HTV pulls ‘Going Public’ deal; says advertising is sold

The Terrebonne Parish Council need not consider a proposal that would have had taxpayers foot the bill for a local television program containing information the government might wish to communicate locally, because the requester has yanked it off the table.

Martin Folse, owner of local television station HTV-10, presented a letter to the parish council at a Monday night meeting that says he has found enough sponsors for the public affairs program to eliminate the need for outlay.

Council members were to have voted on the proposal at their regular meeting last week.

The council was considering a $60,000 yearly proposal – locked in for two years – that would have involved purchasing airtime from HTV for a package of 30-minute weekly segments that would include voices of its officials.

Folse said the parish could recoup what it spent because he would attempt to sell advertising to cover the cost. The segment – amounting to a government “infomercial” because it was to be paid for, rather than news programming – would have taken place each week.

The parish cost was to be part of an overall $240,000 annual package, with the rest of the time purchased in the same manner by entities such as the Terrebonne Parish School Board and several levee districts, as well as the Port of Terrebonne.

But last Monday night, Folse informed council members that he has sold enough advertising on his own to make parish under-writing a moot point.

“I am pleased to announce that HTV has secured all of the advertising monies for the program ‘Going Public,’” Folse’s March 17 letter to Parish President Gordon Dove and the council reads. “Sine my promise and my commitment to you last meeting, I have met with several companies who were more than willing to help our parish president and new chairman to showcase projects on our program.”

Since a vote on the proposal is now not required, Folse wrote, the council might wish to consider putting the money it would have spent into a project such as the Roger Songe Veterans Memorial Park in Houma.

The council took no actions during its committee meeting in regard to the matter. It was not known at press time whether the item, which included a public hearing, would still be on the Wednesday night agenda.

The proposal had drawn criticism from some members of the public who questioned whether the investment was a wise one for the parish. But their concerns at this point would appear moot.

Schools Superintendent Philip Martin said he is not aware of a proposal before his board at this time for underwriting of any portion of the program dealing with schools. Terrebonne Levee and Conservation District Executive Director Reggie Dupre said his agency is considering joining with both of Lafourche Parish’s levee districts to purchase one of the available segments. The districts could use a grant from the Morganza Action Coalition to pay for half of the yearly cost, according to Dupre.

Port of Terrebonne Executive Director David Rabalais said the port is also considering teaming up with other local ports to purchase one of the slots.

Terrebonne Parish President Gordon Dove supported the proposed agreement, and said he envisioned the parish’s segment focusing on crime prevention and the parish’s drug abuse problem. Council Chairman John Navy, who also supported the measure, said the channel could work to promote the tourism and shrimping industries.

Congratulating his success in securing the sponsorship for the program, Folse said his ability to do so saved the parish $120,000.

“While others were trying to sway your vote, I was eliminating your note,” Folse wrote. •

HTV owner Martin Folse has withdrawn his request for parish government tax dollars to underwrite a new public affairs program he plans to produce. But other public entities are being asked to help foot the bill.FILE | THE TIMES