County to weigh new WTVI deal

A proposed public affairs-themed television channel from WTVI could get another boost from Mecklenburg County commissioners at their meeting tonight.

Commissioners are expected to consider a multi-year deal that would let the public television station revamp a digital channel that currently runs some programs about government in Mecklenburg County and nearby communities, including footage of commissioners meetings.

The proposed channel, called Public Square, would offer more locally-produced programs to try to boost engagement in community issues, said station spokesman Sidney Evans. Leaders have said topics for the channel could include discussions on political topics, consumer education and programs to showcase local non-profits and the arts.

Public Square, along with an accompanying Web site, would be rolled out over the next five years. County funding for the project also would increase over time from $2.92 million this year to an estimated $4.59 million in the 2013 fiscal year.

The concept for Public Square was developed as WTVI leaders were looking for ways to boost their programming, and as county officials were debating whether money spent on the TV station would be better spent elsewhere.

The station is funded with public and private money and is governed by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Public Broadcasting Authority.

Earlier this spring, commissioners unanimously agreed to direct county management to work with WTVI's governing body to draft an agreement for how Public Square would operate.