Local public access media organization Media Bridges is shutting its doors for good by the end of the year, ending nearly 25 years of public service.
The organization’s demise is a result of the city eliminating funding for Media Bridges in its latest budget, which was passed by City Council in May.
“It is with great sadness that I must announce that Media Bridges will close its doors by the end of 2013. The city has made it extremely clear that we will not be receiving any more funding from them. While we have tried many other avenues for revenue it has become clear that we will be unable to sustain operations beyond 2013,” Media
Bridges Executive Director Tom Bishop announced Tuesday in the organization’s newsletter.
The shutdown will be a steady process, with Media Bridges completely closing once its channels are transferred or Dec. 13 — whichever comes first.
The city’s budget cuts were originally considered in December, but City Council managed to restore some funding to keep the organization afloat. Prior to the partial restoration, Bishop had called the cuts a “meteor” to his organization’s budget.
City officials previously defended the cuts to Media Bridges, citing city surveys that ranked the program poorly in terms of budgetary importance. For the surveys, the city used meetings and mailed questionnaires to gauge public opinion.
But Bishop claims the surveys’ demographics were lopsided against low-income Cincinnatians, the income group that benefits the most from public access programs like Media Bridges.
For both the meeting-based and mail-in surveys, Bishop’s claim checks out. His concern is even directly acknowledged and backed in the documented survey results for the meetings: “Twenty-two percent of meeting participants earned less than $23,050 per year, compared to 40.8 percent of the population at large who earn less than $24,999 per year. While this is not representative of the population at large, the data does indicate strong participation from low income residents.”
Meanwhile, wealthier Cincinnatians were much better represented, with 11 percent of meeting participants making $150,000 or more per year despite only 6 percent of the city at large belonging to that income group, according to the survey results.
The same issue can be found in the mail-in survey: Only 22 percent of respondents made less than $25,000, while 10 percent made $150,000 or more.
“It’s ridiculous that they would call that representative of the city of Cincinnati,” Bishop says.
Instead of using its skewed survey results, Bishop argues the city should have looked at the 2010 Spring Greater Cincinnati Survey from the University of Cincinnati’s Institute for Policy Research. In that survey, Cincinnati respondents were asked how important it was to provide recording equipment to citizens and neighborhoods so they can “produce educational and public access programs for cable television.” About 54.3 percent called it “very important,” 33.9 percent labeled it “somewhat important” and 11.7 percent said it was “not too important.”
City officials also defended the cuts by claiming that funding was only provided as a “one-year reprieve” after Media Bridges lost state funding that came through Time Warner Cable, which successfully lobbied to end its required contributions in 2011.
Bishop disputes the city’s claim, saying Media Bridges and its staff weren’t informed that the city funding was meant to be temporary — at least until it was too late.
Media Bridges is a public access media organization founded in 1988 that
allows anyone in Cincinnati to record video and sound for publicly
broadcasted television and radio. It also provides educational programs for people new to the process.
Although Media Bridges is closing down, the city is still funding CitiCable, which, among other programming, broadcasts City Council and county commissioner meetings, through franchise fees from Cincinnati Bell and Time Warner.
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 city’s $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 Cincinnati’s 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.
It’s not quite as bad as a pink slip from an unexpected layoff, but the latest action at the troubled Cincinnati Enquirer certainly isn’t good news for its workers.
The Cincinnati Enquirer's parent company is testing a “pay wall” system at three of its newspapers as it attempts to devise a business model that involves users paying for Internet content.
If successful, the model being implemented at the Tallahassee Democrat in Florida, The Greenville News in South Carolina and The Spectrum in St. George, Utah, eventually could be implemented at Cincinnati's only surviving daily newspaper.
If you thought the McCarthy era witch hunts were over, you are sadly mistaken. Welcome back to 1950!
After TV host Glenn Beck’s attack on Van Jones resulted in Jones resigning from the Obama administration, it seems to be open season and now Fox News -- the “fair and balanced” news channel with a political agenda -- kicked its game up a notch this week in its attempts to discredit and destroy more of President Barack Obama’s advisers.
I killed a spider today with astringent. I didn’t know you could kill spiders with astringent until today. But there it was, chilling in my bathroom while I was taking a piss. My first instinct was to douse it with some kind of liquid, and barring the source of liquid currently in my hands, the only other thing within reach was a bottle of astringent sitting on the bathroom sink.
I have to pay more attention to The Enquirer's websites. That’s apparently where the fun is.
Former Cincinnatian Peter Heimlich follows our Sole Surviving Daily online and on his blog, The Sidebar, he noted two photos that suggest web posts don't get the same alert editing as those in print.
One photo this week showed a male Rick Santorum critic holding a sign that defined “santorum” as “a frothy mixture of lube and fecal matter sometimes resulting as a bi-product of anal sex” and telling readers to “Google it.” That leads to the “definition” by sex advice columnist and gay rights activist Dan Savage.
Heimlich said The Enquirer took down the photo when he asked about it.
Another Enquirer photo faux pas was first caught by The Political Daily Download blog. This one involved another anti-Santorum poster, this one held by a woman. It had the former senator and lobbyist’s smiling face and said, “Doesn’t support products made for women’s reproductive organs” and, in much larger print, “IS A DOUCHEBAG.”
A similar photo replaced it online.
The scion of a Cincinnati political dynasty is starting to make it big in Hollywood.
Jesse Luken, the grandson of ex-Congressman Tom Luken and the nephew of former Mayor Charlie Luken, has recently landed notable roles on TV and film.
Luken recently had a recurring role on the third season of Justified on the FX cable network. He played Jimmy, a Mohawk-wearing young thug in the gang led by Boyd Crowder (Walton Goggins).
Now Luken has been cast in 42, the big-screen biopic about Jackie Robinson, the first African-American player in Major League Baseball. Luken will portray Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman Eddie Stanky in the film, which is due to be released on April 12, 2013. The release is timed to coincide with MLB's Jackie Robinson Day, held every April 15 to commemorate the date in 1947 when Robinson played his first game with the Dodgers.
The film, named after the number worn by Robinson, also features Chadwick Boseman in the title role; Harrison Ford as Dodgers general manager Branch Rickey, who signed Robinson; and Christopher Meloni as Dodgers manager Leo Durocher.
Luken is a Colorado Springs, Colo., native who previously had guest roles on the TV series NCIS, Law and Order: L.A. and Greek.