CT-N could go dark, Malloy offers $400K
Updated 5:33 pm, Friday, November 3, 2017
HARTFORD — The State Capitol complex on Friday was the battleground in a high-stakes game of chicken between lawmakers and the operators of the Connecticut Network, the public-affairs channel based at the Legislative Office Building that since 1999 has provided coverage of the General Assembly and other events.
At issue is a state budget crisis that resulted in a $1.6 million cut to CT-N’s budget, and charges from lawmakers that the network has expanded its coverage beyond Capitol events.
Management of the network said it cannot operate with a sharp funding cut in the new budget, combined with work rules that would give lawmakers the power to determine what events are covered. Management ended a temporary contract at 5 p.m. Friday.
On Friday morning, legislative officials posted a notice outside CT-N’s studio, offering employment opportunities — starting as soon as Monday — for those at the network who might lose their jobs.
By early afternoon, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and Lt. Gov. Nancy Wyman stressed the importance of governmental transparency and offered to find some operating funds.
“Of course, we know well that the state’s fiscal position means that everything we do must be scrutinized and curtailed in order to live within our means,” Malloy and Wyman wrote to legislative leaders and to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Chase T. Rogers, who in recent years opened her court to television cameras. “But just as we have worked together in recent years to accomplish budget reductions without altogether eliminating important services, so should we collectively find a way to balance the budget without eliminating video coverage and archiving of important state civic events, including legislative sessions, committee meetings, public hearings, board and commission meetings, announcements from the executive branch, arguments before the State Supreme Court, and the like.”
Malloy said that if the budget isn’t enough for CT-N to operate, more money should be found, offering to come up with $400,000 within the budgets of Executive Branch agencies to transfer to CT-N, plus $1 million in new capital equipment.
Employees of CT-N arrived to work Friday to terminated Connecticut General Assembly email addresses and a partial equipment shutdown. Paul Giguere, the founder, president and CEO of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network, announced layoffs to employees. CT-N was scheduled to show previously aired events after the 7 p.m. broadcast of its final week-in-review program.
The network had been operating on a short-term contract extension with the Office of Legislative Management at a cost of $5,000 a day, but Giguere said he would walk away at the end of business on Friday.
The state budget approved last week and signed into law by Malloy cuts CT-N’s 2017 budget of $2.8 million budget, down to $1.2 million. Last year CT-N had asked lawmakers for $8 million, which was rejected.
“After careful consideration and much deliberation, our organization cannot escape the conclusion that the recent actions to eliminate CPAN’s editorial discretion, combined with the drastic reduction in funding, has transformed CT-N into a project no longer consistent with our organization’s fiduciary obligation in either the financial or mission sense,” Giguere wrote to Jim Tracy, executive director of the Office of Joint Legislative Management, which runs the Capitol complex.
“Everyone agrees CTN is a valuable resource in helping to keep the public informed about their government, yet like virtually all state programs and services it is subject to funding cuts in this budget,” said Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin. “Providing a level of support to help allow CTN to continue its core mission, albeit scaled back from recent years, is still our goal going forward.”
“It plays a role in the legislative process and in heightening public awareness,” said House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby. “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. CT-N needs to refocus on the core functions it was designed to provide.’’
firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: @KenDixonCT