Hartford, CT - State Public Affairs Networks Bring C-SPAN Style Coverage to State Government
Imagine: 50 mini "C-SPANs" across the nation whose focus is greater citizen engagement through transparent, unfiltered and undistracted coverage of their constituent state governments. For many states like Connecticut, Washington, Florida and Wisconsin, it’s already a reality. In Connecticut, the Connecticut Network (CT-N), now in its 12th year of operation, has garnered national attention and recognition from organizations like the Connecticut Foundation for Open Government and the National Society for Professional Journalists for providing 24/7 coverage of all three branches of government and public policy on basic cable TV, on the internet, and most recently on AT&T U-Verse.
State public affairs networks like CT-N, TVW in Washington, WisconsonEye, the Florida Channel, Pennsylvania Cable Network and others in close to 20 states fill a gap that has formed between platforms like C-SPAN that cover the federal government, and local government access channels. Citizens in those states have a rare and essential window on the workings of state government and are given unique ability to exercise their inherent right to be active participants in government at every level. They have evolved slowly over the last three decades, hindered at times by the lack of a uniform classification and carriage requirements that has left it up to individual states – and in the worst case, individual cable, satellite and other video service providers – to try to define what these networks are.
Ideally, the “rebooted” FCC would begin to contemplate state public affairs networks, different from local community access channels, but still a vital community service that organizations like CT-N and its sister networks perform, and one equally deserving support and channel capacity for all enterprises that provide video services to the public. This would be an important step toward the goal of providing this window on state government to citizens of all 50 states.
Pua Ford commented
I stayed up last night till midnight with the state Senate streaming on my laptop while the House played on my TV, watching them ring out the legislative session. My little bill did not win this year, but watching the big issues chug through the process helped me accept another temporary setback. Two years ago, CT-N taught me the meaning of "strike-all amendment." Soon I hope to read all about "emergency certification" legislation. There's always a new process to wonder over.
At the same time, the local access channels are at the heart of my daily life. Talk to folks on the road about the budget and they'll say, "Ah, well, they'll do whatever they do in Hartford and we'll be stuck with it." Talk to them about a proposed 90-foot baseball diamond in the neighborhood and they'll show up in droves at the next Selectmen's meeting, pro and con, live from Town Hall.
When there is room for 5 national shopping channels on the video/TV services, there is surely room for both state public affairs, C-SPAN, and local government access.