As Diccon Hyatt reports in this issue, the future of Princeton Community Television is in doubt. After receiving funding from cable franchise fees for more than two decades, the station is now confronting the challenge of finding new sources of funding as the town of Princeton has decided to reallocate the revenue from the franchise fees.
But PCTV’s supporters are not going down without a fight. In the past several weeks U.S. 1 has received nearly a dozen letters to the editor, all echoing sentiments similar to those expressed below.
To the Editor: A Story of Access TV and the Public
We are about to lose a unique public resource that offers viewers the opportunity to comment on issues, events and news relevant to the community. Princeton Community Television is going to go dark.
As a free community access channel that airs programming created locally, PCTV not only offers Princeton residents an outlet to express their views on local issues, but unlike YouTube, the internet and Twitter, provides a physical space where they can meet, collaborate and organize. It builds community. Media experts George Gerbner (“The Cultivation Theory), Tim Wu (“The Attention Merchant”), and Philip M. Napoli (“What Happens When Your Local News is Coming from Another State?”) concur that public participation is key to keeping democracy strong.
PCTV (originally TV30) was launched in the mid 1980s. Funding was derived from cable companies who were required by law to donate a portion of their revenues to provide facilities and airtime that allowed the public to speak its mind. The intent was to offset the power of cable conglomerates that often set the national agenda with little or no oversight.
Until 2019 these cable franchise fees have always been used to fund PCTV. This year, the town of Princeton is suspending funding and, according to the government, those fees “will be used for other purposes.” In this era of cable-dominated news grassroots community empowerment is needed even more for democracy to thrive. To shut down PCTV seems counterproductive to this goal.
Please tell the town council to reconsider defunding PCTV.
Janet Wolinetz, Christine Grant, Caren Sturges, Fredrika Schwerin, Roz Goldberg,
Anne Reeves, Founding Director, Arts Council of Princeton
Ellen Gilbert, People & Stories
The writers are members of Princeton Citizens for the Preservation of Local Broadcasting.