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The nonprofit GrassRoots Community Network, which serves Colorado’s Roaring Fork Valley, keeps its doors open for business without franchise fees. Grant money and private donors account for 50 percent of operating expenses, but the rest is earned from charging for services.
John Masters, executive director of GrassRoots Community Network, stressed that some PEG stations treat franchise fees almost like an entitlement. “You’re not entitled to a dime,” he said. “You have to make sure you are earning that value. We certainly have a niche, which is open access. It makes us unique and special and valuable.”
At GrassRoots, anyone who uses their services – including individual citizens or nonprofits – has to pay. A two-tier fee schedule includes a market rate (similar to other local production companies) for commercial and government clients, as well as a deeply discounted rate for nonprofits and citizens.
“It’s extremely important that public access stations do not restrict access, or favor people who have money, or make decisions based on underwriting,” said Masters.
Unlike other PEG stations, GrassRoots doesn’t require community producers to take classes or know how to direct. Instead, the station staff crews the production, handles any post-production needs, and even publicizes the programming on its social media channels. Sometimes, GrassRoots personnel will help manage the social media accounts of local organizations, too, so content will be well promoted. All programs air multiple times on the GrassRoots channel, and each program is posted to the station’s YouTube channel for on-demand viewing.
“We do it differently than other organizations,” Masters added. “We’re a full-service production facility.”
GrassRoots also charges local municipalities to provide video coverage of city council and other government meetings. Masters said meeting coverage accounts for about 30 percent of the station’s fees for services. Last year, GrassRoots provided coverage of about 260 meetings across four jurisdictions. “We can do it more efficiently with four jurisdictional clients than they could do it individually,” he explained.
Stay tuned for more stories from John Masters and GrassRoots Community Network. Subscribe to the PEG Experts Series here.