The combination of a disagreement over editorial control and recent budget cuts means the General Assembly will be without a vendor beginning Wednesday to broadcast its proceedings.
The Office of Legislative Management’s contract with the Connecticut Network, or CT-N, expired July 31, and the two sides have utilized all available extensions — the last one ending at the end of the day Tuesday — as they remain locked in a disagreement over editorial control.
The state budget, signed by Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, further complicated things because lawmakers cut funding for CT-N, overseen by the nonprofit Connecticut Public Affairs Network, by $800,000.
“We’re waiting on some indication of what happens next,” said Paul Giguere, Connecticut Public Affairs Network president and CEO. He warned lawmakers in an Oct. 14 email that the reduced funding level “would most certainly result in a complete shutdown of the network, as early as October 31.”
The state budget allocates $1.6 million for CT-N, dispersed through OLM, but that figure is down from the $2.4 million that OLM indicated in its request for proposals from vendors back in the spring. That figure is also down from the $2.7 million CT-N received last fiscal year.
Legislative leaders expressed their desire for CT-N, the only vendor to submit a bid, to continue its coverage, but said the network needs to absorb cuts like any state agency. They also expressed a desire to CT-N to rein in coverage — in recent years it has expanded programming to include state Supreme Court proceedings, more Executive Branch activities, community civic events, and even original content.
“Everyone agrees CT-N is a valuable resource in helping to keep the public informed about their government, yet like virtually all state programs and services it is subject to funding cuts in this budget,” House Speaker Joe Aresimowicz, D-Berlin, said. “Providing a level of support to help allow CT-N to continue its core mission, albeit scaled back from recent years, is still our goal going forward.”
Senate Republican Leader Len Fasano, R-North Haven, made similar comments to reporters while discussing the budget Tuesday.
“That makes sense — if I was them, I’d feel the same need or duty,” Fasano said about CT-N’s decision to expand coverage. “Given the economy that we’re in, you’re going to have to make choices about what you’re going to cover and not cover.”
OLM’s request for proposals indicates a desire to rein in content, instructing interested vendors that they would be contracted to largely cover only the legislature. Lawmakers first authorized funding to CT-N for gavel-to-gavel coverage of the legislative session in 1999.
As CT-N expanded its coverage, it made pleas for increased funding. This included a pitch last session for the authorization to charge a fee on cable bills, a move Giguere said at the time would generate more revenue than if the network remained a part of the budget.
For his part, Malloy said Tuesday that he has “hope” that lawmakers can find a way to resolve their dispute with CT-N. “I quite frankly don’t understand why the legislature had a concern about CTN covering” Executive Branch events, he said.