Letter From The Chair
An Update on CAN TV
Dear CAN TV Community Members and Supporters,
As Chair of CAN TV’s Board of Directors, it is a pleasure to inform you of the noteworthy changes our organization is working to accomplish during these transformative times. At the heart of our commitment is the principle of openness and transparency, and it is with this spirit that we share important insight into CAN TV’s journey.
Over the past five years, external forces have necessitated a re-examination of our organization’s engagement strategies and led to significant organizational change. These forces include:
- A thirty-five percent decrease in Community Producer Memberships between 2018 and 2022
- An 83% decrease in the number of non-profit hotline programs since 2019
- Rising use of video-rich platforms like Tik Tok, YouTube, Instagram
- Decrease in traditional cable subscriptions, resulting in both shrinking viewership and a 27% reduction in cable revenue, CAN TV’s primary revenue stream. This trend continued during the first quarter of CAN TV’s current fiscal year with cable revenue falling 32% lower than budgeted projections.
- Closures of several PEG (Public Educational Governmental) organizations nationally due to lack of funding and support.
- Lingering impact of the global pandemic, which closed CAN TV studios to the public for four months.
- Staff and management retention, especially as it relates to the decline in PEG funding, and maintenance of CAN TV’s relationship with NABET-CWA Local 41 Communications Workers Association.
In response to these challenges, starting in March 2021, CAN TV’s Management, Staff, and Board collaborated over six months to develop a Strategic Plan, our roadmap for growth and development. It was a rigorous and collaborative process conducted under the challenging constraints of the pandemic. Together, we refined our mission statement and vision and made a commitment for CAN TV to become the leading Community Television station, locally and nationally.
In our collaborative effort to implement the Strategic Plan, we have made critical changes. The following is an overview of some of the highest-profile and most impactful efforts to sustain the organization over the long-term.
In the last year and a half, CAN TV invested approximately $500,000 in studio technology and infrastructure upgrades. This includes new computers and faster network switches for our staff, as well as advanced production equipment like the Tricaster Video switching, Allen & Heath audio mixing board, and Sony HDC-100 studio cameras. We also plan to provide media software upgrades to increase our training and production capabilities.
Community Studio Availability
Since the expansion of studio reservation time in March of 2023, including the reopening of the studio on Saturdays for the first time since the start of the pandemic, there have been several positive responses from the community producers indicating their appreciation of CAN TV’s effort to address the previous issue of difficulty reserving studio time. We will continue working on increasing our effort to actively support our community producers with additional investment in producer training and media production education.
We hired local Chicago company Big Shoulders Digital Video Production for a three-month period to provide essential support. They assisted in maintaining CAN TV’s production capacity while we recruited and onboarded new technical staff.
The Executive Director’s first day started with a collaboration to close on an agreement between our leadership team with the NABET-CWA Union, our staff’s labor group organization. The Union ratified this agreement, ensuring fair terms, including salary raises and benefits for our valued staff. It is also important to note that the 2024 budget represented a year-over-year expense increase of $1M, $750K of which was devoted to staff raises and the hiring of additional staff.
The Board of Directors serves as a fiduciary governing body to oversee CAN TV, and serves in good faith and with due care to ensure that the organization operates in compliance with applicable law and best practices and is accountable to the communities it serves.
The Board became aware of certain employee complaints in early 2023 and retained independent counsel to investigate these separate claims. In March of 2023, unfounded claims were made that certain CAN TV Original Programs violated FCC regulations and that management was negligent with regard to the enforcement of safety protocols. Not only were the Original Programs in full compliance with applicable FCC regulations, the programs have resulted in an exponential increase in viewership for all CAN TV programs and they continue to attract the talent, prestige, and exposure necessary to launch new viable partnerships.
The alleged safety incident at CAN TV described in a local newspaper article was also immediately investigated by CAN TV management. It was determined that the allegations in the article were false and no evidence to the contrary was provided. There are no current or past safety-related issues regarding CAN TV of which management is aware.
In September of 2023, claims were made against the CAN TV Executive Director by a former employee that alleged gender pay disparity in the organization. These claims are false and were unsubstantiated. The Board of Directors and the Executive Director are leading proponents of equality in gender pay and diversity. In that regard, it is noteworthy that the Board is 30% female, and has 80% Black and Asian American representation and is led by an Asian-American, female Chair. Despite these efforts to harm CAN TV’s reputation, the Board and CAN TV leadership are proud of our efforts to promote diversity and equity using best practices and the support of Chicago’s most effective policy and community leaders, and we will continue to advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion as we advance through a time of unprecedented potential for CAN TV.
CAN TV Original Programs
CAN TV Original programs were created to serve as the ‘North star’ that can be assertively marketed to bring new viewers to the network and ensure that CAN TV is actively and consistently addressing the issues and concerns of Chicago’s historically, systematically and intentionally underserved communities. The Original programs have resulted in exponential increases in viewership for ALL programs at CAN TV – 34.4 million viewers off CAN TV programs during 2023 (Jan-Dec). It is worth noting that Original programs account for a measurably small percentage of total program hours. For example, for August 2023, Original programs represented 222.5 hours of programming, whereas community producer and content creator programs represented approximately 2,800 hours of programming.
Community-Produced Program Accountability
As stated in the Community Producer handbook, it is the responsibility of the Community Producer to provide documentation and check for copyright infringement and ensure compliance with the Illinois State’s Dual Consent Law. Intentional or inadvertent violation of these will result in the program being pulled from air post haste. The producers are reminded that it is a privilege to use the CAN TV facilities, not a right. We treat our community producers with professionalism and encourage respect for the laws that govern our media production operations.
Throughout this process of growth and evolution, CAN TV remains committed to honoring its mission to Chicago and doing so under the full light of openness and transparency. While we may have differences on our individual decisions, it is abundantly clear that the Board, Staff, and Community Producers deeply care about, and are dedicated to CAN TV’s long-term success and its potential to be the nation’s premier Community Television Network. Together we are setting the stage for CAN TV’s next 40 years of incredible service and incredible success.
While change is a constant, we remain steadfast in our commitment to CAN TV’s mission and success. As we continue on this journey, we appreciate your trust and support. Thank you for your continued commitment to CAN TV.
Anna Ninoyu, Chair of Board of Directors