There's a new operator for Dunkirk's Cable Access 12 public station. Common Council approved a resolution Tuesday to contract with V3 Studios, which will run the station as TRR Productions.
The change was a long time in the making, something council members and Mayor Anthony J. Dolce made clear in their remarks before the unanimous vote was cast. Dolce talked finances and told council the change might add $1,000 to the cable budget but it would be covered from either budget lines that come in under allocations or from the Fund I contingencies line.
Councilwoman Stacy Szukala spoke the longest before the vote, saying concerns about the operations of the station were brought up at budget time last year.
OBSERVER Photo by Gib Snyder
From left: Dunkirk Common Council members Michael Michalski, William J. Rivera and Adelino Gonzalez listen as Stacy Szukala explains her reasoning for voting to approve paying for the running of Dunkirk’s cable Access 12 station.
"We discussed many things at that time and we gave the opportunity for the current staff, or volunteers, to make those commitments happen. Unfortunately that's not where we're at today. So with the cooperation of the mayor and Mr. Rivera we've reached out to private organizations to come forward and give us some programming," she stated. "At that time I still had concerns because we were going from volunteer to $1,000 a month. It was hard for me to justify doing so, but after seeing the people that still want to see open government, open meetings, they're still asking to see what we discuss. If we were to vote no, myself, it would appear that I am against open government and that's not what this council is supposed to be about. So I'm in favor of this resolution tonight after long discussions with a lot of people. ... If the individuals involved with this give us what they intend to do I think we're going to have some very happy residents at home that will be able to understand what happens at meetings, more so than what they are right now."
Councilman Michael Michalski asked if the city was obligated contractually with Time Warner to provide a local access channel.
"I think there is an obligation to provide the opportunity for local programming, local access. As to what extent the electronic NOAA weather voice versus something more developed in programming, I don't know," City Attorney Ron Szot replied. "I don't know if federal regulations would think the electronic voice was giving the public an opportunity to be on a network."
Michalski said he would like to give it a try.
"After this contract is up at the end of the year we'll explore it then, but I don't see us going back to volunteers," he added. "I just hope the product that we're contracting for now is worth what we're paying for."
Councilman William J. Rivera is council's ex-officio member of the cable board and said he felt optimism.
"This has been a process that has been taking course ... since Jan. 2, 2012. I was at the Cable Access TV Board meeting a couple months ago and I honestly felt I was called out at that meeting to do something to help," he stated. "... Today we're turning the page to new history in the history of Cable Access 12 and it's going to be completely different."
Councilwoman-at-Large Stephanie Kiyak expressed similar sentiments as she recounted the history of the current council and the station.
"I do not believe that the current programming of hit and miss broadcasting of public meetings is a prudent use of taxpayer dollars," she stated. "Clearly, a change needs to take place and the mayor is asking council to try a new approach by contracting a third-party entity that promises far better programming, broadcasting of more public meetings, and covering major events."
In response to a question from Kiyak, Dolce said there was one thing not mentioned.
"These individuals are going to solicit sponsorships and if that's successful that will handle the equipment and supply costs," he stated. "That way we can use what we normally allocated for contracted services."
Dolce added any overruns in the cable budget would be covered from other lines that come in under budget or by contingency funds.
Michael Carbone of TRR Productions attended the meeting and said the company had experience.
"We've worked with WNYF and Mark Kiyak's television station on campus," he stated. "We've already got people who are lined up to come in and help us out, a lot of our friends actually."
Carbone said they would begin checking things out today and begin programming in a week or two, although Memorial Day activities will be covered.
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