TVCTV May Go Dark 

"I don't want to be a doomsday kind of person, but it seems pretty evident where it's headed."

Treasure Valley Community Television is facing a shutoff date at the end of the year, as a combination of legislation passed at the Idaho Statehouse and the end of a longtime agreement with the city of Boise all but eliminated the station's $60,000 a year operating budget.

According to TVCTV Board President Bob Neal, a bill pushed through the 2012 Legislature resulted in the elimination of fees paid to the community station by cable providers. Called Public Education and Government (PEG) fees, the money fed into a city fund 10 cents per Cable One subscriber, and was then funneled to TVCTV for capital expenditures. With those fees taken away, the station lost about $21,000 of its funding. Meanwhile, the city of Boise opted to stop its service agreement with TVCTV to broadcast City Council meetings. That meant the loss of another $33,000.

"So we lost $54,000 in funding in one fell swoop," Neal told Boise Weekly.

Michael Zuzel, assistant to Boise Mayor Dave Bieter, said after eight or so years of working with TVCTV to provide viewers with a feed of City Council meetings, it became clear that revenue troubles imperiled the organization and it was time to look for lower-cost alternatives--specifically, hiring a part-time city employee to provide audio visual services.

According to City Council records, TVCTV was allocated up to $13,650 to keep the station alive through Dec. 31. After that--unless some other source of cash is found--channels 11 and 98 will go dark.

That could be bad news for the city. According to Zuzel, anything purchased using PEG funds reverts to city ownership should the recipient organization close its doors. That means if TVCTV goes out of business, the city of Boise could find itself owning a full video studio that it doesn't want.

"[T]here's an outstanding mortgage on that property. ... If TVCTV were to shut its doors, that means the bank could foreclose on that property," Zuzel said. "The city is very interested in not having that happen because that is ultimately a taxpayer asset and we need to make sure we protect that asset on behalf of our taxpayers."

Hard figures were not available related to the value of the property, but Zuzel added that officials are working through those issues with TVCTV leadership.

"The ideal situation would be that they secure enough funding to buy our interest in the property outright from us," he said.

For that to happen, TVCTV will have to go to the community for support, and Neal said the optimal dollar amount would be somewhere in the $100,000 range, enabling it to hire dedicated staff and start producing its own content, rather than rely on government contracting and volunteer efforts.

"[With that amount of money] I could see this thing at least being able to pull off the experiment of finding out if ... it would be self-sustaining, which I really think it would," Neal said.

Zuzel confirmed that the city will meet with TVCTV sometime this week to sketch out a game plan. But Neal's not optimistic.

"I don't want to be a doomsday kind of person, but it seems pretty evident where it's headed," he said.

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