Does Eagle County need TV channel? |

Does Eagle County need TV channel?

Scott N. Miller

EAGLE COUNTY – Is Eagle County ready for prime time?A county-funded TV station hasn’t hit local cable TV systems yet, but is expected to by the end of the year. The need for, and cost of, that station is the subject of this week’s questions to the three people running for Eagle County commissioner.

The county has set up its own public access TV station at a cost of roughly $200,000 per year. Do you think this is the best way to go or should the county just use existing public access space on local cable systems?

This is not a “public” access TV station, it is a “government” access TV station designed disseminate information about government meetings, services, and programs.

It is funded from franchise fees paid by CenturyTel and Comcast so these companies can use county roads and land for the cable installation.Apparently no money comes out of the county general fund, and the franchise money is earmarked for information television and can not be used elsewhere.Eagle County Communications Director Justin Finestone assures me that there are regulations in place which prohibit political use and abuse of the service. The channel has not gone on the air yet so it’s hard to get a sense of what it will be like.There are two full time people employed, an experienced video production manager who receives a salary of $75,000 and a second person who receives somewhat less. The production equipment is in place from years past so no big new capital expenditures are necessary.I cannot make a judgment on the value of this program until I see a few shows.

Public access and the ability to broadcast commissioners’ meetings to the entire county is an important tool for Eagle County to have.

Allowing people the opportunity to see and hear the actions of our county government in operation makes for a more transparent county organization and a better understanding of why actions are taken.In addition to commissioners’ meetings the county can use public access television to create programs for public awareness and educational value that will help people to understand the workings of our county government. However, I do not think that the county should be competing with private enterprise or not-for-profits that are capable of producing the same product. We currently have people in the county who are trying to promote television coverage of governmental and public events. The county’s use of funding to provide their own television station competes with private enterprise when in fact we should be looking for ways to help businesses succeed in the county. Do we need a full time television crew paid for by the county? Could we save county tax dollars for other needed items, promote independent business and help local television channels succeed by utilizing existing stations? I think so.

Eagle County has definitely become a more urban place to live. In most urban areas there’s a healthy choice of print and electronic media.

We don’t have that. And that’s why I think a stronger community access television option should be developed. The county is in an extraordinarily good position (with talent and funding) to lead a much broader initiative that would include Channel 5, the school district, Colorado Mountain College and the library district. There have been some preliminary conversations along these lines, but now’s the time to really get going.There is a great opportunity here to develop creative curriculum at both the secondary and college level to teach students all aspects of television production. This would provide very low cost production talent to create worthwhile and beneficial programming for our community while at the same time offer excellent vocational training.Access Roaring Fork has made some great strides in this effort, and my hope is that Eagle County can support and enhance public on that side of the county as well.Vail Daily, Vail, Colorado

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