As chief executive of a 25-year-old community media organization, I can empathize with the president, congressional leaders and local lawmakers when it comes to figuring out how to get people back to work—or in my case, how to save jobs. Since 1981, Portland Community Media has had a successful contractual relationship with the City of Portland, which provides a significant amount of PCM's budget. The funding comes out of the City General Fund, which generates franchise revenue from an agreement with Comcast Cable to indirectly fund local public, education and government access channels, and in this case, PCM.
PCM operates six cable channels and provides a variety of community media services to interested individuals in the Portland area. PCM is a 501(c)(3) organization and, much like other nonprofits, has felt the financial strain from an economy that is far less generous than it was a year ago. Contract dollars are shrinking as well as donor dollars, so the story here is that nonprofits are also struggling in this economy as private sector jobs grab all the headlines.
Much like other nonprofit executives, I struggle with how to reduce budgets while instituting necessary spending. This creates an interesting dichotomy. Cutting expenses on one hand and spending out of the other requires that we focus on today's problems while planning for the future. This has me wondering how PCM and other nonprofits will fare in this economy if lawmakers focus on a stimulus that supports for-profit companies, only.
Up through 2008, nonprofits were the fastest growing sector in the economy. Over 500,000 public benefit nonprofits employed close to 15 million people! Contrary to some beliefs, nonprofits have to operate like a business. Since they receive grants, donor contributions and contracts, they are highly regulated and publicly scrutinized.
Within the nonprofit sector, PCM is rather unique. We are a television station that reflects true media freedom, offering a chance to hear alternative views and opinions. As a sole-source provider in Portland, PCM is well managed, transparent and accountable. Furthermore, we believe in employee diversity and can retain more individuals at a cost far less than the private or government sectors.
President Obama and members of Congress have promised a stimulus package that will provide a huge economic boost. The stimulus proposes to create a large number of jobs in the construction industry (which typically employs white males) and offer insignificant tax cuts for middle class individuals and families. With such a large price tag, it would behoove us to ensure that everyone gets a piece of the pie.
PCM is shovel-ready and can create jobs! With a new vision, PCM plans to harness multiple media opportunities that will help maintain the quality of life in local communities. The vision centers on public engagement programs for Portlanders to connect with local government and cultivate civic-mindedness; community connection opportunities intended to keep Portlanders well-informed and involved in their local communities; economic empowerment education and jobs for youth and minorities, as well as training programs and low-cost production for nonprofits and small businesses.
In this respect, I would ask our elected officials to remember that jobs come in many varieties, paralleling the diverse range of people in our country. Nonprofit employees help drive an economy that is two-thirds driven by consumers. Rather than follow the lead of some lawmakers in Washington. D.C. who have no interest in stimulus programs such as Endowment for the Arts that help create some nonprofit jobs, I hope that our state government will remember the more than 26,000 public benefit organizations in Oregon as it moves forward with its economic plan.
At PCM, we certainly understand the difficulties elected leaders face when it comes to determining unpopular budget cuts. Over the years, PCM has taken more than its fair share of budget reductions and has never fully recovered. Accordingly, my goal has been to reposition PCM to receive full financial consideration from the City of Portland as well as anticipate restricted revenue from outside sources for new PCM programs that will encourage jobs and career growth.
At PCM, we believe that our stakeholders should get involved in the budget process. In this respect, we invite PCM's stakeholders to send letters to their congressional leaders about the importance of funding PEG stations and attend a city budget hearing in February to express their views on how local government can best utilize our tax dollars during these tough times.
Over the weeks, months and years to come, we invite you to Keep Connected to your local community and government through PCM's diverse education, outreach, production and broadcast programs.
As always, thank you for supporting Portland Community Media.
Sylvia McDaniel has been the chief executive at Portland Community Media since July 2008.