A three-member subcommittee that has been charged with outlining a course for resolving lingering issues between the city of Madison and the Public Video Service Board that has managed Madison TV15 in recent years has agreed upon a proposal to take before the PVSB tonight.
The committee — Denise Buxton representing the Town of Hanover, Stephanie Hellmann for Jefferson County and Jim Bartlett for Madison — will recommend that the nine-member Public Video Service Board cease to exist with the three local entities reverting to the Cable Advisory Board that formerly served in that capacity. Madison TV15 would continue to operate as support to all three government stakeholders but each would also be able to pursue and produce their own programming to stream on the internet or on the cable network’s government TV channels.
The fracture surfaced several months ago when Madison Mayor Bob Courtney refused to consider additional funding for the PVSB and TV15 until the PVSB resolved gaps in its operating agreements with the county and municipalities. He said the group had failed to follow through on ordinances pertaining to that agreement and over the years had changed its focus and taken on responsibilities that were probably not part of the original operating agreements or any documentation that was on hand.
Monday night the three-member panel agreed that the PVSB should be scrapped with business reverting back to the Cable Advisory Board, which there are actually ordinances in place to establish, and board membership reduced in number with the three entities taking more control of their content and operating budgets.
The Cable Advisory Board would once again serve as a liaison between the governments and the local cable TV providers to hold the cable companies accountable on quality and content and allow the three government stakeholders to continue collecting cable franchise fees to help fund production of local content and supplement their general funds.
The plan would still fund TV15, which could produce content from meetings and possibly execute an agreement with Indiana PBS to bring more of that content to the channels the Cable Advisory Board schedules content for on both the Metronet and Spectrum cable systems. But the town of Hanover, City of Madison and Jefferson County would be encouraged to invest in their own equipment and staffing to produce their own content for use on their websites, Facebook pages, YouTube as well as the cable TV channels.
“At this stage of the game I’m inclined to (abandon the PVSB) — and I know it feels like throwing in the towel in a way — but the CAB is in existence assuming it was signed off on by both Jefferson County and the Town of Hanover 20 years ago. If it was fully executed and in existence we can move forward under that,” Barlett said. “I think we just operate under that agreement and let it be.”
He said the three entities would “do away with the Public Video Advisory Board — assuming it’s even in any of your ordinances — because it’s not functional anyhow.”
Courtney, who sat in on the meeting, said the new agreement will allow Madison to “do our thing and you do your thing” so Madison can focus on its live and recorded streaming to educate and inform residents and promote the community within and to a wider audience.
“We want to focus on what we try to do,” Courtney said. “At this junction we are at a fork in the road. We’ve figured out what we want and it’s time for Jefferson County and the town of Hanover to figure out what they want.”
Bartlett said the city envisions developing a platform that not only reaches local residents but also other viewers who are interested in Madison from around the region and throughout the world.
He said he envisions a CAB that meets as little as once a year to satisfy regulatory requirements pertaining to the local cable providers with the city, town and county each making decisions that impact their content and budgets for that content rather than the CAB. He also noted that he sees cable’s reach diminishing as more and more customers migrate from traditional cable TV to streaming services.
The next step for the proposal is to go before the PVSB tonight and then, ultimately, some approval would be needed by the three government entities.