LMC Media at Risk as Larchmont Departs Agreement

As the main funder of LMC Media, what does this withdrawal mean for the larger Larchmont-Mamaroneck community?


Photo Courtesy of @LMCMEDIACENTER on Instagram

This decision made by Larchmont officials leaves the town in shock from this sudden decision.

Michaela Loughran, Managing Editor

On November 4th, the Village of Larchmont Board of Trustees announced its intention to withdraw from the Cable TV (CATV) sharing agreement, a 38-year-old agreement between the Village of Larchmont, the Village of Mamaroneck, and the Town of Mamaroneck. The most important aspect of the agreement was its establishment of a Cable TV Board of Control (BOC), in which all three municipalities would be equally represented. The BOC was made responsible for the distribution of Franchise Fees (compensation given to local governments by cable companies) and PEG Fees, which are used for capital purchases pertaining to public access channels. Throughout its nearly four-decade-long history, the BOC has used the majority of its Franchise Fees and some of its PEG Fees as well, to fund the local nonprofit LMC Media (formerly known as LMCTV). Much of the community, therefore, equated the announcement to the Village of Larchmont making a decision to defund LMC Media, a troubling notion for its many supporters. In the same notice that Larchmont made the announcement, they also included information about the nearly absolute dependence of LMC Media on BOC funding, citing that around 90% of LMC Media’s annual operating budget comes from these funds. This detail turned what the community might have perceived as a precarious position for LMC Media into a devastating fate.
LMC Media, founded only a year after the CATV Sharing Agreement, has won over the hearts of countless community residents in its decades on the air. It is known for its dedication to televising community functions, from local sports matches and ribbon cuttings to government meetings and special events. It also serves as a key resource for constituents seeking to stay informed on local politics. Due to the wide variety of events LMC Media reports on, Larchmont and Mamaroneck residents alike may often turn to its reporting to stay informed on community news. Thus, it was not uncommon for community members who heard about the November 4th announcement to see it as a shock, and some even saw it as an outrage.
The Board, anticipating this sort of response, was quick to clarify in its notice that “The issues described here are with the operation of the BOC and the lack of clarity on the financial and legal relationship the BOC has with LMC Media, and not with LMC Media itself.” Throughout the notice, they emphasize the ambiguity in the BOC’s financial and legal relationship with LMC Media. They mention that the CATV agreement fails to include any regulations or standings regarding the disbursement of Franchise Fee and PEG Fee funds. While the Village of Larchmont claims that it has raised concerns about the BOC’s strained ability to disburse funds, this concern seems to have been escalated after Larchmont requested to disburse $100,000 of its PEG fee funds in March 2021, and was never awarded the funds. Additionally, they say the agreement lacks any statement about the role of the BOC, outside of its relationship with cable companies. The implication of this is that the funding that the BOC has provided to LMC Media over the years has been without a formal agreement, something the Village of Larchmont apparently views as problematic.
Many constituents were not satisfied with this justification because it did not address their concerns about the nature of the withdrawal. A theme across constituents’ complaints was mentioning the unilateralism of the action Larchmont had taken. Many were concerned by the fact that the Village of Larchmont made its decision to withdraw at least partially because of a disagreement it had with its co-partners, the Village of Mamaroneck and Town of Mamaroneck, and then went against these co-partners in doing so. An additional pressing concern was the lack of public discussion preceding the announcement. Matt Sullivan, the executive director of LMC Media stated that, “The Village has noted a lack of transparency [in the CATV agreement] as being an issue, yet it’s own Board lacked any transparency regarding their decision to leave the BOC.” A number of Larchmont and Mamaroneck residents value staying informed about and involved in our local democracy, and being deprived of the opportunity to do so for an issue that many of them are passionate about was incredibly frustrating.
These constituents did, however, get the chance to voice their thoughts at a Village of Larchmont Board Meeting held a little over a week after the announcement, on Monday, November 15th. The meeting was packed with concerned Larchmont constituents who were either prepared to make use of the open-comment section themselves or simply wanted to be present to hear the remarks of the Board and their fellow constituents on the issue. Judy Silberstein, a long-time Larchmont resident and the former publisher of the Larchmont Gazette, a local publication that ran from 2002 to 2010, was one of several constituents who rose to do the former. During the speech she made, Silberstein deemed the Larchmont Board’s actions “shockingly uncharacteristic”, going on to say that the Board is “holding LMC hostage to the power struggle.” Silberstein’s bold statement was in reference, of course, to the friction between Larchmont and its co-partners over the funds Larchmont requested and never received, friction that the Mayor of Larchmont, Lorraine Walsh, admitted was one of the reasons they put out the withdrawal notice. Mayor Walsh went on to emphasize, though, that they didn’t only pull out of the agreement because of this disagreement.
While addressing the board, Silberstein also brought up the worrying hypothetical that “if we blow it […], Larchmont [may have] to reproduce LMC on its own.”
Larchmont’s trustee on the BOC, Sarah Bauer, responded to this, assuring Silberstein and other concerned attendees of the meeting that “If we are no longer part of the board of control, we can still make decisions to fund LMC during budget season.” However, this reassurance did not placate some of the fired up attendees like Miriam Curnin, an older resident of Larchmont who was around when Larchmont first joined the agreement. Curnin faced the board and expressed her beliefs of LMC Media’s essentiality to our community. She commented that it’s “serving a purpose that no other media does”, elaborating that while she thinks other forms of media can be isolating, LMC Media brings our community together. Then, directly in response to Bauer’s remark of reassurance, Curnin stated that she thought the issue was too urgent to be dependent on the annual budget meeting.
Phil Oldham, president of the Larchmont Mamaroneck Lions Club, a local community service organization, clearly in agreement with Curnin on this, took to the front of the room not long after Curnin’s remarks to directly ask the board if it was their intention to continue supporting LMC in the same fashion as its co-members after the effective date of withdrawal in November 2022. An unsettling silence filled the room after Oldham posed this question.
Mayor Walsh broke the silence by hesitantly announcing “I don’t think we’re in a position to make a claim like that.”
Oldham, determined to elicit a more promising response, rephrased his question, this time asking if the Larchmont Board had any intention at all of generally supporting LMC partially or on its own in the future.
Mayor Walsh endeavored to answer this question that has piqued the curiosity of not just Oldham but much of the community. She first reminded everyone that their funding of LMC will continue throughout the next year. She then went on to say that what happens beyond that will depend on “how our conversations with our partners work out and how conversations with the community in terms of their feelings about LMC, the importance of it to the community, how they would like to see the funds used.” While the Village of Larchmont Board was evidently not very forthcoming about their decision to withdraw from the agreement, they are open to listening to constituents’ views and speaking with them about funding of LMC Media in the future.
Subsequently, to answer the question Oldham had posed once and for all, Walsh remarked, “It is our intention that we can continue to support LMC whether we are in the Board of Control or not.” Walsh’s remark is certainly not a promise, and she also does not provide a specific plan to achieve this promise.
However, Larchmont and Mamaroneck residents should rest assured that the Village of Larchmont supports the work LMC is doing and is actively working to find other ways to fund it outside of the Board of Control in the eleven months before it formally withdraws in November of 2022.