October 21, 2014

Will City cable price hike harm the public’s channels?

On October 15, 2014 Mayor Emanuel announced his 2015 budget for the City of Chicago.  The Chicago Tribune itemized the various increases, including “eliminating an exemption in the cable TV amusement tax, a step that could boost a tax typically passed on to consumers by $12 million.” 

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, up until last year cable companies were credited the 5% franchise fee they pay as part of cable franchises against the City’s 9% amusement tax.  But over the past two years, the City has taken steps to end that practice, with cable fees and taxes paid to the city rising to over 14%.

Since cable first came to Chicago in the early 80’s, Chicago residents have been working to help create, and protect, the most valuable asset to come from cable franchises, CAN TV.   Gordon Quinn recalls that CAN TV’s creation was important because it wasn’t just about creating channels, it was about making sure the funding existed to provide training, equipment and facilities for the public.

Cable companies around the country have been cutting back on their commitment to public channels and services.  This move by the City can result in cable companies putting the squeeze on the less than 1% of funding that goes to CAN TV.  

The hearing on this issue is this Friday, October 24 at 9am. The Committee for Media Access encourages Aldermen to raise this issue and asks them to oppose this change unless the City makes sure CAN TV’s funding is secure now and in the future. 

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