HARTFORD, CT — A state contract to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of Connecticut government that ended last fall will be renewed on Nov. 1.
The nonprofit Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN) won back the contract to operate the Connecticut Television Network (CT-N) after a yearlong dispute and a rebidding on the contract.
“The legislature restored enough funding to the project to figure out a business case to run the network again,” William Bevacqua, president of CPAN, said.
Around the same time the contract ended last fall, the Bond Commission approved $1 million in borrowing to install the new cameras and upgrade other equipment. The new contract that starts on Nov. 1 is about $900,000 less annually than it had been.
It’s a three-year contract renewable up to six years and first-year budget is roughly $1.83 million for the year. It had been $2.7 million in 2017 before CPAN learned it would be cut as part of the bipartisan budget.
CPAN beat out three other bidders, including WFSB, for the contract. According to bidding documents, CPAN asked for $1.83 million in the first year with a three-percent increase in future years. WFSB asked for $1.97 million in the first year with a 2.5 percent increase in future years.
“CPAN provided the best proposal, particularly with their demonstrated experience and plan of operation within available funding. CT-N is a an critical resource in giving the public a window into their government, and CPAN showed a real understanding of the importance of that mission,” Speaker of the House Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said.
All of the employees for CPAN were laid-off last year and rehired directly by the Office of Legislative Management as temporary employees without any benefits in order to continue to operate the network in the absence of a contract. CPAN is in a process of interviewing and rehiring back those employees.
Bevacqua said the new skills they learned to operate the network in the absence of a contract will serve the organization well in the future as it seeks to diversify its revenue sources.
There were about 18 former CPAN employees who have been operating the network since the contract ended, but a few have since found employment elsewhere.
“CT-N will continue its invaluable service to the people of Connecticut under this arrangement with CPAN,” House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Derby, said. “Like virtually every other state-supported entity, we had to adjust to recognize the fiscal realities that have emerged in Connecticut government in recent years. While there was little to no disruption in the day-to-day coverage of events while CT-N transitioned into its current profile, regrettably there were changes that staff had to endure.”
Modeled after C-SPAN, the network was created to provide gavel-to-gavel coverage of the legislature and the executive and judicial branches. However, over the years CPAN expanded its coverage to include programming to help bring context to the sometimes weighty public policy issues. In 2016, it even sought to expand its coverage through a 40-cent-per-month fee on cable subscribers.
It was at that point the relationship began to sour and the additional programming hosted by veteran broadcast journalist Diane Smith came to an end.
Pat Sheehan, chairman of CPAN’s board of directors, has said the network cut back to some extent on the programming that they’ve been doing. They stopped covering the political party conventions and they’re not doing any of the additional program, like the weekly Capitol Report roundup.
While some of the friction early on in the dispute was focused on editorial content, Bevacqua said much of that had been negotiated and settled before the contract ended last fall. He said the confluence of a budget cut and loss of editorial control had been too much to negotiate before the previous contract expired.
“Temporarily bringing the CT-N contract in-house last year saved taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars,” Adam Joseph, a spokesman for the Senate Democratic caucus, said. “Moving forward, the contract with CPAN will save taxpayers more than $1 million over the life of the agreement while also retaining the dedicated, talented, and hard working CT-N employees who kept channel on the air.”