On January 23, 2017, Amherst Media Executive Direct Jim Lescault spoke during the Select Board's public comment period regarding the lack of a contract or contract negotations with the Town.
Full text as follows, with the video below:
Last week during public comment I distributed to you Amherst Media’s Annual Report 2016. While I spoke about the excessive increase in the number of Government Meetings recorded by Amherst Media, 70 more than the previous year.
I did not have the time to direct your attention to the 21 attached letters.
These letters are from organizations and individuals who wrote in support of Amherst Media during the Cable Renewal Ascertainment Period. Each letter describes in detail in what manner Amherst Media works in conjunction with them.
Included in that list are:
Scott Livingstone, Amherst Chief of Police
League of Women Voters of Amherst
Sharon A. Sharry, Library Director, Jones Library
Don Courtemanche, Executive Director, Amherst Area Chamber of Commerce
Mindy Domb, Executive Director, Amherst Survival Center
Anna Holhut, President, Rotary Club of Amherst
Tony Maroulis, Director of Community Relations, UMass Amherst
Erica Scharrer, Professor and Chair, Department of Communication, UMass Amherst
Martha Fuentes-Bautista, Professor, Department of Communication & Center for Public Policy and Administration, UMass Amherst
Mari Castañeda, Professor, Department of Communication, UMass
Janice Hanson, Professor, Department of Communication, UMass Amherst
Sheila Klem, President, Five College Learning in Retirement
Amilcar Shabazz, Professor W.E.B. Du Bois Department of Afro-American Studies, UMass Amherst & Faculty Advisor to the Chancellor for Diversity and Excellence
Lisa Fontes, Senior Lecturer, University Without Walls, UMass Amherst
Magdalena Gomez, Teatro V!da
Sonji Anderson, Director, Youth Action Coalition & Vira Douangmany Cage, YAC Board of Directors Chair
Jonathan Kane, President, Amherst Baseball, Inc.
Additionally, I would like to refer to comments recently made in an Amherst Bulletin article attributed to Town Manager Paul Bockelman that even with this new process that will play out, and no contract yet signed, Amherst Media is still being paid. The arrangement, he added, isn’t much different than a decade ago, when what was then Amherst Community Television operated without a contract from October 2006 to February 2007.
I want to be on record saying there is a very real difference between the period of Oct. 2006 til Feb. 2007 and the period we find ourselves in today. Back then ACTV was in negotiations with the Town for a renewed contract. Lawyer Bill August of August & Epstein represented ACTV using the time to dramatically expand and modernize the language from the contract issued in 1996. Throughout that period, ACTV knew it was in negotiations, had legal representation and was actively engaged in the dialogue.
Whereas during this period of over 90 days, Amherst Media has been without a contract and we are not in negotiations or even discussion with the Town.
We have offered examples of how 17 Western Mass Towns and Cities have found a satisfactory method in which to keep the PEG providers Independent and funded. To date this option has not been pursued with us.
We advised the Town Manager that state-wide efforts were underway to place the needed 30B exemption for non-profit providers of PEG service into state legislation. Again, resulting in no local conversation.
Legislation has already been introduced at the State House to mandate the provision of High Definition and Electronic Programming Guide for all PEG channels. While these were issues identified by our Amherst subscribers, the Town like so many other locales was unable to obtain them during cable renewal negotiations.
Why does the Town feel it is normal to treat an organization that has collaborated with it for the past 41 years in such a disrespectful and dismissive manner?
While throughout these three months, the Town’s expectation is that Amherst Media continues coverage of all Select Board meetings, like tonight, and tomorrow School Committee and Wed. planning and Thursday Finance Committee and next Monday the Special Town Meeting, as if we still had a contract.
We have continued to make the overtures to the Town for dialogue and continued to perform our duties as defined within our lapsed contract in good faith, that we will be paid for our services when Comcast‘s February quarterly payment comes to the Town.
Given the uncertainties of what the Town will decide to do, Amherst Media is requesting a written commitment from the Town to pay for services rendered. This is just good business sense supported by common sense.