Cloquet to contract out CAT-7 operation

The Cloquet City Council approved a contract that would pay a local newspaper at least $67,000 per year to operate the city’s public access TV station.

Cloquet City Hall.jpg
Cloquet City Hall (Jamey Malcomb/Pine Journal)

The Cloquet City Council unanimously voted to outsource the operation of its public access television network to a local newspaper during its meeting Tuesday, Aug. 18.

In a letter of understanding, the city would transfer operation of its public access television network to Pine Knot LLC, which operates the Pine Knot News.

Since 1999, Cloquet has operated CAT-7 as a city department through a joint powers agreement (JPA) with Scanlon, Carlton and Thomson. The JPA set up a cable commission with three representatives from Cloquet and two each from the other entities to advise Cloquet on the channel’s operations and budget.

The channel is funded solely through franchise fees from Mediacom. The station receives a small portion of the money paid by local subscribers to Mediacom to fund the channel’s personnel, equipment and programming.

CAT-7 has had a myriad of production, staffing and budget issues over the past few years, according to documents posted on the city’s website and provided to City Councilors. Former channel coordinator Eric Lipponen’s hours were reduced in 2019 to help the station stay within its budget. When the city moved its offices from the former city hall location on Cloquet Avenue to the current building on 14th Street in June 2019, CAT-7 went off the air.


Lipponen was restored to a full time position in September 2019 to help return the channel to the air, but his hours were reduced again in January. Lipponen’s employment was eventually terminated by the council in March.

Cloquet City Administrator Tim Peterson said the city had three options for CAT-7. It could operate the channel with part-time staff, but the work would suffer because of a lack of experience in operating a TV station and the city has limited space to use for production. The city could cease operation of the channel, but such a move would take away from the availability of public information, according to Peterson.

The Pine Knot was the only organization to submit a proposal that was cost-effective and met the expectations of city staff and the Cloquet Cable Commission, according to the council documents.

The proposal from Pine Knot owner Pete Radosevich, who also serves as chairman of the Cable Commission, offered to “relieve the City of any obligation to deal with CAT-7 operations” except to continue paying for its automated recording services. The service records City Council and Economic Development Authority meetings and posts them to the city’s website.

Radosevich also said the Pine Knot would provide studio space — either at the Pine Knot’s Cloquet office or in a building Radosevich owns in Esko — to produce shows. Radosevich would act as “station manager” and Pine Knot News staff, led by editor Jana Peterson, would provide “most of the content” available on the channel. The Pine Knot News content would be supplemented by submissions from local municipalities, churches, schools, community organizations and the public.

For the services, the city would pay Pine Knot LLC $62,600 per year. In addition, the city would pay the Pine Knot an annual stipend of $5,000 for equipment purchases, maintenance and other expenses. Furthermore, any events the city wishes to broadcast would cost $100 per hour for taping and editing done by Pine Knot staff.

The city agreed it will not terminate the contract during the first year of operation unless the Pine Knot fails to perform the services agreed to. It can be terminated with 90 days written notice.

Jamey Malcomb has a been high school sports reporter for the Duluth News Tribune since October 2021. He spent the previous six years covering news and sports for the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors and the Cloquet Pine Journal. He graduated from the George Washington University in 1999 with a bachelor's degree in history and literature and also holds a master's degree in secondary English education from George Mason University.
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