Churches, city battle over public access TV - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

Churches, city battle over public access TV

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WAUSAU (WAOW) -

A free Wausau television channel may start charging for programming.

Wausau Mayor Jim Tipple says the public access channel needs to run on its own, but that would mean content producers, including churches, would have to pay for their own programming.

Ruth Anklam, a Wausau native, told Newsline 9 her TV is her connection.

"Oh it's my life. I have to have that church service," she said.

Anklam broke her hip last year and has trouble getting out of the house. That's why she and her husband use the remote to keep up with their congregation."

"I watch St. Mark's and I usually watch Trinity," she added.

Wausau's mayor said the city needs to start charging organizations like churches for programming. That way, the public access channel can run without taxpayer dollars.

"What we're trying to do is find the right mix to make it sustainable," said Mayor Tipple.

Right now, close to 10 churches in the Wausau area broadcast their services, but under one plan, Mayor Tipple said each one would pay about $1,000 a year to do that.

"We didn't feel that was prohibitive," said Tipple.

The city council is studying the proposal, but in the meantime, church leaders are speaking against it and speaking up for their homebound members.

"They really appreciate being able to be ministered in that fashion," said St. Mark's Lutheran Church Pastor Bruce Lamont.

So, why charge for public access? The city already receives about $300,000 in franchise fees for its cable channels according to the mayor, but it still costs money besides that to run the channel. Some $40,000 estimated this year.

"It was coming out of taxpayers' dollars and we felt we needed a more sustainable model," said Tipple.

Ruth Anklam hopes no matter what, the city and churches will see the value of keeping the services on the air.

"I would really, really miss it," said Anklam.

The mayor said the city attorney is still looking over the guidelines for public access television.

Any final decision on fees would have to be approved by the city council.

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