Stopping cable TV’s ‘big lie’

By Jim Cameron

Guest columnist

Who’s minding the store in Hartford? Who’s keeping an eye on lawmakers writing our budget, cutting services, tolling our roads, and funding our schools? Almost nobody.

The “press room” in the state Capitol is practically empty as newspapers and radio/TV stations have cut their staffs. There are literally only a handful of reporters left covering the workings of state government.

And there is CT­-N, the state’s answer to C-­SPAN, a cable channel dedicated to uncensored, commentary-­free, gavel-­to­-gavel coverage of state government.

Were it not for CT-­N’s coverage of public hearings and floor debates, Connecticut residents would be clueless about what’s happening in Hartford. Sure, there are a few websites (CT Newsjunkie, CTMirror) and dedicated reporters (Ken Dixon, Chris Keating) on this crucial beat, but they are spread way too thin.

Even CT-­N has only one channel on basic cable statewide, and getting even that took a major battle with the cable companies. CT­-N also has two “streaming” channels on the Web, but with five or six hearings happening simultaneously on any given day, they can’t cover everything.

Until now!

CT-­N has just proposed a new State Civic Network with up to 10 channels of coverage via the Web. The technology would allow viewers to do a key­word search of archives, wading through hours of coverage to find exactly what matters to them. Citizens (and media) could lift video clips at no charge. And all this would cost cable subscribers just 40 cents a month.

And when that subscription fee goes into effect, CT­-N would refund the $3.2 million a year it now gets in the state budget, returning those funds for other uses.

The proposal has sent dozens of cable lobbyists to Hartford, calling such a subscriber fee a “tax.” And we know how lawmakers feel about raising taxes, even if it means better citizen engagement with the legislative process.

Once again, cable companies are lying to us. While they scream about a 40-cent-per-subscriber fee, they forget to tell us they already charge subscribers $6.06 a month for ESPN, whether you watch it or not. Never watch TNT? They’ll still whack you $1.48 for that channel. Not a Disney fan? Too bad, it’s costing you $1.21.

A fee for service is not a tax.

Cable companies are raking in billions in profits while complaining about a 40-cent subscriber fee to promote civic engagement. And they’re spending millions in lobbying and political contributions while trying to stifle the very journalism that would expose these manipulations.

Shame on the cable companies. And shame on us if we allow their “big lie” to halt the creation the CT-­N’s State Civic Network. So if you care about knowing what’s going on in Hartford, contact your state representative and state senator and tell them you support the CT­-N plan. Let’s stop the cable companies and their big lie.

Jim Cameron, Program Director

Darien TV79 Town Government Television

2 Renshaw Road

Darien CT 06820

E­mail: [email protected]

Cell: 203-­952-­5758

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