The legislature and its vendor for television programming reached an agreement Tuesday evening to avoid a shutdown just hours before their contract was set to expire.
The Office of Legislative Management and the Connecticut Network, or CT-N, reached a temporary agreement to ensure the network remained on the air Wednesday, but its future remains uncertain.
“We’re trying to be flexible and we’re committed to make something work,” said William Bevacqua, vice president of administration and communications for the Connecticut Public Affairs Network, CT-N’s parent organization.
Bevacqua and James Tracy, OLM executive director, both characterized the extension as a “per diem” agreement, allowing CT-N to operate day-to-day on a pro-rated budget of $1.2 million annually.
The two sides will also continue to negotiate terms for a permanent agreement after CT-N’s contract to broadcast state government expired over the summer. That contract had offered extensions, but the last one expired at the end of the day Tuesday.
The current budget represents a roughly 65 percent cut from the $2.7 million budget CT-N had last year, and is lower than any of the funding levels the network had been looking at for the current fiscal year.
Bevacqua said CT-N and CPAN, a non-profit organization, are using available resources to cover costs for the time being, but he sees that as only a short-term solution to continue talks.
In requesting proposals for a vendor — CT-N was the only submission — OLM indicated the new contract would pay $2.4 million, a reduction coinciding with the view of legislative leaders that the network needed to reign in the scope of its coverage.
Legislative leaders, and staff leaders for all four caucuses, say CT-N needs to prioritize its coverage of the legislature, and limit its taping of Executive Branch activities, state Supreme Court proceedings, community events, and, especially, original programming to reduce costs.
CT-N and OLM had been locked in a disagreement over the terms of the contract when the legislature last adopted a budget that cuts funding to $1.6 million, further complicating efforts to reach an agreement.
Bevacqua said Wednesday that network officials are trying to push for a public-private partnership that would allow CT-N to supplement state funding. CT-N last session proposed allow the network to instead impose a fee on cable bills, but that idea never advanced beyond the committee level.
Cable providers labeled the proposal a tax on customers, and some lawmakers expressed concerns that the fee wouldn’t be fair because it would give free access to people who subscribe to other television services.