Tuesday, May 25, 2004

Write Mayor Daley -- fund CAN-TV

This is worth a letter to Mayor Daley at Chicago City Hall, 121 North LaSalle, Chicago, IL 60602 (so please, get out your pens, write a letter and put it in the mail).

CAN-TV is a great public-access television organization that puts anyone on cable to be watched by anyone in the city with cable. It's as public as you get.

Unfortunately, it is funded by cable companies who get a franchise from the city to offer service. In the go-go nineties and the early part of this decade, telecommunications companies were insta-bajillionaires from Wall Street investors and they were swimming in money. Now, not so much. RCN is bankrupt, and they have not paid CAN-TV their required funds. More to the point, it's extremely unlikely any other company can raise the capital to compete for the Chicago market, which means the money for CAN-TV disappears.

Fortunately, there is a solution. The City of Chicago imposes a franchise fee (a tax on profits, as I understand it) on cable companies that operate in Chicago. That money goes to the general city fund, and does not fund public access television. You see where we're going.

One-fifth of the franchise fee (about $2,000,000 annually) should fund CAN-TV.

Alderman Bernie Stone introduced an ordinance to do just that. I called his office to find out the ordinance number (still looking for that), and Alderman Stone had his assistant call me back a minute later with the message "Write the Mayor. That's how we show our power."

(There's a good Ben Joravsky Neighborhood News article in the Chicago Reader, but the Reader wierdly doesn't put their articles online).

So: write Mayor Daley. Letters matter. How else will electeds know that there is a real constituency for this?

For more background from CAN-TV, check their page here.

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