Santa Rosa is asking the public what kind of media access it wants in advance of a City Council decision about the future of its community media center.
The city is hosting several meetings this week, another in September, and online forums to learn what kinds of media classes, services, equipment and programming the city should fund.
"We want to hear people's voices," said Eric McHenry, the city's information technology director.
As part of its effort to remain culturally and technologically relevant and financially sustainable, the Community Media Center of the North Bay has hired a new interim executive director, revamped its website and rebranded itself as CMedia.
The new leadership has convinced city officials that the center has a good shot at broadening its base of support in the community, McHenry said.
"Times have changed," he said. "There is a more inclusive and collaborative future ahead with what is now called CMedia."
The center, opened in 1997, has historically broadcast public meetings, managed public access TV channels and provided video production training to residents. Budget pressures have caused city officials to slash funding for the center and urge it to find new revenue streams. The most recent one-year contract for the center cut operating funds from $660,000 to $300,000.
In March, the City Council almost closed the center but agreed to continue funding for it for six months while a community conversation took place about its future.
After a study session on Aug. 27, city officials likely will ask the council for more time to strike an operating agreement with CMedia, McHenry said.
The new interim director is Daedalus Howell, a writer and filmmaker from Petaluma.
One of his top priorities is to generate income by creating videos, ads and other media for local businesses and nonprofits, he said. One of his first clients is La Tortilla Factory, he said.
The center also plans to partner with schools and other organizations such as the Sonoma County Museum and Sonoma County Library, he said.
The center's new website reflects an organization in transition.
Gone is the archive of hundreds of locally produced amateur videos with names like "Galactic Messenger" and "Inappropriately Touched By My Government." Those videos may be moved to the Sonoma County Library, Howell said.
"We respect our past, but we are definitely trying to move forward," he said.
But new video content has yet to take its place. The site on Wednesday afternoon was playing a slideshow titled "A brief history of modern European anarchism," set to classical music.
Howell said the site was still in beta mode and the video was just a placeholder until the site's streaming capabilities could be perfected.
The city held a meeting for people interested in producing media on Monday, and two other meetings Wednesday focused on the needs of nonprofits and ethnically diverse populations.
Another forum for older adults will be held Thursday, from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Person Senior Wing of the Finley Center, followed by one for educators and students on Sept. 12 from 4:30 to 6 p.m. at the Santa Rosa Junior College's Bertolini Student Activity Center.
For more information, visit cmedialab.org.