Open Stage Media asks Glenville to help cover expenses
Glenville is being asked to pay $5,000 a year for a broadcast service the town has yet to fully receive, and town officials are steamed because they feel they are being singled out to financially support a public access network they had no say in choosing.
We have been treated unfairly and our residents can’t currently see our board meetings, and I believed they’ve been disenfranchised from their right to public access, said Glenville Supervisor Christopher Koetzle at the Town Board Meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 19. `We are not in the business of just handing out money because someone needs it, someone wants it, or because someone thinks it is really fair if we did it.`
A vote last February by the Schenectady City Council allowed Open Stage Media to take over SACC-TV, which had been broadcasting town meetings on channel 16. Following the switch, Open Stage started using all three public access channels (16, 17 and 18) and moved government and education access to 17 and 18, stations with a signal based out of Saratoga County that could not be accessed by Glenville residents. As a result Time Warner subscribers in town have not been able to watch Town Board and County Legislature meetings for months. To move the transmission infrastructure is estimated to cost $12,000, a fee the town said it is willing to pay.
What town officials are balking at is that Open Stage Media, operated out of Proctors, is asking the town to help fund operational expenses of the entity, which manages the public, governmental and educational programming on Time Warner Cable for municipalities in Schenectady County.
Currently, the City of Schenectady is the only municipality funding the entity.
`In good faith we offered to make that $12,000 investment [for the transmission line], even though we didn’t have to do that with SACC-TV and no other town in the county has to do that,` said Koetzle. `Open Stage Media came back and said, ‘No that doesn’t count. We want operational money.’`
Philip Morris, the CEO for Proctors, approached town officials about reaching an agreement on establishing a service fee, with the possibility of adding the fee into the pending franchise agreement with Time Warner. Town officials, though, have decided against including Open Stage Media in the agreement.
`We have chosen not to make it a part of our franchise agreement [with Time Warner] but would consider it upon the request being made,` said James MacFarland, director of operations for Glenville, about establishing a fee. `Glenville’s perspective is we should not be singled out in any way.`
Morris had originally asked the town to pay 45 cents per month for each subscriber, but dropped that amount to $5,000 a year. Morris also said the town never designated Open Stage Media as its official public access provider, which means the town can’t now complain it wasn’t included in discussions.
`If you want to complain, then you’ve got to participate,` said Morris. `They chose … to keep it at no cost, and we are saying that is not going to work. It is not that this is a surprise, it is just a surprise that we are serious.`
At the Town Board meeting, Koetzle said there was an agreement that municipalities wouldn’t have to fund Open Stage Media but were encouraged to help out.
`The only time Open Stage Media engaged the Town of Glenville was when they came to us asking for financial support, after the fact that the deal is already done,` said Koetzle. `Open Stage Media always indicated to the Schenectady City Council that they would not kick anyone off for lack of financial support ever. In the meetings we had with Open Stage Media, that was conveyed to us over and over again.`
Morris is expected to make a presentation about Open Stage Media at an upcoming board meeting, but a date has not yet been scheduled. Morris said he would explain what `Open Stage Media is, does and will continue to do.`
As far as the $5,000 fee is concerned, Morris said it is `a steal.`
Morris said Open Stage Media is also in talks with Niskayuna, Rotterdam and Scotia about funding options moving forward. Since Glenville was the first town to negotiate a new franchise agreement with Time Warner, Morris said it was approached first.
Until it makes sense for the town to invest in Open Stage Media, Koetzle said, the board would not be moving forward. He said he asked Open Stage to prepare a plan on what the town’s contributions would go toward funding.
`Why would we pay additional money to assist them that we don’t have to?` asked Koetzle.
Koetzle said the town could `easily` show town board meetings through Saratoga lines on channel 17, but hoped to reach an agreement with Open Stage to keep programming broadcasted locally.“