Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Minutes of May 20, 2010, Telecom Board

Telecommunication Board Meeting Minutes
May 20, 2010
Chairman Aubrey Shepherd called the meeting to order. Present were Marvin Hilton, Aubrey Shepherd, Justin Tennant and Brandon Leder. Not present were Russell, Bosseau and Cusanelli.
Also present were Fritz Gisler, the Government Channel Manager; Mark Warren, Interim Administrator at Community Access Television; and CAT Board member Roger Henry.
Tenant moved to approve the minutes from the April meeting and Hilton seconded. All approved the agenda.
Hilton added recommendation of the franchise fees (item#14) and consideration of two letters to newspapers concerning listing of the PEG channels. (attached to item #11) . He also added discussion whether or not the recommendation that subcommittees not be televised was a decision in accord with the current Government Channel policy.
Hilton moved and both Leder and Tenant seconded. All approved.
Hilton pointed out that this is the second year without a contract.  Shepherd said UATV is attempting to separate from PEG and get on a higher tier which would take a new contract.
Shepherd said he has been assured by the City Attorney that he is communicating with COX and the City effort is to maintain what they have and possibly improve. COX disagrees with what the law states. Shepherd was assured that the City is making efforts to negotiate.
Hilton said a formal Needs and Interest study is needed to back up negotiations and suggested the Board consider a letter requesting one.
Gisler clarified that the placement of the PEG channels on the lowest tier level is the legal situation being considered. The City is committed to keeping them there. He added that the Government Channel is repeated on a digital channel as a gratis.

Hilton said AT&T is still not available in his neighborhood.
Gisler talked of the catastrophic failure of an essential piece of the telecast system and the subsequent replacement which is underway. He stated that the new system will be more efficient, stable, & reliable. It will reduce staff time in preparing for telecast. Gisler said there was already money for this in the Capital Improvements in the budget. Tenant complimented the staff for the transition.
Mark Warren, Interim Administrator for community Access TV, invited the Board to the Fat Cat Awards Ceremony and explained what it is. It was discussed to make the tickets be tax deductible. Warren expressed satisfaction with the new telecast system.
Roger Henry, Cat Board member, pointed out the ULR address included in his letter to the Board and explained that all CAT Board communications were going to now be available to the public. He spoke of revisions of wording in the CAT bylaws which bring them up to what the contract dictates and which confirmed that the CAT Board wants to comply with FOIA laws.
Henry reported that 10 people have applied for the Executive Director position and interviews will be the second week of June. Gisler suggested interviews be held in the FPL Walker Community Room and Hilton added that the FPL Ann Henry Board Room would also work.
Henry reported that CAT Board membership is up to 8.
Henry asked for news of the status of the RFP. Hilton directed the question to Gisler who said he’s not been told but that the last one was late July. 
Hilton stated a desire for the Telecom Board to see it before it goes to City Council. Gisler told Hilton to let Lindsley Smith, Director of Communications, know.
Hilton moved to send a letter to Smith inquiring about when the Telecom Board would have the opportunity for their input on the RFP for Public Access. Leder seconded and all approved. Henry agreed that it was a good idea.
Henry pitched to the public that people apply for the Executive Director job and/or Board positions. He gave the web address. catfayetteville.org
The target number for Board members is 15-16 and registered voters from the four county area can apply.
Leder reported that the Courtyard Marriot has all three channels.
Hilton reported that three hotels didn’t have CAT and suggested encouraging hotels to remedy this because PEG channels are a sign of a progressive City. Shepherd agreed that it would be a good idea and that the information that the City has the three channels should be added to City promotional information.
Hilton reported that three apartment complexes have all three channels.
It was agreed that discussion about reception of the stations should be at the next meeting because of the current situation of installing new equipment. Hilton did report that Government Channel meetings from room 326 look better than from room 219 and that sometimes audio is low and that UATV audio varies a lot.
Tenant said he had no issues right now because he believes every effort is being made and there is no other reason than budget.
Hilton disagreed and stated that Government meetings requested are number one priority according to policy, over informational shows. He stressed following the policy to insure open, participatory government.
Shepherd added that he believes in the necessity to follow policy. He also said the public must be reminded of the importance that someone record meetings.
Tenant agreed about the need to let people know when, where meetings will be held and that hopefully more meetings can be recorded later when the economy improves.
Hilton said the new policy strengthens the requesting process and that the real problem is not money but apathy. He said the charge of the Telecom Board, through the Government Channel, is to help encourage a participatory government by putting some of the power in the hands of the customers. He mentioned that Informational shows use approximately fifty percent of the resources and is an adjustable item done at the discretion of City staff. He reiterated the importance of following policy.
Shepherd said the Government Channel has the capability to record meetings and there are many reasons to keep the ability for residents to be able to request. He said the policy was weakened two years ago and should not have been.
Hilton talked about that when he read the FOIA laws he found that if it meets the FOIA laws it fits the policy and it does not matter what the name of the meeting is, regarding subcommittee meetings.
Tenant asked if Hilton agreed that there is a difference between advisory and government meetings. He too would like to see all televised and restated the need to publish meetings which are to be held, make them accessible and have after the fact information made public. He said the question is the telecast question.
Hilton asked if the interpretation, that announced no subcommittee be televised on the Government Channel, was the reason he got no answer about dates for the Brainstorming Session. Gisler responded that he has not gotten a production plan and that he is involved in the installation of the new equipment and doesn’t know when it could be set.
Shepherd suggested that setting a July date might work and to start planning. Hilton agreed and asked for as soon as possible because of the time needed to get the people involved together.
Hilton asked the Board if they would make a formal request for a production date. Tenant asked if they could just follow the same procedure as they do when they request a meeting. Gisler answered that the preliminary production plan is more complex than that. Gisler said he needs a more complete production plan.
Hilton and Leder agreed to produce a production plan.
The idea of a live call in was discussed and Tenant said that that often was a “train wreck”.
Hilton stated that they should be fundamental as they make it participatory for citizens. Tenant added that multiple means of communication are needed.
Leder moved to table the item, setting the date for the Brainstorming Session, until next month. Tenant seconded. Shepherd, Leder, Tenant said aye.
Leder and Hilton set the date to establish the production plan - Monday, May 24 at 9:30 a.m., possibly in Room 111, City Administration. Hilton restated the topics as the CAT RFP and the Government Channel policy.
Shepherd reminded the Board that they had previously voted to forward it to City Council.
Hilton said he had made two minor changes. Section One, Items A, B, C. He said these changes clarify that requests be followed in order of the priorities set.
Shepherd and Hilton asked Gisler for his opinion of the changes as he had requested the revision.
Gisler stated that he had no issue with that verbiage but that the Director of Communication and the Chief of Staff would need to review it.
Hilton’s other change was to Section 12 and he added that the complaint process should be in writing. He added that the Government Channel Manager needs to respond in writing to Jim Bemis’s complaint concerning the cancellation of CAT Board coverage by the Government Channel. Hilton said Gisler should write why the meetings are not televised.
Gisler relayed that Chief of Staff, Don Marr, requested that this item about Government Channel Policy be tabled until next month.
Tenant moved to table. Hilton commented on the fact that this has been being worked on since 2008 and that the problem is with the Telecom Board’s not taking any action. He cautioned not to delay for ever. He spoke of two kinds of Government Channels. 1. No policy -  which is basically the informational arm of the City Administration. 2. Has a Telecom Board which stands between Administration and the citizens and gives a neutral platform to operators of the Government Channel. He called this one a stronger, more progressive policy which helps create an open, participatory government.
Tenant reiterated that it would only be for one month and Leder seconded the motion. All approved.
Tenant said the next meeting has not been set. He reported that the City has applied for Broadband funding and should know the results at the end of June. He will let the Board know when he hears. Blanche Lincoln wrote a letter on behalf of the City.
Hilton referred to the submitted packet item which suggested a 5% increase of the collected franchise fees going to the Television Center with 3% going to Government and 2% going to CAT for operational budgets. He suggested that Public Access get more because they have been at $93,000 for so long and they need to cover inflation.
Gisler pointed out a typo about those percentages. Hilton said he’d forgotten to include the corrected form but he intended 2% to Government and 3% to CAT. He also asked Gisler if July or August would be timely for inclusion in the City’s budget considerations. Gisler said yes.
Gisler explained that the operation budget for the Government Channels operates the entire TV Center: utilities, cameras, maintenance, everything. CAT pays only their salaries and office supplies. He asked the Board to keep that in mind when considering the funding split.
Hilton asked that Gisler give any suggestions for different figures. He also said that some cities give all of franchise fees to Public Access.
Gisler clarified that franchise fees go to the General Fund and operational budget is not tied to franchise fee or based on percentages.
Shepherd agreed that more funding is needed.
The compliment to staff of both stations was restated.
Shepherd said Bemis should be back
None present
Shepherd asked Board Members to e-mail him ideas.
Hilton brought up consideration of the letters to newspapers concerning the PEG Channels’ listings asking that they include the channel station names but not have to list specific show schedules.
Hilton moved to send the letters and Leder seconded. All approved.
Hilton announced that 2 Board members are needed and the deadline to apply is May 28 at 5p.m.
Leder requested an excused absence from the June meeting

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