BITV goes off the air

Bainbridge Island Television ended its 25 years of public access broadcasting this week.

It’s dying days were tumultuous, with street and City Hall protests, e-mail and social media campaigns and several BITV news specials decrying the city’s decision to cut funding to the station.

Now a fight looms over the robotic cameras and other equipment BITV purchased with public funds. BITV says the equipment belongs to them. The city disagrees.

And there appears to be some conflict on BITV’s sparsely-populated board. One member is now serving as both president and vice president, while another member says all control is now in the hands of the executive director. There are hints that some former board members may try to revive the station in the coming months.

You can read more in my most recent story about BITV.

This blog’s most recent poll (see right column) posed the question of how much financial support the city should give BITV. As of today, the results show a majority (64 percent) wanting no city funding to go to the station. About 20 percent want the city to meet BITV’s full funding request of almost $300,000, and 16 percent say BITV should get half that amount.

You can read BITV’s closure announcement below.

As you may be aware, the City terminated its contract with BITV October 12, 2010, and chose to no longer fund BITV and Public Access Television, or to retain BITV as the public access manager. BITV submitted a minimal budget to stay open, but unfortunately the City rejected our offer. The Board of Directors evaluated many options to stay open while keeping the community’s best interest in mind. Because we were given such a short time frame, and we had to consider our financial liabilities, the Board of Directors decided to shut down the organization. On December 13, 2010, BITV ceased operations and cablecasting on Comcast Channels 12 and 22.

The Board authorized Executive Director Schmidt to proceed with the necessary obligations to shut down BITV. The Board has been discussing options with legal council to insure we are in compliance with any state requirements. We are also discussing options with members of the community. Because residents have invested much into BITV, it is the Board’s desire to proceed in a direction that allows the community to continue public access television.

December 10 was the last day for three of the four employees. Minimal administrative assistance will remain to follow through with the Board’s direction to satisfy the organizations fiduciary and corporate obligations.

2 thoughts on “BITV goes off the air

  1. COBI Council and City Manager

    Subj: ENDING COMCAST PEG TAX

    OK, now that bitv has gone black — or more to the point they no long broadcastinf COBI — will the $1.00-a-month PEG assessment fee stop? If we have 3,000 Comcast customer, that comes out to $3K per month or if, as some claim, Comcast viewers are 4,500, that comes out to $4.5K per month. As it stands now we Comcast customers pay enough to Comcast for basic services. Let’s get that PEG assessment stopped and leave the families to figure out who they want to support.

    This is being sent to COBI Council. I do realize how it is very difficult for government to end a tax, particularly one that they are receiving directly.

    James M. Olsen

  2. PEG funds COULD be used for equipment/fiber/hardware that in any manner supports public, educational or governmental programming. That could prospectively include fiber to school, hardware for broadcast of council meetings, interconnectivity with other organizations….I anticipate we’ll hear more about possible uses of these funds as the city explores their options.

    I do question BITV’s claim to hardware purchased by PEG funds, as their contract was for management of assets of the city, including hardware and channels — NOT for ownership thereof. I believe that can make reasonable claim for ownership of truck purchased with grant funds or hardware purchased with grant funds — but as possession is nine tenths of the law, I hope city secured the equipment at issue before it disappeared.

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