A Fractured 'We' at ME TV
After some initial layoffs at local television channel ME Television were announced last week on our Picture in Picture blog, readers posted a variety of responses to our forum. But the post to end all posts came when a mystery person (identified only as "Connie") wrote to say that everyone was gone, and ME TV was now "kaput." After a few phone calls were made, ME TV president and CEO Connie Wodlinger sent an e-mail to "TV Eye" on Aug. 22 following our request for verification:
"I understand some misinformation has been posted to your Blog. Thank you for bringing it to our attention. ME Television has had some significant lay-offs, but the management team and a base crew remain in place. The network will continue to produce a 24-hour on air signal as we aggressively pursue several viable options to return to full production and move forward."
Still, the exchange only raised more question marks. More phone calls were made. Turns out there are a lot of rumors flying, but few people willing to speak on the record about what is going down at ME TV.
It appears the mysterious "Connie" was correct when "she" indicated that most of the staff was laid off. When pressed further on the issue, Wodlinger defined in an Aug. 26 e-mail who was left after the "significant lay-offs": "The team that put the network on the air in October, 2005 is still in place including CEO Connie Wodlinger, VP of Music and Artist Relations Kevin Connor, Executive Producer Jacqueline Renee, and Director of Operations Philip Haley. Several producers and editors are working to finish up projects and other staff are coming in as needed." That's slightly clearer than before. But when it comes to questions of financial health, the responses are less clear. When asked if new investment money was being pursued or if a new arrangement with current investors was in the works, Wodlinger said they "have endeavored to fund the network with private investment to maintain independence from major media partners and still have investment equity available."
As for the unfortunate rumors that the laid-off staff has yet to be paid, Wodlinger declined to go into detail, as ME TV is "a private company" and does not release financial information. She did concede that "there are some remaining staff obligations which are a priority, and it is our intention that all employees will receive any compensation due."
There are still more questions than hard answers out there, but Wodlinger seems committed to getting ME TV back to business as usual.
"Please don't forget the positives and overall accomplishments of the network during this difficult time," Wodlinger candidly said in an e-mail. "For most artists, ME TV is their only television exposure. ME has made a difference in the careers of many artists."
How soon and when ME TV will relaunch in full force is unknown, although plans to host the C3 Austin City Limits sponsor party are still on track. Check "TV Eye" online for new information as it becomes available.
It felt like good timing when the documentary The Black List: Volume One aired on HBO Monday night, just as Michelle Obama appeared live on TV at the Democratic National Convention. Had the short biographical film leading up to Michelle's speech not been available, The Black List would have been a fine substitute — not specifically as an introduction to Michelle Obama but as an introduction to the present moment. The Black List (which screened at the 2008 South by Southwest Film Festival) is a 90-minute documentary featuring 25 prominent African-Americans, who speak directly to the camera about their struggles and triumphs along their career paths. The film is a series of "how I got to be who I am" narratives – much like the one that preceded Obama's speech – and for those who are still unsettled by the idea of an African-American being elected president, it serves as a useful tutorial for understanding how it was possible for the Obamas to reach this historic moment and how, no matter the lingering fears or misgivings of some voters, it's probably going to happen: The first black first family will be moving into the White House after the turn of the year.
The Democratic Convention concludes on Thursday, but you can watch highlights of the week on the official website (www.demconvention.com). The Black List airs periodically through Sept. 20 on HBO. Check listings for dates and times.
As always, stay tuned.