1. Yes, the plan is to keep voters in the dark
        How many of Evanston’s approximate 80,000 are sufficiently computer savvy to receive video over the internet?

        Wrong question. Right question: does the number of computer-savvy residents outweigh the number of residents with access to ECMC programming?

        According to Bill less than half the total households have access to Comcast cable and ECMC programming. I would be surprised to learn less than half of Evanston households are able to watch video on the internet. Something like 3/4 of the US has internet access and since it correlates to education and income I imagine usage is higher in Evanston.

        1. Internet
          Internet access is expensive in Evanston and not always reliable, especially in south and west evanston. The school system has statistics on how many of the enrolled children have internet they can use at home, and the reality is that a lot fewer families have access than one would think given this communities education level and median income. Recently, there is a definite bias in terms of public institutions using internet and thinking that they have informed the public (partially because for the Haves, using internet is so cheap), but the digital divide is real in this community.

          1. Fewer than one would think
            Cite some facts then. What does fewer families than one would think mean? It doesn’t answer the original question, is that fewer households than those who have access to ECMC now?

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