On July 1, Cheshire TV’s membership and board of directors plan to vote on whether to dissolve the nonprofit after its contract with Keene — and the substantial funding that came with it — was terminated.
On Tuesday, members of CTV’s board of directors met to discuss where the organization stands more than a week after its two public-access channels went dark. Though CTV’s board and its membership — consisting of people with a stake in the organization who vote on some business but which is separate from the board of directors — are set to determine the nonprofit’s fate in a month, the board has decided to take no action until it’s heard from members and assessed all its options.
CTV Executive Director Dave Kirkpatrick told The Sentinel after the meeting that while some board members have been ready to dissolve the organization, guidance he’s received from legal counsel, the station’s accountant and the state all point toward “parking” it for now.
“All the advice I’ve gotten has said, ‘Take your time, you have time, and you have options if you don’t dissolve the corporation right away; there may be benefits to that’,” he said after the meeting. “And there are no benefits to rushing it.”
Kirkpatrick, who has served as executive director since January, has said there are several ways the organization could move forward, including reconsidering CTV’s mission statement and taking the organization in a new direction. During Tuesday’s meeting, he said it wouldn’t be too difficult for CTV to “come out of hibernation” if the board chooses to do so later on and that it would be fairly easy to keep the organization’s nonprofit status active in the meantime.
Kirkpatrick has said CTV’s future could involve taking its operations online or finding ways to provide services to the community that it could charge for, via a for-profit business model. At Tuesday’s meeting, board member Ruzzel Zullo suggested working with Keene State College’s journalism department, as he said has been suggested in the past.
Kirkpatrick said board members who were originally ready to call it a day have now begun to agree that hanging on a bit longer may be a good idea. During the meeting, board member Kyrston Clouse said CTV needs time to see what financial resources remain.
“I think we need to wait and see what happens next and then take a hard look at what our financial standing is,” said Clouse, who added that the board could see what money it has left for staff or other overhead costs after meeting its existing financial obligations. “This is part of the reason why we talked about dissolving in the first place, was not really having a source of income anymore.”
CTV has faced much upheaval during the past year, starting in the summer when some connected to the organization criticized the conduct of its board of directors, particularly the board’s handling of CTV’s bylaws. In January, using a provision written into these bylaws and citing these concerns, CTV’s membership voted out several board members.
Shortly thereafter, the municipalities of Keene and Swanzey announced they were ending their agreements with CTV, as well as their financial contributions. Swanzey’s contributions ended immediately, while Keene gave 120 days’ notice.
Though Swanzey contributed a much smaller amount to the station — about $3,800 monthly — Keene provided CTV with the majority of its funding — about $180,000 per year — covered by franchise fees paid for by cable subscribers and then given to the city.
However, Keene’s notice of its intent to terminate the contract included a caveat: The agreement could continue but only if the municipalities that fund the station could have control of CTV’s board of directors. The board rejected a proposal that would have given control of the station to the funding municipalities.
The board later rejected a second proposal from Keene, which would have allowed CTV’s membership to elect a minority of board members, with the municipalities appointing the majority. With no resolution, Keene’s contract with CTV ended on May 21.
According to City Manager Elizabeth Dragon, Keene will retain most of the $181,800 it was paying to CTV each year while it considers future public-access projects, which could include working with the Keene School District. She said some of it will be used to pay for services to continue streaming city meetings, a function that had been performed by CTV.
Dragon said last month that while the city is no longer interested in discussing an extension to the old CTV contract, Keene would welcome feedback from CTV members and leaders as it weighs its options.
“We will ... consider any proposals CTV has moving forward and be happy to have their input as we explore models for PEG (Public, educational, and government) access into the future,” she said in an email.
This article has been changed to correct the amount of funding Swanzey was contributing to CTV.