Metro plans to consolidate public access TV channels

Tuesday, February 2, 2010 at 2:06am

Nashville’s public-education-government (PEG) access television channels are prepared to reorganize and consolidate under one body, an effort to create more accountability inside a previously mismanaged system.

As part of the franchise agreement Metro government has with Comcast Corp., the cable operator can continue to use public infrastructure so long as it supplies the city with $100,000 per year to operate television channels to serve the community. This agreement is carried out in the form of channels 3, 9, 10 and 19. 

Channel 3, known as Metro3, provides live broadcasts of government meetings and is managed out of Metro’s Department of Information, Technology Services.

But separate nonprofit corporations — both based at Nashville State Community College — operate the other three channels. The Metro Education Access Corp. (MEAC) is responsible for programming for channel 9, dedicated to art, as well as channel 10, reserved for education. Meanwhile, the Community Access Corp. (CAC) manages programming of channel 19, a station that allows individuals to produce their own telecasts. These channels fall under the domain of the seven-member PEG oversight committee.

A Metro ordinance, however, would amend the Metro Charter to abolish that oversight committee, terminate the MEAC and CAC, and consolidate all responsibilities into a new organization called the Nashville Education, Community, and Arts Television Corp. (NECAT). Metro’s ITS department — along with continuing operations of Metro3 — would manage the production facilities of the other three channels.

The ordinance cleared two Metro Council committees Monday night and will go before the council on second reading tonight.

“There is no intent anywhere in this ordinance to take away or change the mission of any of those channels,” said Keith Durbin, Metro’s chief information officer. “I really think we’ve developed a strategy through this ordinance that will allow us to get the greatest value from these very valuable Metro resources.”

The proposed changes came after a 10-month study that kicked off in response to a February 2009 review from the Metro finance department that alleged more than $45,000 of MEAC funds had been misappropriated and more than $18,000 improperly commissioned under the guidance of former Executive Director Michael Catalano.

Though primarily focusing on the mismanagement of Catalano, the report also notes deficiencies with the other organizations, including poor control over inventorying assets and payroll processing issues. The audit recommends creating a new organization to manage the activities of the three existing entities.

Durbin said the proposed reorganization of Nashville’s public-education-government access channels would create better oversight and accountability because it directs all management to one Metro department: ITS. 

“We’ll be on the site to manage Metro’s assets, which is the studio itself and the equipment,” Durbin said. “We’ll also help make sure the [NECAT] board is doing what the board should be doing.”

3 Comments on this post:

By: HokeyPokey on 2/2/10 at 9:54

It is devoutly to be desired that ITS be as kind to Channels 9, 10 and 19 as it was last year to Channel 3: $460,000+

By: govskeptic on 2/2/10 at 10:03

If you think Keith Durbin and the Metro Finance Dept has
anything other than total Administration control over these
4 channels, you do so at your own peril. The fact they made
a poor choice in hiring Mr. Catalano doesn't mean they are
about to provide this viewing area better programming,
just the opposite. More self-serving programming!

By: global_citizen on 2/2/10 at 11:04

I don't think bringing these channels under the umbrella of Metro ITS will affect programming one way or another. However, I do know Keith Durbin and I feel confident they'll have much better oversight and accountability under his purview.