May 1, 2019

Princeton Community TV Needs Renewed Public Understanding

To the Editor:

Princeton Community TV has put the Public into Public broadcasting for 20 years. It needs renewed public understanding and reasonable municipal support to continue operating. The April 24 PCTV page one story [“Contract Negotiations at an Impasse Between Town and Local TV Station”] left much unexplained.

PCTV has developed a robust, vibrant Public Access Channel on Comcast 30 and FIOS 45. It airs 24/7, produces an estimated annual 600 hours of original programming, at least 8,000 hours of curated programs, 2,400 hours of volunteer time and talent, a board, and small paid staff. Programs may be posted on national internet sites for non-cable viewers. It pays the town $18,000 in rent for its basement offices in the Old Borough Hall, which are open to the public 9-9 most weekdays. PCTV welcomes diverse volunteers regardless of their financial means. Together they learn new digital media and broadcast skills, and access studio time to create television shows. They watch their shows air in Princeton and Central New Jersey and potentially the world. How exciting! How empowering! How beneficial to viewers! How proud the municipality should be! The municipality has limited PCTV’s Municipal Channel Comcast 29 and FIOS 44 operations to broadcast and troubleshoot municipal meetings.

PCTV original founders, a mayor, council, and citizens, had the vision and commonsense to create an independent 501(c) (3) nonprofit organization, to operate and manage the municipal and public access stations. They decided to fund the stations not with property taxes, but with cable company subscriber’s franchise fees, which companies forward to municipalities. They foresaw that the inevitable evolving technical, creative, and daily public access requirements were not municipal core strengths, but would need sustained municipal financial support and liaison.

PCTV accepts that it must accelerate private fundraising. It has already increased membership dues, studio and class fees, and seeks grants. FCC and nonprofit tax law limit commercial activity. Nor do the organizations and citizens appearing on PCTV, like the League of Women Voters, Crossroads of the American Revolution, people making a difference, and municipal department heads and committees have media budgets. As a Princeton resident, taxpayer, PCTV-dues-paying member, volunteer advisor, show producer and financial supporter, I find PCTV to be a bargain for the public. It is a cultural pillar of Princeton. Like the library, Arts Council, Garden Theater, PCTV volunteers serve Princeton residents and others. So please support continued franchise fee financing. Watch PCTV. Participate in PCTV.

Christine Grant
Brooks Bend