Council cuts city’s communications funding

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Cuts made by the City Council to the 2011 budget could impact how residents get their information.

Last week Mayor Jim Brainard signed the budget which he and the council cut from the $77,545,200 originally proposed to $74,491,198. Among the council’s cuts were funding for the city’s cable Channel 16, the city newsletter, Web site updates and two community relations positions.

Director of Community Relations Nancy Heck said after the council meeting that she cannot maintain the city’s current communications efforts and community events next year on her own. She added that the city will be launching a new Web site in the coming weeks, but there is now no money in the budget for updating it. Next year, the new site will feature all of the information posted before the end of 2010, but no new items will be added throughout 2011.

“So what’s the point?” Heck asked.

Channel 16 also will be without new content in 2011. City Council meetings will still be aired live, but the channel was left with $25,000 for other programming. Winston Long, vice president of Omni Centre for Public Media, said $100,000 – the amount budgeted for Channel 16 last year – is the “bare minimum” with which the channel can fully operate.

“New programming is obviously going to be significantly reduced,” Long said. “There is no question; if we don’t have more funding, it won’t be available.”

Multiple residents addressed the council before last week’s meeting petitioning that these cuts not be made. One petitioner was Erik Möllberg of the Alliance for Community Media. Möllberg told Current in Carmel that local media is how communities preserve their history and culture and channels like 16 are routinely among the most popular cable channels, though most people would not think so.

“They (the City Council) may not realize the value and the function that this has until it’s gone,”  Möllberg said.

Immediately after the meeting, City Council President Rick Sharp said the council was simply doing what it had to in order to balance the budget. Communications funding is important to have when it can be afforded, though right now it’s an additional expense that can’t be, he said.

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