HARTFORD, Conn. - While Connecticut and a handful of states are scaling back broadcasts of governmental proceedings to help cut costs, many others are pushing ahead with wide-ranging programming that can include everything from gavel-to-gavel coverage of legislative sessions to a documentary on managing wolves in Washington state.
The Rhode Island General Assembly, which owns and operates the state-funded Capitol Television, has upgraded its operations. With a staff of 16 and a budget of $1.69 million, it can cover five legislative-related events at once using new, robotic cameras. The coverage is streamed online and appears on a public access TV channel and a 24-hour high-definition channel.
“Rhode Island is big on open government, transparency, so they actually invested in us a few years ago to update, so we could televise even more hearings,” said Derek Hayes, the general manager of Capitol TV. Hayes’ team recently went on the road to cover Senate hearings across the state on a proposal to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox minor league baseball team.
Legislative leaders and staff in Connecticut are trying to determine the short- and long-term future of the state’s cable TV and online public affairs network. This month, its independent, nonprofit vendor, the Connecticut Public Affairs Network, announced it was terminating its agreement to operate the Connecticut Television Network, citing devastating state budget cuts and “encroachments on our editorial independence.”
CPAN and state lawmakers have been at odds over the level of coverage dedicated to the General Assembly versus the other branches of state government and other programming, such as a now-defunct public affairs show.
“No one wants to see a disruption in service from CT-N. It plays a role in the legislative process and in heightening public awareness. But the state simply does not have the resources it once had and, like many other publicly funded operations, CT-N will have to make adjustments,” said House Republican Leader Themis Klarides.
“CT-N needs to refocus on the core functions it was designed to provide,” she said, suggesting that’s gavel-to-gavel coverage of House and Senate sessions and mostly legislative hearings and events.