Olelo fears funding cut would silence free speech - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Olelo fears funding cut would silence free speech

Olelo in Mapunapuna Olelo in Mapunapuna
Kealii Lopez Kealii Lopez
Jay April Jay April

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For twenty years, Olelo Community Media has been the mixed plate of public access broadcasting, airing shows about education, government, arts and culture.

"The programming on Olelo is very reflective of the community. It's probably the most diverse you can get on the cable system," president and CEO Kealii Lopez said.

The non-profit operates on money from cable fees. But a bill before House lawmakers would redirect most of Olelo's funding.

"Right now we get about $4.5 million in franchise fees," Lopez said. "The bill would result in Olelo only getting $1.5 million. It would be really hard to keep any of our centers open - even our main facility.

Under House bill 2902, cable franchise fees would distributed to "support public, educational or government access facilities, services, or programming."

But public access providers around the state think it's a bad call.

"If this money is siphoned off into the state sector, the government sector, you will see the people on the neighbor islands hurt very badly," said Jay April of Maui Community Television.

"To lose two-thirds of say $400,000 is devastating. There's no way they can remain open and continue to operate," Lopez said.

She said most of Olelo's six broadcast centers that it operates on Oahu would close and thousand of hours of locally produced programming would be cut.

"I would imagine we'd have to let go a good number of staff. I can see something like going from sixty to ten," Lopez said.

She said the biggest loser would be the people who create programs that air on Olelo because their voices would be silenced.

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