Georgia arts community lobbying for cut of cable television revenue

[Associated Press]

Georgia's arts community is picturing a way to get millions of dollars in funding through a proposal that would change the way cable television is delivered to homes.

Atlanta's art leaders are asking lawmakers to require that cable companies send one percent of their gross revenues to a state fund dedicated to art education. The change would be part of a new statewide cable franchise system that's being considered by lawmakers.

Cable operators must now reach Georgia homes by brokering deals with individual cities and counties. The new proposal would also allow the companies to apply for a cable franchise through the state _ and open the doors for telecom giant AT&T to pipe cable throughout Georgia without having to negotiate with every local market.

That's where the arts community sees an opportunity for lawmakers to create a new revenue stream for arts programs.

"You now have a unique _ only comes once _ opportunity to enact a video franchise bill that will not only satisfy the private communications interests and the cities, but also serve as a model for how the enormous cash flow for entertainment can improve education for our children," said Joseph Bankoff, the president and CEO of the Woodruff Arts Center, in a prepared statement.

His suggestion would send the funds to the Georgia Arts Alliance, a public-private partnership that would be created under a proposal introduced Thursday by Republican state Rep. Joe Wilkinson.

"This is an excellent funding mechanism to implement a plan that would be an incredible benefit to Georgians," said Wilkinson.

Georgia's cable companies will fight the suggestion. Current law requires the companies to siphon 5 percent of their revenues to local governments - and increasing that portion cuts deeper into their bottom line.

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