The future of the Jackson-based local-origination cable-TV channel appears to be in great doubt as Jackson City Council and the current channel operator, Jackson County Broadcasting, Inc. (JCBI) disagree on the financial terms of an extended contract.

The City of Jackson owns Jackson’s public-access TV channel, which is provided through Spectrum Cable System. For many years, JCBI has contracted with the City of Jackson to operate the local channel and provide the programming. Currently, it is available to Spectrum subscribers in Jackson, Vinton and Pike counties as Channel 1020 and is now known as “Main Street TV.”. The current contract term between the City and JCBI for the channel’s operation expires June 26.

Based on previous contracts, JCBI is seeking a 5-year extension at a nominal cost of $1 a year in the renewal agreement. The agreement would be extended automatically for successive 5-year terms unless terminated by written notice 30 days prior to the end of the current term.

Due to unsettled issues regarding the terms of an extended contract, the City of Jackson provided JCBI with a notice of termination prior to that 30-day notice period while negotiations continued between JCBI and the City administration. The renewal of the contract had also been discussed by Council’s Service Committee.

Negotiators from JCBI and the Jackson City administration subsequently reached agreement on the contract-renewal terms and a resolution was presented to City Council for its approval at its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday evening, May 24.

When the resolution came up for a vote, 2nd Ward Councilman John Peters moved to change the financial terms from $1 a year to $1,000 a year and the length of the renewal period from 5 years to 3 years. His motion was seconded by 3rd Ward Councilwoman Debbie Biggs and was approved by a voice vote.

Total Media Vice President of Operations and Marketing Karena Fulks, who was representing JCBI at the May 24 meeting, told Council that she believes the ownership would “stand firm” on the terms negotiated with the City administration and noted that some nice “add-ons and nice pieces” beneficial to the city were added to the contract terms.

First Ward Councilman and Service Committee Chairman Ryan Peters then pointed out the presumed costs of the city’s legal work involved in drawing up the contract and that JCBI’s $1 annual fee would not come close to offsetting this expense. Councilwoman Biggs agreed, stating that the expenses incurred by the related work of City Attorney Joe Kirby should at least be covered and that this should be negotiable.

However, it was later revealed that the proposed contract renewal was drawn up by JCBI and that Kirby was not involved in that work and was not involved in the negotiation discussions.

Both Mayor Randy Evans and Service Director David Swackhammer expressed concern about the prospect of losing the programming and services of the local-origination channel. Swackhammer then disclosed that he had learned during the negotiations that the JCBI was not operating the channel with a profit.

Swackhammer came right to the point: “Do you want a channel in the city or do you not? This is not a for-profit item for them.”

Evans commented, “This would cost us a lot of money, and we’re not planning to run a station on our own.”

Councilman John Peters then countered by saying that JCBI “has a broad market to make up $1,000.”

Councilwoman Biggs then suggested adopting a contract renewal for 1 year, then revisiting the issue.

At-Large Councilman Dan Coll weighed in on the side of keeping the channel, describing JCBI as providing a “community service” and was critical of dumping it over $1,000.

Councilman Ryan Peters noted that in the feedback he had received to that point, “more people had reached out not in favor than in favor” of the contract renewal.

As for the motion to amend the terms on the proposed contract-renewal, Kirby advised that this could not technically be done as the proposal was drawn up by JCBI, not the city and that certain details could not be changed through an amendment made by Council. Instead, any changes would have to made through the negotiations and the contract proposal would then be revised before being voted on by Council.

Therefore, as it stood at the end of the May 24 meeting, Council took only the first reading on the resolution concerning the contract and the terms remain the same as negotiated by JCBI and the City administration.

Council is scheduled to take a second reading on the resolution as its next meeting at 7 p.m. on Monday, June 14. Since Council does not meet again until June 28 -- two days after the contract term ends -- Channel 1020 would go off the air on June 26 if an agreement is not reached on June 14 or if a vote takes place at a special-session meeting which would have to be called and scheduled.