Unique experiences, insights, and perspectives of Alex Ansary

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Portland Community Media is going broke, here comes the first big slash!

It's been an amazing experience at PCMTV since it became a critical part of my life in 2004. Although PCMTV is not going away today, the continued collapse of our county's financial situation will surely change the facility as we know it in only a matter of time.

I have been warning about this about for some time now and the response from the staff at PCMTV has been the same response I've gotten from other people in the world that I talk to about other major events happening in the world.

First you face heavy waves of denial.

When that denial erodes and the severity of the situation sits in, you then witness a justification for why it has to be that way or why it can't be fixed.

It has been announced via email only an hour ago that PCMTV will be slashing it's hours of operation. This follows the layoff of what THEY describe as 1.5 people. There are also plans to layoff 3.5 more people by April. This follows the collection of $50.00 from each producer that plans on using PCMTV equipment in 2009.

It's no secret that the Obama administration has provided a highly disturbing sense of false hope concerning our country's financial future. It's alarming to continually see PCMTV leadership pin their hopes on a solution from Washington. It's a fact that the City of Portland today is not willing to support PCMTV for much longer if they can find a way out of it.

PCMTV is a valuable asset that's able to get out critical information that otherwise won't be head or seen on the mainstream networks. Its upsetting that there won't be public outcry over the potential collapse of PCMTV. The public won't even know for the most part.

But how can PCMTV survive as it is when the staff that currently works there seems to have lost the passion for the facility and what it can really do to help provide perspective and information that the people are really starving for? Most of the employees are simply shaking in their boots, hoping the axe won't point their way. In their minds, that means giving themselves some insurance by acting like good workers that keep their mouths shut when poor policies and fiscal decisions are made that jeopardize the future of PCMTV, a gem of community access TV that has helped myself and others reach much of the community and in some cases, the world.

While my own show may be popular to some in Portland and on the world wide web, within the halls of PCMTV I'm just another person and will not be given any special treatment. This blog is not just about my show. It's about everybody that is apart of the real PCMTV family. It's also PCMTV's ability to continue to provide health care for PCMTV employees. That part is still intake now that cuts have been made, but what is the long term solution to a problem that is just beginning? If you can't address that, then the situation at PCMTV will get much worse.

Each week, the facility gets positive emails about the show I produce, but I only hear about it if it comes across my friend's desk. Otherwise, you'd never know. In fact, there is not doubt my show makes some staff very uncomfortable. Body language and looks of fear tell it all.

They don't look uncomfortable to the point that they would attempt censorship, (they don't have that right, that's why my show exists in the first place) but uncomfortable in the sense that when times get rough like this, they likely won't be planning to "have my back" when things really kick into next gear and whole days get slashed instead of merely hours.

When I found out about this, I checked to see if maybe I could come in early to work on my show. In the old days, they used to have something called "Senior Producer Status." I was just told by a staff member in a very frank, non emotional tone that "senior producer editing hasn’t existed for a quarter or so." Well forget I even asked then! You see what I mean? Oh, and that's from my so-called friend at PCMTV.

The following appeared in my email an hour ago:

Dear PCM Producers & Stakeholders:

It need not be said, but the national and local fiscal picture continues to worsen, and this has affected Portland Community Media. Although the stimulus bill was recently passed by Congress, we do not know how these dollars will directly affect PCM. Meanwhile, we have been aggressively seeking alternative funding to diversify our funding base.

Given these financial concerns, PCM plans to reduce public hours by 10 hours per week. Beginning April 1, PCM will be open to the public for 32 hours per week with the new public hours as follows:

Wednesday-Friday 5-10pm

Saturday 10am-8pm

Sunday 1-8pm

PCM has tried to prevent the cut in public hours. However, we are anticipating up to a 5 percent city budget cut that could start as early as this fiscal year-before June 30-and this will be the fourth budget cut for PCM in seven years. We have been working hard to reduce our looming deficit. We have had to lay off and reduce hours for some staff while also doubling employee insurance premiums. PCM has instituted a modest user fee for producers even though additional revenue will be lost as we offset our deficit. Additionally, we have had to rearrange staff positions and consider future staffing reductions to maintain the organization at a functioning level.

In an effort to lessen the impact of fewer public hours, PCM has only shortened public hours during slow periods. There is no future date for when these hours will return to previous public hours. When the budget outlook goes back to normal, PCM will consider reverting to 42 public hours per week.

We regret the inconvenience this causes our community. However, we believe this is in the best interest of everyone concerned and a wise move, allowing PCM to offer the best in local programming, media education and youth media programs to its communities.

If you have questions, contact Alain LeTourneau at 503-288-1515 ext.113. Thank you for supporting PCM. We look forward to serving you.


Sylvia McDaniel, Chief Executive
Portland Community Media

Why is it that valued producers only have input in controlling setting meeting where PCMTV leadership controls the mike? Oh right! That's because 'we the people' aren't in charge of anything...

Perhaps Sylvia needs to come on the show and explain the situation to the people instead of sending out emails telling us that this our only solution and to hope for the best that the stimulus packages will work.

I'm trying to be nice guy. But I want answers...NOW.

Alex Ansary


muzuzuzus said...

I am sad to hear this Alex

Anonymous said...

There's no excuse given the "rainy day" fund...

Anonymous said...

What dso you expect, when they simply stay employed as long as they show up for work, they grow their OR govt *BUSINESS* 5% annually, and guarantee themselves 7% annual raises (go look at their salaries from 1998-2003).

Anonymous said...

Am I gutless - or you? Post the replies already...

Anonymous said...

What really happened was that the Council Brown Shirt leader actually watched your program and became frightened that to allow you to continue would to put his organization at risk! KNOW this Alex, the City police and the justice system have a List of people whom they deem as threats!You like myself are on that list along with anyone else who speaks out loudly and calls for accountability.
See ya on the other side