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Contract Changes At CT-N Spark Concerns Over Freedom Of Information

Ross D. Franklin

A new contract for CT-N, the television network funded by the Connecticut legislature, would give lawmakers more control over what gets covered. That’s got freedom of information advocates in the state worried.

CT-N is a little like C-SPAN. It shows speeches, congressional hearings, and other public interest issues. But unlike C-SPAN, it’s completely funded by the state. The network is run by a non-profit and goes out to bid every five years. The new contract calls on CT-N to focus on the legislative branch, and only cover other events with legislators’ permission.

Dan Klau, with the Connecticut Council on Freedom of Information, says, “I just don’t know why some folks over at the legislature think that after 20 years, they should drastically reduce the coverage of the executive branch and the judicial branch. It’s bad public policy at a time when trust in government is already at historic lows.”

The new contract takes the final say over day-to-day coverage out of the hands of the network and gives it to the General Assembly. Klau says he’s not arguing the General Assembly doesn’t have the legal power to make the move. But he says it would make the network a PR tool for the legislature.

“CT-N would be just a way that incumbent politicians can ensure that their constituents recognize them in the grocery store, from watching them on television.”

Legislative managers cite budget reasons for the cutbacks. They say they’re trying to cut spending on the network by $300,000. And that’s why services have to be reduced.

Davis Dunavin loves telling stories, whether on the radio or around the campfire. He started in Missouri and ended up in Connecticut, which, he'd like to point out, is the same geographic trajectory taken by Mark Twain.