East Hampton Town, LTV Near Contract

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A new contract between East Hampton Town and LTV, the local cable TV channel and public access provider, could be inked by late next week.

East Hampton Town Councilman Peter Van Scoyoc, the board’s liaison to LTV, said in a Monday interview that some particulars still need to be ironed out, but both sides have agreed on a process by which the town will provide a base amount of funding for LTV on an annual basis—roughly $550,000 or $575,000, a guaranteed number that will be no more than four-fifths of the total revenues to the town paid by Cablevision.

Any additional amount of money LTV requests would need to be submitted to the Town Board for approval, a process modeled after the town’s “zero-based budgeting” used by all its departments.

The agreement could be voted upon as early as the next regular Town Board meeting on Thursday, August 15.

In addition to agreeing on a base annual figure, the two sides also need to work out how to account for this year’s funding, as the year is now more than half over, Mr. Van Scoyoc said.

A resolution to approve the agreement appeared in a packet of resolutions for the board’s meeting last Thursday, August 1, but was not acted upon, pending further discussion.

Mr. Van Scoyoc described the coming agreement as a compromise and said he is glad to see there will be a guaranteed revenue stream for LTV, which he called an “extremely important asset to our community.”

LTV records and airs East Hampton town and village government meetings, as well as cultural programming, online and on TV, on Cablevision channels 20 and 22.

The old contract expired in November 2012, and the new one would be retroactive to November 2, 2012. As of Tuesday, board members were still discussing whether to extend the new contract to December 31, 2015, or beyond that.

Several LTV supporters and board members turned out to voice their appreciation for the channel at a public hearing on August 1.

Phyllis Italiano, who produces and hosts her own show on LTV, credited it with allowing her to explore new horizons and hidden talents.

“Who could have expected that this retired schoolteacher and administrator would become a kind of local, Italian version of Charlie Rose?” she asked, to chuckles from those in attendance. She also praised the channel for keeping residents informed about such topics as deer management, wastewater, local schools struggling to keep under the state’s 2-percent tax levy cap, and algal blooms.

“Without leaving one’s home one can get a liberal arts education for free and nary a commercial,” she said. “I only hope you will treasure it as much as I do.”

Sue Ellen Marder O’Connor, a Springs School teacher, touted LTV’s educational value for her students. “I have 651 reasons why LTV is important to our community,” she said. “There are 651 students at Springs School, and LTV has had an impact on every one of them.” The students’ “Springs School in Action” airs on LTV, and the teacher said LTV helps them understand that there that there is life beyond test-taking.

The Reverend Dr. Katrina Foster, a pastor at two local churches and a talk show host of “The Hamptons Lutheran Parish” on LTV—on which most of the Town Board members have appeared—said she discovered the channel by accident. She said she was delighted that she could take a producers class for free and make the only interfaith, ecumenical show on the East End. She called LTV the “C-Span of the East End” for making a better informed public.

“I can’t tell you what a difference this show has made to my congregations,” she noted, adding that LTV also serves as a living testimony for history. One nonagenarian congregant, a World War II veteran, has talked about his life on the show, she said, calling it a “living witness that brings us back to a history that many of us could never hope to touch this side of Heaven.” She urged the board to renew the contract, saying the service of LTV is far more valuable than its cost.

“Keep this jewel of the East End alive and well,” she said. “Help us to have a stronger democracy, and just for those of us who are creative and have aspirations to be a TV evangelist, to live out our dreams in many and various ways out here.”

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