By Hub City Times staff
MARSHFIELD — Marshfield’s public access television coordinator has been given until midday Oct. 13 to purchase a type of liability insurance to allow certain programs to start airing again.
The Marshfield Common Council voted 7 to 3 at its Oct. 10 meeting in favor of directing Tri-Media to purchase errors and omissions insurance. Mayor Chris Meyer said the type of insurance being required would cover the content of community members who volunteer to produce programs for Marshfield Community Television (MCTV).
“Tri-Media employs people who provide video editing under the Tri-Media name,” explained Meyer. “Insurance exists there, so any media produced by Tri-Media can be aired on public access. The community producers that come in to produce something like a polka show or a church service are doing so under the Marshfield TV, MCTV banner. The insurance there does not exist, so anything that is produced there cannot be aired. It should not be aired just because that insurance is not in place, so that’s why some content is being aired and some is not.”
Certain community-produced programs stopped airing at the start of October, when MCTV’s most recent errors and omissions insurance policy expired.
Several city residents and community producers were attended the Oct. 10 meeting to express concerns over their programs being taken off the air. Mary Asplin produces a polka show that has not aired since the beginning of the month because of the insurance issue.
“For 11 years I have provided a program, a new show every week of the year for the last five years to Marshfield Community TV,” she said. “Most of our viewers are elderly, and they appreciate these church services and the polka show.”
An initial proposal before the council would have given Tri-Media until Nov. 1 to get the proper insurance, but Alderman Tom Witzel said that was way too much time.
“There has been no documentation provided that shows any kind of denial of insurance, and to have community members — and yes, I have also received several phone calls — to have community members, many of them who are homebound and rely on this aspect, being denied for another three weeks is of grave concern to me, and I really would like to see us get this moving much more quickly than a three-week Nov. 1 date,” Witzel said.
Alderman Peter Hendler agreed with Witzel that Nov. 1 was too far off and expressed his patience with Tri-Media was wearing thin.
“I think we are being too passive with the situation here,” Hendler said. “They are in breach of contract, or heaven knows if we look at it close enough, there are probably even more if we compare it to some of our cable TV ordinances. I guess one more time around is fine, but after that I think Tri-Media is — in my opinion — history. They have not cooperated with us. They have made life difficult for us in many respects and certainly among the viewers, and I think enough is enough, so give them one more time at this, and so be it.”
The council vote to amend the deadline and give Tri-Media until noon on Oct. 13 to secure the necessary insurance was 5 to 5, and Meyer cast the tiebreaking vote in favor.
There was also some discussion by the council about possibly relocating MCTV to the new city hall once city government moves into the Forward Financial building on West Sixth Street. City Administrator Steve Barg said the issue is being addressed now because the lease at MCTV’s current facility expires next fall.
“Talking with the current cable access coordinator, he believes that the 3,000 square (feet) that they have right now at the Marawood building is way more than they need,” Barg said. “He believes somewhere in the neighborhood closer to 2,000 or slightly less would probably work.
“We have looked at a location in the basement of the new city hall that would work. There is space available down there. We are a little bit hesitant to start committing too much space in the basement because of possible future needs for storage or expansion of staffing and work areas, but there is space to accommodate if we would want to do that.”
The city currently leases a 3,000-square-foot space for $3,000 a month for MCTV operations. There is roughly 700 square feet available in the basement of the new city hall.
There was also a brief discussion regarding whether Tri-Media can broadcast common council and other city meetings on Facebook Live as they are happening. The issue was tabled until April of next year.