Local channels vie for contract funds

Wednesday, June 29, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 8:38 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 30, 2008

A tug of war over cable fees among Columbia’s local broadcast stations dominated a city hearing Monday night. The Cable Task Force meeting was intended to allow the public to sound off on a new cable television contract to be written by the end of the year.

A 15-year franchise agreement between the city and cable providers Mediacom and Charter Communications ends Jan. 1, and the city wants to write a new contract by that time.

In exchange for use of the city’s infrastructure of power and cable lines, providers give a percentage of cable bills to fund public stations in the area.

Representatives from Columbia’s public access, education, and government channels were all present to present their budgets and argue for their share of the contract fees.

Todd Hildahl, coordinator of Columbia’s Educational Access Channel, which aids high school broadcast classes, said the fee should be divided evenly among the city’s three public outlets.

Beth Federici of Columbia Cable Access Television countered that because her station puts on the most programs, it should be given the largest share.

The committee members have worked to balance the three interests.

“This wasn’t so much a competition between the three channels. Everybody just wants to make sure that they have the funds to operate because they are all serving their supporters,” committee member Beth Pike said.

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