The city of Las Vegas runs its own, government-produced television station, KCLV-TV, Channel 2. Its funding is provided by franchise fees charged to cable TV customers.
Such franchise fees also fund Clark County's television station, CCTV, Channel 4, though the county funnels its fees through its general fund.
The city station's budget this year is $1.4 million, according to chief city PR guy David Riggleman. That figure has increased about 35 percent over five years. The budget covers 12 full-time positions at a cost of about $100,000 each.
In Las Vegas, cable subscribers pay a 5 percent franchise fee on the cost of their subscription. Of that, 3 percent goes to the city's general fund and 2 percent pays for the channel.
"Our goal was never to try to replace the media outlets," Mr. Riggleman explains. "It was to try to fill a void that media outlets aren't filling. Nobody's going to show a council meeting unedited, gavel to gavel. We do. Same with the Planning Commission."
Let's concede that this represents a legitimate attempt at openness in government. But a lot of the rest of what these stations do is transparent, pro-government puffery and promotion for elected officials.
Go ahead, broadcast the public meetings, but do it exclusively over the Internet. It's far more interactive and user-friendly than a four- to five-hour television broadcast.
A tax is a tax is a tax, whether it's called a "franchise fee" or anything else. At a time when Nevada families are struggling and no quick economic turnaround looms -- especially with Washington seemingly determined to spend us into the poorhouse within a record-breaking 11 months -- it's time to shut down the rest of the politicians' creative programming and the "franchise fees" that fund it.