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Media center has no lock on city funds

Documents posted online late Thursday by city officials indicate Evanston is not contractually obligated to provide any specific level of financial support to the Evanston Community Media Center.

Documents posted online late Thursday by city officials indicate Evanston is not contractually obligated to provide any specific level of financial support to the Evanston Community Media Center.

The documents are the city’s cable franchise agreement and its contract, or service agreement, with the non-profit media center

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has proposed cutting the media center’s budget by 40 percent as the city struggles to close a $9.5 million budget gap.

The cable franchise agreement obligates the cable provider, Comcast, to make two payments to the city:

  • A franchise fee of 5 percent of gross revenue from the operation of the cable system in return for access to city-owned streets and alleys. That fee has approached $900,000 in recent years.
  • A "capital payment" for equipment and facilities for public, educational and government access channels of 35-cents per subscriber per month.

The franchise agreement contains no language requiring the city to share any of that revenue with another party.

The franchise was signed in 2001 by AT&T Broadband which was acquired by Comcast in 2002. The agreement is scheduled to expire in November 2011.

The media center’s service agreement with the city, signed in July 2002, says the city "will provide ECMC funding."

But it leaves the amount of that funding totally up to the discretion of the City Council.

The agreement also provides that the city has a security interest in all equipment acquired by ECMC with the city funds and that ownership of the equipment reverts to the city when the agreement ends.

The city’s contract with the media center is scheduled to expire in July 2012.

 

Related link

Cable franchise; ECMC service agreement

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