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SLO changes public access contract

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The City of San Luis Obispo will change the way it oversees public access television within the city limits, following an embezzlement conviction for the former chair of the nonprofit organization tasked with administering SLO County Public Access Television (SLOCOPA)

On May 17, the SLO City Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution terminating the city’s contract with the nonprofit SLOCOPA.

The vote came after former SLOCOPA chair Anthony Pope pleaded no contest April 11 in SLO Superior Court to bilking the station out of $2,525—money that was supposed to be used to purchase equipment and assist the public in producing programs.

According to Assistant City Clerk Michael Condron, programming on public access television will not be reduced because of the elimination of SLOCOPA’s contract. Instead, the city will be looking at a possible replacement nonprofit, or allocating remaining PEG funds for government and educational programming.

Condron said there is no ill will against the current SLOCOPA board of directors, but the organization had instead become somewhat obsolete. After Pope allegedly burned bridges at Charter Communications, the cable company denied SLOCOPA members access to their studios and equipment, and there was little demand from the community in terms of new production needs.

Funding for local public access television comes from cable provider Charter Communications, which under state law is required to pay 1 percent of its annual gross revenues for public, educational, and government programming.

“The writing was on the wall—they were ready to move on,” said Jose Lemus, the new chair of SLOCOPA, adding that the nonprofit will continue to provide technical assistance to members of the public interested in producing a program. “We just want people to know that the current board is not Anthony Pope, and we’ll still be around.”

Pope’s sentencing has been delayed until June 1. He faces up to a year of jail time, restitution, and three years of probation.

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