For over 20 years, PANDA TV23 has aired thousands of programs for subscribers to Time Warner Cable in the towns of Red Hook and Rhinebeck and the Villages of Red Hook, Rhinebeck and Tivoli. And in more recent years those who miss a program on the station or are far from home or those without cable can access the Internet and watch most of those programs at http://www.pandatv23.org.
Panda is a strong and vibrant voice in our community. Whether it was a board meeting, a local sporting event, a town or village celebration, a historical program or an original video produced by a Dutchess County resident, PANDA has been there to offer each of us a voice. PANDA also runs a community calendar to keep all of you informed about upcoming events. Where but in public access television can your share your views and voices with thousands of your friends and neighbors?
But now these voices face a threat to be silenced. We have recently learned that the Village of Red Hook is likely to drop its support in the 2016-17 budget. If it does, this will likely to lead to extinction of our local television station.
As you may know, PANDA is not funded by our tax dollars. Rather it is supported through a portion of the ‘right of way fees’ that Time Warner Cable pays to the 5 municipalities from funds it collects from its subscribers. A ‘right of way fee’ basically means that TWC pays for the privilege of running its cables through each municipality. Since its inception, our 5 municipalities have given PANDA around 20% of these yearly fees to operate the station. Without this modest share of municipal funding, PANDA goes dark. If one village or town opts out, the burden falls on the other 4 to pay more which is clearly unfair and most likely to create a domino effect where the other municipalities will feel pressured to follow suit rather than have to pay more than their fair share.
Since the original Municipality Agreement in 1993, PANDA’s life has always depended on all 5 municipalities to pay their fair though modest share so that the people of Northern Dutchess County can have its public access TV (and now web) station.
This alarming news comes at a time when PANDA is at an exciting crossroads. When it’s on the brink of growth, promise and improvement. Just as we are planning to move the station into a new and larger studio, ironically for the first time in the Village of Red Hook …just as we have won grants for new equipment…just as we are renegotiating the Time Warner contract for modern digital equipment to upgrade the station to HD and more…and, just as we increased our commitment to film more municipal board meetings and more local community events —-we find out that PANDA’s neck is on the chopping block.
Residents of the Village of Red Hook, we urge you to fight for your PANDA TV. Residents of the town of Red Hook and Rhinebeck and the Villages of Rhinebeck and Tivoli, speak up now to let your representatives know that you won’t stand by and be silenced. You can call Red Hook Village Hall at 758-1081; come to the next Village board meeting on Monday, April 11 at 7pm; follow our progress at http://www.pandatv23.org or write to us firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thank you very much,
David Miller, Chairman, PANDA TV23 & the PANDA Board