What are reasonable needs of a community of 45,000 in central CT for access to a means to create, distribute or merely view media in the public interest? The presumption of those legislatively enabling community media programs or establishing transparency guidelines has been:
Reasonable need is determined based on dialogue between citizen advocates and providers, vendors and production entities with an expectation of consensus of understanding about resources, responsibilities and outcomes that is often memorialized in contracts.
At the April 19th town government budget hearing ‘incompletely’ informed members of the Wallingford Town Council suggested that constituents have a reasonable expectation of “pull” access to content about government inclusive of on-line access for viewing Town Government Meetings. There is evidence that the community is evolving and potentially, as many people as watch on TV may be interested in on-line access to meeting content. As community media is narrow-casting not broadcasting, reasonable can be determined by the regularity of a few not a high quantity of views.
I would suggest that this public hearing was not a dialogue with a probability of consensus.
The Mayor’s response and related commentary evokes Déjà vu and an expectation that current outcomes would again be subject to the whims of the puppeteer who siloed Public, Education and Government (PEG) Access in Wallingford in 1993. In fact, this long-standing Mayor chose to demean Community Access which had nothing to do with the current budget discussion. He appeared to conjure up old grudges over parodies created by residents that made him and a few others in places of privilege, uncomfortable. That personal discomfort with Free Speech began the domino effect that makes PEG here different from all other CT communities.
The Mayor is correct about cost. Supporting an infrastructure for online video viewing and management has costs: 1) infrastructure equipment, 2) server capacity [how much, how long], and 3) maintenance (typically ongoing staff time). He is not correct that these costs would adversely impact the 2017 budget; in fact, there might be cost savings.
Since 2014 the Town within the school system technology assets has had both the infrastructure and server capacity.* It is significantly underutilized by the schools and can be allocated for PEG especially given BOE meetings are captured by WGTV staff.
Currently, WGTV staff creates a DVD of every meeting for a town resident in response to an FOI complaint and lack of access to online meeting content. This process for this one DVD actually takes more time and resources than # 3 maintenance costs would; obviously serving more than one individual in the process. DVD making could be suspended for this individual or others because the system already owned enables files to be downloaded.
Since the Mayor invoked WPAA-TV into this discussion and reasonable need has been established WPAA-TV will provide access to the Unofficial on-line meeting site until such time as ‘Official’ maintenance and management ensues.
Why? Because on June 4 2008 PURA Docket #08-04-09 affirmed that WPAA remains the community access provider for the Town of Wallingford. And in subsequent dockets WPAA’s unique responsibilities to ensure reasonable access to community media most notably Docket #99-10-05 affirms this role incorporated in WPAA-TV policy by reference shown below Policy Footnote #3.
In conclusion: the purpose of producing content is for its consumption by as many persons as are interested. TV is now distributed and consumed in a variety of ways. This public hearing conversation further establishes a reasonable need for on-line access to meetings recorded as Government TV thereby making them Government Access TV and the means is already available at no additional cost to taxpayers.