State Public Affairs Networks

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The National Association of State Public Affairs Networks is promoting the creation of state versions of C-SPAN in all fifty states. Hear from NAPAN President Paul Giguere who was in Phoenix recently to testify at an FCC hearing on the future of media.

Ted Simons: When "Horizon" premiered 30 years ago, the media landscape looked very different than it does now. The internet has been a game-changer and news organizations are struggling to adapt. Earlier this month the federal communications commission host add meeting in Phoenix to discuss a commission report on the information needs of communities. The report includes a recommendation for state public affairs next. That's good news to my next guest, Paul Giguere, who was one of the panelists at the FCC hearing. Giguere is president of the Connecticut network and leader of the national association of state public affairs networks, a group promoting state versions of C-span in all 50 states. I spoke with Giguere when he was in town for the FCC hearing. Paul, thanks for joining us on "Horizon."
Paul Giguere: Great to be here.

Ted Simons: Let's get some basics down here. What is a public affairs network?

Paul Giguere: A state public affairs network, the easiest way to describe it is like a state version of C-span. But a lot of ways we go even further beyond that. State public affairs network typically would cover all three branches of government, so it's house, senate, committee meeting, executive branch, as well as Supreme Court oral arguments. We do a lot of election coverage, debates, candidate for unions, things like that. News conferences, public policy discussions that are going on around the state, anything that has to do with the development of public policy in our state is open game for a state public affairs network.

Ted Simons: Why did they exist? Why are they necessary?

Paul Giguere: Well, primarily because there's been such a decline in the amount of news coverage associated with state government. There was a quote in the FCC report that was recently -- that recently came out from the commonwealth foundation where there used to be a bustling activity in state capitol press corps rooms and now you can swing a dead cat and not hit anybody. It's true. The economic model for that has really diminished the number of reporters there that are there to report on state government affairs. And ordinary people, it's very difficult to find out what's happening in state governments. So what these networks provide is almost like a civic utility, where these reporters that are still there can't cover it all themselves, but we can. And we provide an opportunity and it's -- it's not just a cable channel, there's an entire digital archive that's created of everything that's covered. So a reporter misses a hearing, they can go back to our website, fast forward, rewind, find the quotes they're looking for. It's an incredible opportunity for reporters to do their job better.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask where this would fit if it in the current media environment. It sounds like it fits all over the place.

Paul Giguere: It does. Absolutely. The impact of this, we hear 40 reporters all the time. Because one of the places where we are in our evolution is, we can't cover everything. So we're make something editorial choices, but in some cases some states can cover six or seven hearings at the same time. That may be scheduled. So -- but we hear from reporters, why can't you cover that one? I really need to know this. So there really is a huge benefit for reporters. And then just getting beyond that to the general public, primarily what we're trying to accomplish here is a more engaged educated citizen. So it's not just the gavel-to-gavel coverage, it's how we use graphics to describe what's happening, context for bill information, where to go for more information, any resources that are available so people can find out what this bill actually does all available on the service.

Ted Simons: You're based in Connecticut. Obviously there are other states with their own Arizona kind of has one, though it's not exactly what you've been describing. Talk about the differences from state to state on what is offered regarding a statewide C-span, if you will.

Paul Giguere: Well, it really ranges, runs the gamut from TVW, which is the same model that Connecticut is modeled after, one of the great things they've started is everything that they have recorded since 1995 is available as a digital archive. Every event they've covered. They are funded primarily through a contract with their state government.

Ted Simons: This is --

Paul Giguere: Washington. Washington State. Pennsylvania cable network is funded by the cable industry. They are really one of the three states that are modeled really like C-span. Funding comes from C-span; their government structure is the executives from the cable companies. And the other two are Michigan and California. And then there's Wisconsin, which is kind of a hybrid. They made a commitment to use no state dollars whatsoever, they raised $6 million to install 70 camera positions around the capitol campus, and they're relying on cable subscriber fees for a portion of what they're doing. The problem they've faced there in Wisconsin is that one of the cable companies, there are two major companies, one of the companies has brought in and has provided funded and carriage and the other has not.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask you about that. It would seem as though the cable companies are major players in a variety of ways. How do you -- I'm -- just in terms of allowing content to be shown, how do you work that dynamic? I guess some places it's ease and I some places it's not.

Paul Giguere: Absolutely. The struggle we've been facing, we have for a number of years we've had this vision of 50 states, 50 networks. Right now if you get down to the meat of what a state public affairs network is in terms of the best practices that we've developed, which is 24/7 carriage, covering all three branches, independent governance structure, and produced programming that provides context to what we're doing. There's probably about a dozen states that have that level. And then there's a variety of degrees past that where, for example, in Arizona you have Arizona capitol TV, which is really the legislature's channel that's being managed. But the differences here, even in terms of how the negotiations go with the cable companies, it varies from region-to-region. We struggled in Connecticut to get cable carriage for years we couldn't get a dedicated channel. When AT&T came in with their system, another battle came on. But in some states, carriage is less of an issue because have you the whole digital tier. For us we wanted to have that basic tier channel, the lowest cost channel for people to have access to. So it's -- it really ranges from region-to-region and state-to-state.

Ted Simons: Some I guess are pretty much run by a legislature? The state legislature? They pretty much run the show?

Yeah. There is -- there are a couple of operations where either the legislature, the house and the senate provide coverage. In New York right now it's a very convoluted situation where the house covers the house session and the senate covers the senate session, and they share this channel and they have to decide which goes on live. What we're looking for is a step back from that. Because you really should haven't government covering itself. There needs to be a fire wall there. There needs to be a group whose fiduciary responsibility is to ensure that the decisions that are being made are proper, and they're not being influenced by political pressures from the state capitol or from wherever they may come from. So that's -- that is the struggle.

Ted Simons: We've got about 30 seconds left. In terms of funding, that is the struggle, isn't it for the most part?

Paul Giguere: Yes. Yes, it is.

Ted Simons: And best practices, best ideas?

Paul Giguere: Well, if you look at the FCC report they're suggesting the industry pay for it. But if that's the case, the industry should include cable, satellite, telecoms, and we want to look at what's coming over the horizon for the next generation of technology. Whoever is delivering content should be part of this structure.

Ted Simons: Last question, for those you just listed off on this side of the horizon R. they interested, are they willing? Is it difficult to deal with these folks? Will some just simply not come around no matter what happens?

Paul Giguere: Lukewarm.

Ted Simons: How come?

Paul Giguere: Well, I think at the end of the day they're going to look at it and say this is going to cost us money. So one last thing, we are looking for a win-win here with the industry. The FCC opened the door to the opportunity for some sort of regulatory relief, if there's something out there, we want to find it that would make it worthwhile for -- to play ball with us.

Ted Simons: All right. Very good. Good to have you here.

Paul Giguere: Great to be here.

Paul Giguere:NAPAN President

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