By AMANDA BROOKS
The selectboard signed a resolution last Tuesday in opposition to the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed rule change that community television stations like Lake Champlain Access Television say would hurt them.
The change would allow cable providers to assign their own monetary values to the public access television channels that they normally provide for free, LCATV executive director Kevin Christopher said. That amount would then be subtracted from the operating funds providers give to public access stations—money that allows these channels to hire staff and film content, he said.
“What that could and probably would do is seriously deplete, if not altogether eliminate, our operating funding and put many of us out of business,” Christopher said.
He said LCATV would still have its capital funds to work with, but without operating funds, they can’t hire and maintain staff members to use the equipment.
Selectboard chairwoman Nadine Scibek said LCATV’s role in publicizing meetings, along with school boards’, planning commissions’ and other local government bodies’ is critical for Colchester.
“It’s really a very important service,” Scibek said. “You are always available to help us and regardless of what happens, we support you and we appreciate the good work you do for the community.”
Christopher echoed her sentiments, arguing that without the access stations, the opportunity to participate in local government would not be accessible to as many people.
“In a lot of communities, especially in Vermont, we are the only remaining link to local news and local government,” he said. “That link there is slowly disappearing.”
The reply comment period for the proposed rule change ended last week. The selectboard submitted its resolution, but Christopher said the fight doesn’t end there.
Christopher said he’s currently working to mobilize members of the Vermont Access Network, a statewide organization for local community access television, of which he is also the president.
Additionally, he said Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy and Congressman Peter Welch have already signed opposition to the proposed rule change, and in January, Christopher hopes to work with more legislators to combat the issue.
“We’re going to continue getting support,” he said.