May 25, 2024

Seekonk’s TV9 Off the Air

Posted

Viewers of TV9, the local access channel which provides coverage of government meetings and other events, shut down its broadcasts on April 1.

“Unfortunately, Seekonk Cable Access Corporation, the non-profit organization that the Town of Seekonk has designated to provide you with Public Access Television, Educational Programming, and Governmental Programs, has been suspended until further notice,” stated the announcement on TV9’s Facebook page.

TV9 places the blame squarely on the Select Board, which “directed the Town Administrator to refrain from rendering payment for services from Xfinity/Comcast since August of last year.”

“Your Xfinity provider charges all subscribers a fee every month to provide Seekonk with local cable access, and the town of Seekonk has always allowed the payment check to be delivered directly to Seekonk Cable Access every quarter. They stopped that last summer, abusing a loophole in a state law that is in the process of being amended.”

Speaking on behalf of the Select Board last Wednesday, Town Administrator Shawn Cadime said “we are deeply troubled by the decisions made by the Seekonk Cable Access Board of Directors, particularly in light of the ongoing negotiations for a Cable Access Agreement between the Town and Seekonk Cable Access. These actions undermine the collaborative efforts we have been diligently working on.” 

The Reporter obtained a draft of the proposed agreement, which states: “Seekonk, its’ Select Board, or its Designee, may conduct an annual performance review of TV9 each year upon receipt of the annual report or audit.”In addition, “TV9 shall allow Seekonk Selectmen, and/or their authorized designees or agents access to the books, records, accounts, and facilities of TV9 at such reasonable times and in such reasonable places as the same may require to ensure compliance with this Access Agreement.” 

Cadime said the decision for TV9 to halt programming due to financial concerns was “misleading.” “As of October 2023, Seekonk Cable Access, LLC possessed total liquid assets of $661,511.66, which are derived from Town funding,” Cadime noted. “To provide context, the Town receives approximately $60,000 per quarter or $240,000 per year from the five percent Gross Annual Revenue payment from Comcast. Seekonk Cable Access has nearly three years' worth of funding reserves in total liquid assets to sustain its programming operations.” 

“We really hope we can come to a solution soon,” the TV9 statement concluded. “The Board of Selectmen must negotiate in good faith, and we are willing to meet anytime to come to a reasonable solution. But until now, the great programming you have come to expect will be suspended until a settlement is agreed to.” 

Another negotiating meeting between Cadime and TV9’s representatives was set for Monday. Cadime insists the operation of town government will not be impacted by the dispute. “Despite recent challenges and disruptions, I want to assure our residents that all Town boards and committees will continue to meet,” Cadime added. “While televised meetings have been an essential means of public engagement, it's important to note that the Open Meeting Law does not mandate public meetings to be televised. We are actively exploring alternative options to ensure continued public access to vital local meetings.”

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