Naperville City Council to discuss NCTV17 funding in August    

Naperville City Council to discuss NCTV17 funding in August
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 The Naperville City Council will resume its discussion of funding contributions to Naperville Community Television (NCTV17) late this summer, based on a directive given at a meeting on Tuesday, June 18. 

The plan in motion comes on the heels of a staff report that was generated on future funding options for the nonprofit news organization.

City provides funding in three ways    

Historically, the City of Naperville has provided funding to NCTV17’s operations in three specific ways annually. 

The list includes the cable PEG revenues, direct payments for services rendered via recording and broadcasting municipal meetings and video announcements, and grant allocations through the Special Events and Community Arts (SECA) program. 

The staff memo, written by Finance Director Raymond Munch and Communications Director Linda LaCloche, provided a historical analysis into the city’s longstanding relationship with NCTV17.

In the past five years, funding from the city has ranged from $698,558 to $728,050 annually, according to Munch and LaCloche’s report.

Cable PEG revenues given to NCTV17 have been on a steady decline, according to Munch and LaCloche’s analysis. In 2019, NCTV17, received $476,585 from this revenue line item, and it has dropped steadily since, to $372,000 this year as cord-cutting has continued.

“It should be noted that the city currently assesses cable PEG fees at the maximum amount allowed by state statute, and no new revenue can be generated from this source,” Munch and LaCloche wrote in the report.

Additional funding in 2025 and beyond?    

The core of the recent discussion revolving around the City of Naperville’s financial relationship with NCTV17 focuses on a request to increase financial support in 2025 and beyond. Last month, the council directed city staff to look into funding potential sources and options for increased funding for NCTV17.

At that time, NCTV17 Executive Director Liz Spencer provided insight into the confluence of factors that have played into the station’s funding challenges.

“We had the reduction in PEG and we were managing the budget and working on new revenue streams,” Spencer said. “Covering that loss was challenging enough, but with rising employee costs of 30% and the loss of two premier clients, all of that has contributed to this current crisis.”

At the time of the initial council request last month, NCTV17 was sounding an urgent call to the city for additional funding in 2024. The station has received a lifeline—at least for the time being — by way of a $250,000 state grant to address some of the immediate funding challenges.

But it says it still needs the city’s help.

NCTV17 Board President Patrick Branham says, “Our needs have changed since the original ask, as has the amount of funding requested. We are asking for $300,000 per year for the next three years for a total of $900,000 for 2025-2027.” 

Deeper dive in August    

The recent council discussion was a primer to what is expected to be a deeper dive into NCTV17’s financial needs and the City of Naperville’s financial commitment later this summer. The council is requesting an NCTV17 representative provide a presentation at the Aug. 20 meeting so more information can be gathered in advance of budget discussions in the fall.

Councilwoman Jennifer Bruzan Taylor said she would like an in-depth breakdown of NCTV’s financial needs and how the added funds would be applied to the station’s costs. 

“This is a very unique request, and it’s a very large amount request,” Bruzan Taylor said. “Punting the answers until budget time, in my mind, is not sufficient for something that is a huge community resource, and I know is an institution that a lot of people care about.”  

Councilman Patrick Kelly made the suggestion of forwarding the matter to August and having an NCTV17 representative present to the council.

“I think a missing link might be NCTV directly presenting, in my opinion,” Kelly said. “I don’t think it will require a workshop or anything to that degree, but maybe some specified agenda item.”

Several council members said they were disappointed with the brevity of the staff report, though Mayor Scott Wehrli defended it.

“Our professional staff struggled with some of the issues here because we’ve never faced this before,” Wehrli said. “In all of our time, since the late 1980s, there’s been an NCTV, and we did not face a time where NCTV did not exist.”

Wehrli in his discussions also spoke highly of the city’s relationship with NCTV17 — particularly for the service the station has provided in broadcasting City Council meetings and workshops, Planning and Zoning Commission meetings, and Transportation Advisory Board meetings, as well as other incidental services that are provided.

“We get a lot of those services, I think, gratis from NCTV,” Wehrli said. “They don’t charge us for truck rolls and an extra camera here or there. They just provide the service. When you contract for that stuff, it’s a lot more specific.” 

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