The East Hampton Town Board’s new interest in how Cablevision franchise fees are apportioned is a good idea, with the possibility that the hefty sum might be spread more equitably.
By longstanding practice, nearly all the money the town gets annually from Cablevision goes to LTV, which provides public-access and educational television and broadcasts many town meetings and work sessions. The town board held a hearing last Thursday on Cablevision’s use of the town’s right of way for transmission lines, but much of the real action has taken place in private discussions between the town and the cable company. The town board has been looking to get more money for allowing Cablevision’s Optimum division to have a near-monopoly on television service and a dominant share of Internet use.
The 2012 town budget anticipates $850,000 as the franchise fee, a more-than-40-percent jump over the amount paid to the town in 2011. The figure is based on 5 percent of Cablevision’s reported revenue in East Hampton Town, up from 3 percent.
Whatever the actual sum turns out to be for 2012, the thinking around Town Hall lately is that the pass-through to LTV could be reduced. Until a review of LTV’s finances was conducted earlier this year, the town board (and the public) had just about no idea how the money was spent. The board asked for several clarifications of the data LTV submitted.
With the town’s having cut other social-welfare, education, and cultural services, it seems only reasonable that the size of LTV’s share should also be on the table. Though its supporters are sure to disagree, the outsize payments to LTV that come with few strings attached and minimal oversight appear questionable.