The Connecticut Network ending its coverage of state government Friday evening just days after striking a “per diem” agreement to stay on the air while officials negotiated with the legislature for a long-term agreement.
Paul Giguere, president and CEO of CT-N’s nonprofit parent Connecticut Public Affairs Network, notified the Office of Legislative Management that CT-N would cease coverage Friday at 5 p.m. because he didn’t see the two sides resolving a contract dispute.
“After careful consideration and much deliberation, our organization cannot escape the conclusion that the recent actions to eliminate CPAN’s editorial discretion combined with the drastic reduction in funding has transformed CT-N into a project no longer consistent with our organization’s fiduciary obligations in either the financial or mission sense,” Giguere wrote in a letter Thursday to OLM.
The CT-N channel will continue to operate on a loop of reruns while the legislature finds a solution. OLM posted a note from Facilities Administrator Eric Connery outside CT-N’s Capitol Office informing employees of “a strong possibility that some of you can be part” of a long-term solution.
No further details were provided, but one option would be for the legislature and OLM to bring the operation in-house.
CPAN and OLM had reached an agreement Tuesday, just hours before a contract was set to expire, for CT-N to remain on the air on a day-to-day basis at a prorated cost of $1.2 million annually.
The intent was to strike a full agreement, but Giguere said he didn’t see that occurring after OLM rejected CPAN’s offer to allow the nonprofit organization to seek other forms of revenue outside the state budget.
House Minority Leader Themis Klarides, R-Debry, said in a statement that legislative leaders “value” CT-N’s service, but the decision to end coverage “serves no purpose.”
“It ignores the fiscal reality that all other state-funded agencies have to deal with, and that is, we do not have the resources to continue business as usual,” she said in the statement. “For CT-N to put forth this ultimatum that puts jobs at risk while we are attempting, in good faith, to resolve these complex matters as we deal with the state’s ongoing fiscal crisis is irresponsible.”
Klarides also said that coverage of the General Assembly “would continue regardless of any decisions by CT-N.”
The recently adopt budget does cut funding to CT-N to $1.6 million, down from the $2.4 million included in a request for proposals issued earlier this year — CPAN was the only response — and $2.7 million last year.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy offered his support in a letter to legislative leaders Friday, including a pledge to find up to $400,000 in savings within current allocations for the Executive Branch. He also said he believes the legislature and Judicial Branches could free up matching contributions.
Malloy also questioned in the letter why CT-N and OLM remained at an impasses, pressing legislative leaders on whether the dispute is over editorial control and not funding.
Pat Sheehan, chairman of CPAN’s board of directors, said the budget cut is a concern, but the board never signed the agreement in the first place because OLM’s contract terms would have greatly reduced the scope of coverage.
In its request for proposals, OLM, at the request of the four legislative caucuses, said the selected vendor would primarily cover the legislature, and that the Executive and Judicial branches would see less air time.
CT-N has provided gavel-to-gavel coverage of legislative sessions since 1999, as well as daily coverage of committee hearings and other proceedings, but has also regularly broadcast Executive Branch activities and, more recently, state Supreme Court cases.
Sheehan said coverage of all three branches were always part of CT-N’s scope, and he believes reducing coverage would be a detriment to the public. “I can’t believe these are legislators who would only build roads to their own garage,” he said.
Sheehan said CPAN isn’t ready to cut off talks with OLM, but he doesn’t see the board interested in negotiations unless it can retain editorial control.