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ACM Report Hints at Lobbying

Professional lobbying efforts designed to sway public policy needed

J.J. SmithThe Alliance for Community Media’s 2013 Treasurer’s Report states that cash flow “is a perennial concern.” The group, which advocates for public, education and government channels, ended last year $17,000 in the red.

This was due in part to a decline in member funding of $18,000, with the alliance receiving $107,000 though it budgeted for $125,000. Contributions were down $13,000, with the ACM receiving $77,000 instead of $90,000, though in some areas funding exceeded expectations.

The report notes that the cash flow problem was not brought to the attention of the board until November, and calls this “gravely concerning.”

To help prevent further delays informing the ACM’s board about financial problems, the alliance’s Finance Committee is developing reporting systems “that better convey past and projected cash flow.” It is also seeking to increase the number of members on the committee who possess professional expertise in accounting and/or financial management.

These steps are not the only improvements recommended in the report. ACM Treasurer John Donovan, who produced the financial statement, also is chair of the organization’s Futures Committee; he lists several areas where the ACM is weak.

He wrote that the ACM lost “many state franchising battles in the last decade”; that Federal Communications Commission and court decisions regarding broadband have not gone its way; and that the proposed Community Access Preservation Act “is useful from an organizing point of view, but has gone nowhere as a bill.”

The report also says pursuing the best strategies will cost more than had been acknowledged, and that the ACM needs to “head off the real threat that federal legislation could wipe out the policy language and funding presently supporting the PEG community.”

However, other than saying the alliance needs to mobilize and work with other groups, the report does not state how to achieve its goals involving government and lawmakers, so I will say it for them: The ACM needs to increase its presence and lobbying efforts in Washington and in the state capitols, especially where statewide franchising proposals are present.

I do not mean a once-a-year “Hill Day” where members show up at their representatives’ offices and get their photos taken, but a professional lobbying effort to sway public policy. Such efforts are not cheap, and it will be up to the ACM membership to fund such efforts. While Donovan does not say so outright, this is probably what he means in writing, “The price tag for our movement’s future success is much higher than we have previously acknowledged.”

In addition, such efforts require a determination to continue even in the face of setbacks. Yet I have never heard of the ACM conducting such a sustained effort with lawmakers. It might be that the current financial concerns have spurred the alliance to consider that course. Whatever the reason, with the status report, the ACM board has taken a needed step toward swaying its membership to support such an effort.