Q & A | Question Three – Statewide Consolidation

Study with intent to change the delivery of community media in CT

Provide and discuss recommendations regarding the state-wide consolidation of community access operations, including any benefits or detriments, or both, associated with such recommendations;

Special Act 22-23 mandates a study be conducted by PURA | NONPROFIT COMMUNITY ACCESS TELEVISION IN CT |3rd Question to all participants

WPAA-TV’s governance team sees no community benefit to collapsing the corporate areas of Comcast into Comcast-CT. They do support review of channel allocation and optimization of services where there is cross-over.

What is the meaning of state-wide consolidation?

This question is challenging because the key terms are undefined.

Is it correct to assume that this means something like a Comcast-CT, Cox-CT, Cablevision-CT, Charter-CT, Breezeline-CT, and the ‘going out of the cable TV business” Frontier-CT which has a statewide configuration? What would state-wide include: facility locations, channel allocations, subscriber rate adjustments, merging and/or dissolving non-profits? Would it influence the number of physical locations for media making?

Wallingford is in Comcast Branford.

For the purpose of this reply, statewide is assumed to mean Comcast CT including Comcast Bethel, Comcast Branford, Comcast Clinton, Comcast Danbury, Comcast Groton, Comcast Hartford, Comcast Lakeville, Comcast Lyme, Comcast Middletown, Comcast New Haven, Comcast Norwich, Comcast Plainville, Comcast Seymour, Comcast Vernon, and Comcast Waterbury.

Treating each cable company’s territories collectively as one: Who benefits?

The inclination to consider new ways to achieve broad & potentially better results is understandable. You no longer need a helicopter and cameraman to produce aerial photography; it can be achieved with a drone with some previously unachievable results. However, a panoramic view literally passes over, without giving due attention, to the meaning and purpose of the existence of P.E.G. which is to be on the ground, and hyperlocal.

In CT, we have franchise areas that represent cable company territory. These areas do not align with voting districts, regional councils of government, community foundations or arts councils, or other intersectional community connections. The absence of county government inclines CT towards town rule which contributed, in part, to the hodgepodge nature of community media delivery and any prior, or current, ideas of consolidation.

In the last franchise for what is now, Comcast Branford regional consolidation was among the options reviewed. The franchise outcome eliminated the regional company-run access station. Independent access centers’ funding and obligations increased. A 10-year franchise was awarded to AT&T. The obligation to minimally fund small communities was shifted to the larger towns and would be reassessed in the next franchise proceeding by the independent 3rd party evaluator. Absent an independent assessment, the small communities suggested they needed to be subsidized, the new cable company chose not to comment, and the burden of minimal operating expenses remained with the towns of Branford and Wallingford rather than the cable company (DOCKET NO. 10-03-02). Selective mergers were recommended at this time to remove the burden on Wallingford, in particular, and provide adequate funding for consolidated entities.

Greater Wallingford Community:  Voter Connections

Wallingford is represented in US Congress in District 3 which is the most diverse region of CT, with many Irish, Italian, Polish, Jewish, Greek, Asian, Hispanic (Ecuadorian), Refugees from Middle Eastern & Africa, and African-American (oldest community Newhallville). Since reapportionment, the district includes Naugatuck Valley (the largest Portuguese-American community) and coastal towns (Guilford, Milford, and Stratford). More info here.

Wallingford is represented in the state legislature with other communities as follows:  Senate District 34:  New Haven County – Ansonia, Beacon Falls, Bethany, Branford, Derby, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Milford, Naugatuck, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Prospect, Seymour, Wallingford, Waterbury (part), West Haven, Woodbridge, and  Middlesex County – Durham, Middlefield, and Middletown (part).  Our state representatives are elected by voters in Cheshire, No. Branford and Middlefield (85th, 86th, 90th, 103rd).

SCRCOG, the council of governments, is made up of fifteen municipalities: Bethany, Branford, East Haven, Guilford, Hamden, Madison, Meriden, Milford, New Haven, North Branford, North Haven, Orange, Wallingford, West Haven, and Woodbridge.  Unfortunately few stories are sourced from this entity and distributed to these communities. Our fragmented presence contributes to this deficit in CT but it is a very microscopic content source and would not likely be remedied by any consolidation.

Looking at consolidation configurations by civic or service intersectionality fails to find an optimal option for the concept of community media consolidation.

Our project funding connections, which may be more critical in the future than ever, are linked to Greater New Haven.  Our business connections are Quinnipiac Chamber (Wallingford/No. Haven) affiliated with the Greater New Haven Chamber. However, we are just, if not more likely, to connect with Mid-state Chamber which is Meriden-centric. Because we are noncommercial, business affiliations present more dynamic challenges.

It is suggested that alternate funding for community media can be grants. A few community media centers have sought foundation funding. This funding is typically project-based. The immediate need is sustainable operations funding. Until there is a sustainable model for operations, adding the management of projects to what “community media” is about is at best a long-term strategic goal.

Wallingford (Comcast) has more intercommunity connections with Meriden than any other surrounding town. Our facility is used by Meriden (Cox) residents and nonprofits, in part, because it is easier to access our resources than those of the corporate-run operation.  Completion of a multi-session training, and the 4-person crew requirement, is a high bar for timeliness and commitment to the production of an idea. But it is also because several non-profits serve both towns; there is a United Way serving both towns, Spanish Community of Wallingford, the local newspaper and several other target population-specific nonprofits. The newspaper serves Southington, but we have had no direct relations with Southington. However, some of our shows are carried on by Cox so there may be indirect connections.

Conclusion:  A review of affiliation & consolidation of Wallingford within the Comcast state-wide options shows no natural partnering that benefits us.

Comcast Branford:  There are opportunities for consolidation here and at minimum channel reduction.

Intra-Wallingford: We also see the failure to incentivize intra-town P.E.G. cooperation in Wallingford as harmful to sustainability and cost-effective practices.

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