The practice of cord-cutting is an issue that affects each one of us. This is the proverbial “writing on the wall” problem that does really threaten our ability to operate as we currently do. At MassAccess, we’ve been engaging in the cord-cutting discussion in an effort to come up with some sort of way of future-proofing our profession. Believe me when I tell you this is a difficult problem to stay ahead of. Recently, the Massachusetts Department of Telecommunications and Cable (DTC) released the cable subscriber numbers for the year ending 2017.
Statewide, cable subscriber numbers were down 2.4% from the end of 2016 to the end of 2017. The numbers from the end of 2015 to the end of 2017 are down 3.5%. If you look at the above graph, you’ll see that the decline is indeed getting steeper. If you believe your eyes, the question then isn’t if cable revenues will decline to the point where we can no longer operate in a traditional manner, but when. For a few years, you’ve heard us pounding the drum of alternative revenue. If you don’t have a plan in place, maybe these numbers will spur you into action. Each year that passes, it becomes more obvious that we are going to need to find other funding sources in order to survive.
As much as MassAccess would like to participate in this discussion and put some safeguards in place, much of how cable funding comes to us is tied directly to federal law. Massachusetts is absolutely a stronghold of community media, but we are not exempt from the changing times. But it can’t be all bad, right? Of course. Over the last 30 years, community media has evolved nearly as much as technology itself. Most of us believe whole-heartedly that what we do makes a difference in our community…and that’s really the key. Yes, alternative revenue sources are important and we’re all hoping that MassAccess as a group can blaze a trail well into the future, but just like any decent grassroots effort, the success of this endeavor needs to start at home.
Ask yourself – are you making a true impact on your community? Could you be doing more to make your organization a bigger part of the city or town you serve? These are the questions you need to address – and sooner rather than later. Becoming an integral part of the community is the first step to future preservation. Make yourself invaluable so that if and when difficult decisions need to be made, you’ll have allies. With allies comes protection.
Don’t take it lying down. The fight for future relevance is the responsibility of all of us who support free speech and fair exchange of ideas. Want to know how you can help? Ask any of the MassAccess Board of Directors. We’ve got a spot for you.