HARTFORD, CT — It’s been in reruns since Nov. 2, but the Connecticut Television Network was back on the air and streaming live at CT-N.com Monday morning.
The Office of Legislative Management said it has hired 13 former Connecticut Public Affairs Network employees to resume live coverage.
Most of the camera operators, control room technicians, and the person in charge of the website were hired by the state. The state didn’t temporarily hire any of the producers so it’s unclear still exactly what events will be covered or if OLM will tell them what to cover.
The legislature has promised gavel-to-gavel coverage of its legislative session Tuesday and Wednesday.
House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said they will make sure the public gets “gavel-to-gavel” coverage.
Last week, House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said the intention was never to take CT-N off the air.
“We feel very strongly about the transparency issue and what goes on in this building and people who cannot be here live to see should be able to watch it,” Klarides said.
She said if time goes on and more money is available, then they can have a conversation about expanding coverage.
The first live event CT-N covered Monday was a legislative hearing of the Public Health Committee regarding the operations of the Whiting Division of the Connecticut Valley Hospital. At least 10 employees were charged with abuse of patients at the maximum security facility at Connecticut’s only state psychiatric hospital.
A technical issue with one of the cameras in the hearing room caused a brief delay with the hearing. But the camera was back up and running in less than 10 minutes.
The future of the network was thrown into question after CPAN terminated its relationship with the state Nov. 2. The nonprofit operator for 18 years determined it would be unable to fulfill its mission with a $1.2 million budget. It believed the new five-year contract it negotiated was $2.4 million, which was already a reduction from $2.8 million. The reduction from $2.8 million to $2.4 million was related a reduction in the scope of services for the new contract.
Office of Legislative Management Director James Tracy said the contract to operate the network will be put out to bid in the Spring. He said state contracting laws wouldn’t give management enough time to get something together before the start of the new legislative session.
Senate Republican President Len Fasano, R-North Haven, said he believes now that CPAN is gone there will be a lot more interest from outside bidders in running the network. The fact that CPAN held the contract for so long was a deterrent for other bidders, he added.
Fasano doesn’t believe the use of standard definition cameras, rather than industry-standard high-definition cameras, should be a stumbling block.
The state has purchased 18 new high-definition cameras, which have been sitting in boxes in the back of one of the hearing rooms. The cameras were purchased so long ago that the warranties have already been voided and last month the legislature canceled the bonding to have the cameras installed as part of the recent bipartisan budget.
In an effort to help the network continue, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy has offered $400,000 in operating funds and $1 million in bonding to get the new equipment into place, but so far lawmakers have not expressed interest in accepting the money.
Lawmakers continue to say the intention of CT-N was never to cover the executive or judicial branches. However, documents fromthe first RFP dated June 11, 1999, show that’s not the case.
Under “project definition” it says it was the “intention of the Connecticut General Assembly to continue funding for Connecticut Network, CT-N, which provides television coverage of the legislature and to expand this coverage to include events of public interest in the Executive and Judicial Branches.”
The request came in June 1999 after the first six months of CT-N’s pilot phase was completed.
The first year of the project the General Assembly allocated $1.5 million for the endeavor.