With any luck, Columbia could have public-access programming by July 1.
At Thursday's Columbia Cable Television Task Force meeting, cable companies Mediacom and Charter Communications agreed to award $92,000 to Cable Media Resource Alliance for all equipment, salaries and first-year operation costs. The cable companies will also allocate $15,000 to KMIZ for a switcher for public access.
Stephens College, where the interim public-access studio will be located, has begun to make some minor improvements. At the meeting, Stephens College representative Mark Smith said he was hesitant to proceed without a promise that Stephens would be considered the long-term location for public access. If Stephens is the permanent location for the studio, it will require a studio upgrade of around $300,000, Smith said.
The cable task force voted unanimously to include such language in its final proposal to the Columbia City Council.
CMRA President Beth Federici and other task force members were pleased with the progress, but said more funds are needed to run the studio.
"Do I think this is underfunded? Yes, I do," Federici said to the task force. "Please fund us some more money."
Allocation of funds will be decided in the next franchise agreement.
Federici said the new advisory board, which is nearly appointed and includes herself, will need to do some fund-raising. Federici said she intends for the board to be a "working board," that will do hands-on help at the studio.
The cable task force said CMRA, Stephens College and the cable companies should continue with their interim plan, but keep the task force informed of its progress to ensure that the next franchise agreement is a continuation and not an interruption.
The proposal to raise the franchise fee was tabled again until the next meeting on June 3. Most members agreed to wait to propose it to City Council until there is more information.
"We don't have yet a full-blown plan. I want to see this thing in writing," said task force member Rod Gelatt. "I want to see it signed so we can go to the City Council confident we have a workable plan."
Art Gerhard, chief operator of Jefferson City's public-access programming, attended the beginning of the meeting to answer questions from task force members about making public access successful.
"If you're going to plant tomatoes, you can't just throw the seed down and watch it grow," Gerhard said. He said the public-access programming needs to be taken care of and followed by a "good, solid board."
Marty Riback, task force member, recommended the task force begin to draw up all the items they want to include in its proposal to City Council on June 3.