November 30th, 2012 By German Lopez | News | Posted In: Budget, News, Media

City Slashing Media Bridges Funding

Massive cuts endanger local public access media

milton dohoneyCity Manager Milton Dohoney Jr.

Mitt Romney was criticized for wanting to kill Big Bird due to his proposed cuts to publicly funded media, and now City Manager Milton Dohoney Jr. could face similar criticism. In his 2013 budget proposal, Dohoney suggested eliminating $300,000 in support to Media Bridges, an organization that provides public access TV and radio stations in Cincinnati.

Tom Bishop, executive director of Media Bridges, called the cuts a “meteor” to his organization’s budget. He described dire circumstances in which Ohio originally cut funding to Media Bridges in June 2011, leaving the organization with $198,000 from remaining money in the state fund and $300,000 from Cincinnati’s general fund. The state fund was provided by Time Warner Cable, and lobbying from the cable company is what eventually led to the fund’s elimination. The end of the Time Warner fund cut Media Bridges’ budget by one-third, forcing the organization to change facilities to make ends meet with less space.

With the city manager proposing to cut the citys $300,000 in funding, Media Bridges is essentially losing $498,000 in 2013. Bishop says that’s about 85 percent of the organization’s budget — a financial gap that would be practically impossible to overcome. “If it’s a complete cut, we’re looking at liquidation,” says Bishop.

When it was notified of the changes a few months ago, Media Bridges gave an alternative plan to the mayor’s office that keeps $300,000 in funding every year after a six-month transition period.

But even that plan isn’t ideal, according to Bishop. It would force Media Bridges to cut four staff members, become more dependent on automation and charge $200 a year for memberships with a sliding scale for low-income members.

Media Bridges will be reaching out to the public, mayor and council members in the coming weeks to draw support in fighting the cuts.

At the government meetings, Bishop will make the plea that public access outlets are important for low-income families. He says it’s true that the Internet and cable television have expanded media options for the public, but, according to the 2010 Greater Cincinnati Survey, more than 40 percent of people in Cincinnati don’t have access to broadband. That’s a large amount of the population that will be left without a way to easily speak out in media if Media Bridges funding is dissolved.

In a world of saturated media, Bishop rhetorically asked why four TV channels that do a public service would need to be targeted: “Does it seem so ridiculous that the people should have a tiny bit of that bandwidth so that they can communicate with the community, share cultural events, share what’s going on in the community and participate politically?”

He added the organization also provides educational access, which allows institutions like the University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati Public Schools and various private schools to reach out to the community.

Media Bridges also sees the cuts as a bit unfair relative to other budget items. Bishop acknowledges “fiscal times are hard,” but he pointed out CitiCable, which broadcasts City Council meetings and other educational services, is getting more than $750,000 in the proposed budget to run one TV channel, while Media Bridges isn't getting $300,000 to run four TV channels and a radio station. He praised CitiCable — “Those guys do a great job over there; they provide a great service” — but he also says the disproportionate cuts are “just not right.”

The cuts to Media Bridges are some of many adjustments in the budget proposal by Dohoney. To balance Cincinnatis estimated $34 million deficit, Dohoney suggested pursuing privatizing parking services and other cuts, including the elimination of the Cincinnati Police Department’s mounted patrol unit and a $610,770 reduction to human services funding.

Update (Nov. 30, 3:45 p.m.): Meg Olberding, spokesperson for the city manager's office, called back CityBeat after this story was published. She explained Media Bridges was a target for cuts for two reasons: The program was ranked low in importance in public feedback gathered during the priority-driven budget process, and Media Bridges isn't seen as a core city service.

Olberding also said that while some funding does flow through the city to CitiCable, that money has always come from franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner. In the case of Media Bridges, the city was not funding the program until it picked up the tab in 2011. Until that point, Media Bridges was funded through the now-gone Time Warner fund. Only after funding was lost did the city government provide a one-year reprieve” in the general fund to keep Media Bridges afloat, according to Olberding.

12.01.2012 at 10:56 Reply

We think what the city manager and Olberding are saying and doing is a bunch of crap!! Why is it always the public getting funds cuts? As Olberding that Media Bridges is low importance in public which is not true.

There is an importance for public access televison and educational to seen and heard. It give the local citizen a voice and a creative outlet to express their talents. Youth program in the summertime has been helpful those youngster who might not be able to afford other classes which has an expense their parents not be pay. Media Bridges has been a major supporter the youth. Religion Programs, Documentaries,  Public Views. City Cable just politician and their same old stories which are boring. Public Access & Educational TV gives you a variety of shows which the people enjoy like Democracy Now!! Again as we stated earlier cut whats good for the people because Goverment says so!! If they were wasting money on frivious things like streetcars which is only going around a block maybe they would have the monies they needed. To keep Media Bridges doors open.


12.03.2012 at 09:59 Reply
It's interesting that the person to response is one whose departmeent (CitiCable Cable) is being FUNDED. I would also be interested in the who, what, when and where this PUBLIC FEEDBACK was gathered. I'm the PUBLIC. Nobody contacted me.


12.03.2012 at 10:47 Reply

Sad to see that dispite the POSITIVE change currently enjoying a reprieve in our 'O'-MAZING city, City Government still appears to be a thorn in the side of any TRUE progress.

The old way was to hoard resource opting instead to pad the already BUDGING pockets of  upper level leadership; despite fresh blood and new perspective from a select few council members. I understand change is slow but I also know the City Manager made no earnest efforts to find out what this community REALLY wanted...

The people have always been the levelers of this political playing field...elections are closer than you think (Mr. City Manager). With digital media providing reminders 24/7; we will not soon forget your treason.

I am a fan and member of this community and you will not change that despite your attempts to silence my voice...

Big hugs and Media Bridges love!


12.03.2012 at 11:21 Reply

To cut funding for Media Bridges is tantamount to eliminating what is left of the public square in Cincinnati. We know from demonstrations last year that THERE IS NO PLACE FOR PEOPLE TO MEET AND ADDRESS GRIEVANCES IN THIS CITY. The channels at Media Bridges provide the only venue left, indeed, public access television is one of the only venues left IN THE COUNTRY. In where such speech can occur. Adding insult to injury is the notion that local government should have its voice paid for by the people, but that the people should have no forum or venue to address eachother and return comment. Frankly it is disgusting and a monstrous leap backward for a city which has made such strides. It is just one more reason to leave...


12.03.2012 at 02:28 Reply

Olberding should post what demographic this public feed back came from and how many people were involved. Media Bridges has been a voice for the people for over twenty three years. Media Bridges teaches the people of the community real world skills in media. Most of the city council members at one time or another have used the services Media Bridges provides.