Part 1 - No Franchise Fees, No Problem for GrassRoots Community Network

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

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According to a new survey from the Pew Research Center, 76 percent of Americans watched television via cable or satellite in 2015 – but that number has dropped to 56 percent this year. As cable subscribers continue to “cut the cord,” many PEG stations are facing reduced allocated funds.

GrassRoots Community Network, a nonprofit that has been serving Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley since 1972, operates with no guaranteed franchise fees. The city of Aspen stopped providing funds via franchise feeds more than a decade ago, while Pitkin County, the towns of Snowmass Village and Basalt, and other served municipalities have never provided franchise fees.

"I run into people in our industry who are losing their franchise fees and I ask them, ‘Well, are you valuable to your community?"

According to John Masters, executive director of GrassRoots Community Network, part of their operating funds comes from grants. Aspen, for example, provides funding through arts and community nonprofit grants. Pitkin County includes GrassRoots in its Healthy Community Fund, while Snowmass Village and Basalt offer grant monies as well. Even a thrift shop in Aspen, which disburses its profits to local nonprofits, adds to the grant total.

“However you’re funded, you need to reflect the needs of that community,” Masters explained. “You have to stay relevant. Local grant committees appreciate our value. I run into people in our industry who are losing their franchise fees and I ask them, ‘Well, are you valuable to your community?’”

Despite a variety of sources, grant money only makes up about 25 percent of GrassRoot’s operating budget. Another 25 percent comes from private donors. Masters said the remaining half of the station’s operating budget comes from fees for services. Part 2 will detail how GrassRoots determines what to charge and how their operating model is different from many other community channels.

Read part II for more from John Masters on how GrassRoots Community Network does PEG differently. Subscribe to the PEG Experts Series to get all the latest updates directly in your inbox.

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