Council Mulls Future of RyeTV
By Peter Jovanovich
When the Finance Committee of the Rye City Council raised the possibility of using RyeTV funds for other capital needs, of which the City has many, evidently alarms rang out throughout town. At the September 12 meeting of the Council, Councilmember Emily Hurd, Chair of the RyeTV subcommittee, made it clear that “no decision was made” regarding the future of RyeTV.
Both Hurd and Goddard praised the professionalism of the staff of RyeTV – “a hidden gem in the City of Rye” – and acknowledged their “extensive service to the Rye community.” Hurd and Goddard also promised that no decision regarding RyeTV’s future would be made without “extensive communication” with the community. The third member of the subcommittee, Councilmember Ben Stacks, was not in attendance.
“We have learned an extraordinary amount about municipal cable operations during our extensive review,” said Hurd. Among the preliminary findings of the group were:
- Since 1988, 100% of the cable fees and grants – over $400,000 a year — has been devoted to RyeTV operations. This is unusual. Most Westchester municipalities use some of these monies for their general fund.
- RyeTV has accrued significant amounts to upgrade aging equipment. They also face possibility of losing their studio space at Rye Middle School, and had contemplated building an entirely new studio.
- All capital expenditures and the hiring of full time personnel has been “paused” while a review is completed.
To facilitate the review, the Council may hire a consultant for approximately $5,000 to help benchmark the practices of Westchester public cable operations. Several of the Councilmembers, including Danielle Tagger-Epstein, expressed the hope that this review would “look at the total picture of new media options.”
It’s evident that the Council is covetously eying the Cable Commission’s pot of gold, considering the City is contemplating spending up to $12,000,000 on new sewers, sidewalks, traffic lights, court house renovations, etc. On the other hand, it acknowledges that without RyeTV, there would be no televised public meetings. “We recognize the many services that RyeTV provides to Rye’s non-profits,” said Councilmember Goddard. “We promise to consult with all of the stakeholders before any decision is made.”