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League of Women Voters stands with Princeton Community Television

To the Editor:

I am writing on behalf of the League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area because, with Council’s recent decision to divert for tax relief the cable franchise fees which originally funded Princeton Community TV, voters are losing a significant public service.

Since 2010, and at the invitation of George McCollough, executive director of PCTV, the League has collaborated with Princeton TV to videotape and broadcast League forums. We have covered all Princeton Mayoral races and Democratic primary races for Princeton Council, the contested races for Princeton Council and school board, the Mercer County Freeholder and County Executive race of 2011, the 16th Legislative District races of 2011, 2013, and 2015, and the 12th Congressional races of 2014 and 2016. George McCollough not only videotapes the forums—adjusting the sound and lighting at the various venues and zooming in on the candidates—but he adds a title and introductory information and then places the name and website of the candidates on screen as they speak.

In March of this year, I wrote to the mayor and council about the importance of Princeton Community TV to the League’s mission of informing voters about their candidates. Mayor Lempert kindly assured me that she would find someone else to videotape the League’s forums. But she didn’t say whether the League or municipality would incur fees. The League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area does not have the money to hire a videographer or rent the camera, sound, and lighting equipment needed to videotape, polish, and post its forums. One of our members, trained by George McCollough, can videotape, but the League has relied on PCTV to loan us the equipment needed at the forum itself and to do the polishing and posting at the studio. And who will train future League videographers? It is not as easy to produce a show as Council implies in its argument for terminating funding.

Voters want to watch these forums. I’ve received requests for the broadcast schedule before it’s published because some voters are eager to watch a forum with their spouse in the comfort of their TV room. Every year the League’s forums rank either 9 or 10 as the most-watched programs on Princeton TV in October and November. As to the video, we often garner over 2000 voters watching a given race, and an astounding 5000 voters viewed, at least in part, the Lempert/Woodbridge mayoral debate.

Is it unfair to Princeton that Montgomery can see a 16th Legislative District forum or Lawrence view that of a 12th Congressional? Perhaps. But couldn’t we also frame PCTV’s outreach as a public service beneficial to Princetonians? It has greatly increased the Princeton Area League’s ability to educate voters in municipalities governed by the same elected officials as Princeton.

Princeton Community TV has performed a public service to voters since it first suggested broadcasting League forums nine years ago. The loss of PCTV will be devastating to the League’s mission of informing voters about their candidates.

Sincerely,
Chrystal Schivell
Voter Service, League of Women Voters of the Princeton Area

Regarding Mayor Lempert’s letter published in the 06.12.19 Town Topics issue, responding to the defunding of Princeton Community Television, “Princeton is fortunate to have many community non profits doing important work, but these groups are funded privately, not by taxpayers’ dollars. Princeton Community Television should be supporting itself through private fundraising”, I find this misleading.