January 22, 2020

Citing Importance of Maintaining PCTV’s Free Public Access 

It is critically important that we maintain and expand PCTV as a regional media center.  We don’t have a WHYY, and The Times is but a shadow of the old Trenton Times.  Without public access paid for by cable TV users, we are limiting our options to be well-informed.

PCTV’s free public access is not just a communication media, it is an economic center, and that seems to be the rub. There seems to be a concern by Princeton Council that surrounding towns are not paying their fair share. That Princeton is subsidizing the surrounding municipalities and their viewers. 

Let’s look at this more carefully. First, PCTV is a nonprofit that is run almost entirely by volunteers from Princeton and the surrounding townships — all the hosts and guests volunteer to create programming. It could be argued that Princeton residents are the primary gainers. Maybe Princeton owes the surrounding townships compensation for these volunteers? The fact is that while these volunteers are working in Princeton, they also spend money — pick up some lunch, stop to buy a wedding gift, or tie in a visit to a doctor, all services from local business people who pay taxes. Princeton’s role as a regional economic center is a good thing and PCTV is part of that — financed as it has been by cable TV fees — not by Princeton property taxes, but by cable TV fees.

Why do members of Princeton Council see so little value in PCTV? Mayor Marchand use to have her own show on PCTV. Superintendent Wilson use to be a regular guest on PCTV shows. I would suggest that possibly a TV presentation by local leaders on the new parking meters might have significantly helped to avoid parking concerns that anecdotally still remain among the surrounding townships.

There is also a concern that PCTV has $500,000 squirreled away. On December 16, when supporters of PCTV attended a Council meeting “en masse,” a member of Council repeated this misunderstanding. PCTV’s Board previously set aside $200,000 for replacing existing equipment, buying new technology, and acting as a contingency.  However, these funds have been used up.

Another question is what kind of fundraising has PCTV done to augment at least a portion of the cable fees? My observation has been that PCTV has been working at fundraising diligently but needs to do more. My hope is that, with a return of cable fees, PCTV will feel more confident about hiring a fundraiser. One thing that would really help would be signals from Council that it believes in the importance of PCTV as a town asset, and that Council members are willing to show this by resuming the payment of at least some of the cable fees that have been passed through for the last 40-50 years. And there is no reason why Princeton Council shouldn’t say publicly that they would like to see the townships take a percentage of the cable fees they receive from Comcast and Verizon, and pass that percentage onto PCTV. 

There are lots of ideas for new programming that would enhance fundraising and increase viewership. Among them, I’d like to see area mayors host shows on local issues. Let’s move forward.

Kip Cherry
Dempsey Avenue