Subcommittee discusses ECTV finances, future

Ben Schaefer, Assistant City Editor

Members and supporters of a local public access television organization defended the station Monday evening as aldermen deliberated about the future of the station.

The Human Services committee called Evanston Community Television, a nonprofit overseen by the city, to its meeting to discuss the financial viability of the station. The station had been contracted with the city to air local government meetings, but the city terminated the contract in early December after “several years of struggles with ECTV to maintain minimum service levels to the City,” according to a memorandum. Evanston/Skokie School District 65 had previously ended its contract as well.

At the meeting, ECTV board members requested one more year to increase revenue by exploring programming options and expanding class offerings.

“We have a chance to do something with this, rather than let this turn into one more thing that fails,” said ECTV supporter and adjunct Medill Prof. Robert Mark.

ECTV is housed in the City Service Center, 2020 Asbury Ave., on a lease of $1 a year that is set to expire at the end of 2015 but is revocable at any time, according to the city memo.

Community members spoke about budget cuts that ECTV faced years ago when the council diverted $300,000 of the station’s $400,000 funding to the city’s overall budget.

“You take anyone’s budget and cut it to one fourth and you can’t expect that business to thrive,” ECTV supporter Jeff Berkowitz said. “I think they’re performing extremely well under the circumstances.”

City manager Wally Bobkiewicz expressed doubt about the station’s financial sustainability.

“Public access is special,” he said. “But this is an organization in crisis. I want to see ECTV continue but I don’t know if it’s in a position to do so.”

Aldermen decided to leave the matter in committee until a more detailed financial strategy can be brought to the discussion and requested an updated budget from ECTV’s treasurer.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @BSchaefer27