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Wausau likely to eliminating Public Access Television programming fees


WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAU) - Several Wausau area churches and local public access television program producers will like the direction city leaders took Monday night.

The city’s Public Health and Safety Committee voted to eliminate the proposed fees they would have to pay to have church services and other local public access programming put on the air. The committee decided the fees would be counterproductive, and would not help generate more programming content. Chairperson and City Council President Lisa Rasmussen noted that this is especially true when there are free places like YouTube to distribute programming on demand.

Public Access programmers David Dickinson and Kris Berge answered several committee questions. Dickinson says he’s glad the city is considering the change since it will remove one of the roadblocks that prevent local show producers from using public access television. “I knew that once you put a dollar amount on that, it’s hard for people to come forward with ideas and present things, because the first thing you learn when you do media is it can be expensive to step into.”

The City of Wausau currently spends around $47,000 per year operating the public access channels. The city receives around $357,000 per year from Charter Communications in franchise fees, of which a portion is devoted to public access programming.

Oliver Burrows is a reverend, county board member, and marketing person. He is hoping a non-profit corporation can be setup to work in conjunction with Wausau Public Access to help market it and acquire programming. He says some potential funding sources are uncomfortable with having the channels managed by the Mayor’s office. “Hopefully, the city’s Public Health and Safety Committee will be able to take jurisdiction over the access channels, and they will be able to help them get policies, procedures, and we have to look towards getting a 501-c-3, a not for profit organization, because I’ve already talked to some of the granting people, and they don’t want to get involved with something that’s really run by the city.”

Dickenson and Berge put in 15 hours per week part time into producing and editing for the Wausau public access channels. Burrows says the amount of time authorized by the city doesn’t give them enough time to market the channels. “Right now with 15 hours a week, the two part-time employees can’t do that, and that’s 15 hours a week between the two of them. That’s seven hours a week. Now, you tell me how much work they can do with that number of hours to go out into the community and actually market, and the answer is not much.”

The city has been developing a series of policies, procedures, and communication guidelines for the channels the city has through Charter Cable under their franchise agreement. The Public Health and Safety Committee is forwarding the documents to the full City Council, with all references to fees deleted.