Pittsburgh Council considers bill to clarify its role in access TV

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Pittsburgh Councilwoman Natalia Rudiak has sponsored legislation that would require all agreements with the city's public access administrator, Pittsburgh Community Television, to come before council, after council members accused the city of redirecting hundreds of thousands of dollars to the nonprofit without their approval.

Ms. Rudiak's bill also requires the money, which come in the form of grants from Verizon and Comcast, to be paid first to the city. Though the practice ended earlier this year at the request of council members, the companies had been cutting checks directly to PCTV at the direction of city officials.

The funds were created when the city signed franchise agreements with Verizon and Comcast, which agreed to pony up grant money that could be used to pay for capital improvements at the city's cable bureau, which runs the city channel, and PCTV, which runs the public access channel.

But in 2009 council passed a resolution that instructed a citizen board to create a strategic plan for PCTV. According to city solicitor Dan Regan, the resolution also authorized the city to formulate a new agreement with PCTV using the strategic plan as a basis for how to split the funds.

In the end, the strategic plan and the new agreement gave the lion's share of the grant money -- more than a million dollars -- to PCTV, starving the cable bureau of much-needed capital funds. Council President Darlene Harris said she believes the agreement, drawn up in 2011, should have come back to council for approval.

But Mr. Regan said the 2009 resolution expressly authorized the city to enter an agreement with PCTV based on the strategic plan.

Council approved a bill last week to change the amount of money each group receives.

Ms. Rudiak's bill amends the 2009 resolution.

"Clearly, there's been a lot of misunderstanding of this resolution," she said.

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Moriah Balingit: mbalingit@post-gazette.com, 412-263-2533 or on Twitter @MoriahBee.


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