Restore AIM's Funding! - Talking Points

Tell Arlington County to Restore AIM’s Funding!

 Arlington Independent Media has an extremely compelling case for why the Arlington County Board should restore full funding.  Please consider the following points:

A.    AIM Is an Amazing Resource for Arlington

AIM was named America’s best community media center 10 times, a national record.

101 civic organizations, county government agencies, and local businesses received direct support from AIM in the last fiscal year.

8,594 individuals used the AIM facility in the past 12 months (April 2017 through March 2018).

AIM trained 937 individuals in the last fiscal year in basic and advanced media production and 193 elementary, middle and high school students since 2013.

Local businesses and organizations routinely send their employees to AIM for media training, including WETA-TV and National Public Radio.

AIM aired 427 first-run TV programs and 4,280 radio programs in the last fiscal year. Volunteers produced all programming for the Arlington community.

AIM offered afterschool I-pad video club at both Key and McKinley elementary schools throughout the last fiscal year.

AIM partners with many local organizations and institutions to provide programs and services, including:

     Arlington Economic Development (media training for small business)
     Office of Emergency Management (emergency messaging on WERA)
     Historic Preservation Program (the Document Historic Arlington project)
     Arlington Public Schools (high school sports coverage)
     Clarendon Alliance (Clarendon Day coverage and event volunteers)
     Rosslyn Business Improvement District (Rosslyn Jazz Fest Coverage)
     Columbia Pike Revitalization Program (Columbia Pike Blues Festival)
     Arlington Committee of 100 (coverage of monthly meetings)
     Arlington Civic Federation (coverage of candidate debates)
     League of Women Voters (coverage of candidate debates)
     Arlington Community Foundation (event coverage)

AIM runs the Rosebud Film Festival, one of the region’s oldest and most prestigious festivals, drawing more than 100 entries each year from around the metro area.

Our TV producers are routinely honored with national and international awards e.g., Telly Awards in 2017 and 2015, the London Film Awards "Best Television Pilot" award in the 2017 and a bronze award by the North American Film Awards in 2017.

One of our radio producers was this year inducted into the Folk Music Hall of Fame.


B.    AIM Is Remarkably Economical and Efficient

We do much, much more with less! With the help of a $454,000 grant from Arlington County, last year AIM volunteers and staff produced 849 hours of TV programming of all kinds, trained 937 people, produced 4,862 hours of radio programming and provided services to 101 local organizations ($85 of Arlington County funds per program hour).

By comparison ATV, the county’s cable TV channel, produced 486 hours of TV programming, 447 of which used fixed, remote control cameras to record County Board meetings, on a budget of $674 thousand. ATV produces no radio and no training for the public ($1,497 of Arlington County funds per program hour).

 

C.    The Community Supports AIM

More than 50 local businesses contribute money and goods to AIM in the form of sponsorships and underwriting for AIM and WERA programming.

Volunteers contribute more than 5,000 hours to the organization each year working as producers, directors, camera operators, editors, audio engineers, writers, and web designers.

Arlington residents gave more than $30 thousand in donations over the past year.

More than 3,200 people follow WERA and AIM on Facebook.

In a focus group commissioned by Arlington County, 75% of Arlington respondents said that having a local, noncommercial cable channel was “very important” or “important.”

The same study found that survey respondents valued local, non-commercial channels more highly than ESPN, MTV, Fox News, or Lifetime

 

D.  Arlington Watches and Listens

Approximately 2,000 AIM TV programs per month are viewed on our website or our YouTube channel.

In the past year, 125,000 WERA radio programs were played on digital listening platforms and approximately 4,000 listeners per month tune in to the live stream on wera.fm.

 

E.    AIM Is Becoming More Self-Sufficient Each Year

In fiscal year 2007, AIM received 87% of its cash operating support from Arlington County. In fiscal year 2017, AIM received 68% of its operating support from Arlington County. This trend is projected to continue in coming years. But, it must be noted that this is a cash figure and doesn’t account for the $250,000 in contributed labor that AIM members gave to the organization last year.

 

F.     AIM Helps Arlington County Achieve Its Goals

On the front page of the county’s website they claim, “civic engagement is at the heart of Arlington.” AIM provides a direct way for Arlington residents to engage with their friends, neighbors, community and government.

Arlington Economic Development boasts that Arlington is the “intersection of technology, culture and diversity.” That could easily be AIM’s motto as our members represent dozens of cultures and ethnic groups and use technology to create culture and celebrate diversity

AIM is in partnership with Arlington County on its “Digital Destiny” initiative and recently partnered with the county on its “Tell Arlington’s Stories” initiative.

 

G.    AIM Offers Arlington County the Potential for Enormous Savings

AIM has proposed that it take over all video production services for Arlington County government. The county would still program their channel but they would locate their offices at our North Danville Street facility and AIM would produce the content at their direction. By employing this strategy, AIM estimates that it could save Arlington County $230,000 plus free up one half of one floor in the County Office Building.

AIM already provides Arlington County with contract labor to help produce ATV programming.

 

H.    The Proposed Budget Fails to Honor a Prior Agreement 

In December 2016, AIM agreed to a proposal from Arlington County that reduced AIM’s county support by 5% each year until 2021, when the current cable franchises with Verizon and Comcast will expire.

The fiscal year 2019 budget proposes a drastic 20% cut to AIM’s support with no warning whatsoever.

The original premise for stepping down AIM’s support each year by 5% was that cable revenues were expected to fall by 5% each year and, therefore, the communications tax collected by Arlington County would also fall. In fiscal year 2019 the communications tax is projected to fall by 4.2% - not 20%.

The $90 thousand dollars that Arlington County would cut from AIM’s budget will do little to solve the county’s budget woes but could be a death blow to AIM.

 

I.      A 20% Cut Will Significantly Harm AIM

AIM has already cut back hours, raised its fees to the public and eliminated staff positions and community initiatives due to previous cuts to its budget.

Since AIM is a resource for underserved communities in Arlington, further fee increases will severely limit AIM’s ability to provide media training and access to those who need it most.

Further cuts to staff will cause a downward spiral by limiting AIM’s ability to serve and communicate with the Arlington community which will, in turn, result in fewer members, volunteers and programs.

Fewer members, volunteers and programs result in a reduced ability to communicate with the Arlington community . . . and on and on.

AIM also faces a potentially devastating rent bill for its current location due to the county removing Comcast’s obligations to provide space for the organization.

The $90 thousand dollars that Arlington County would cut from AIM’s budget will do little to solve the county’s budget woes but could be a death blow to AIM.