The nonprofit Connecticut Public Affairs Network recently won back the contract to operate the Connecticut Network following a yearlong dispute with General Assembly leaders and the ultimate rebidding of the contract to operate the online and television network, which is somewhat similar to C-SPAN in Washington, D.C.
“Going into a new legislative session and a new governor, this is an exciting time to be back working on this project,” said William Bevacqua, president of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network.
Adam Joseph, spokesman for the Senate Democrats, said legislative leaders and the Office of Legislative Management, which oversees the legislative complex in Hartford, reviewed several proposals to operate the network. He said they ultimately chose the Connecticut Public Affairs Network because it had “the most cost-effective bid,” experience running the Connecticut Network and an interest in keeping the current staff.
He said this new deal means taxpayers and viewers can expect the “same quality of coverage at a lower price.”
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Connecticut Public Affairs Network announced last November it was terminating its agreement with the legislature to operate Connecticut Network, citing devastating state budget cuts and “encroachments on our editorial independence.” The nonprofit vendor had been at odds with lawmakers over the level of coverage dedicated to the General Assembly. Some lawmakers had voiced concerns about ancillary programming Connecticut Network was producing, such as a now-defunct public affairs show.
The Office of Legislative Management then took over the network temporarily, at first airing a loop of reruns. Connecticut Network staff received layoff notices, but some were later invited to return back to work.
Connecticut Public Affairs Network’s new three-year contract with the Office of Legislative Management, which took effect Nov. 1, will be about $1.8 million a year. Bevacqua said it’s roughly $1 million less than the previous contract, which means Connecticut Network’s extra programming will not be returning when the new legislative session opens in January. Bevacqua said a dozen of the employees who were working with the Office Legislative Management under temporary terms have been officially hired back, while nine others who were laid off last year have not been rehired.
“We brought in the core production staff which had been keeping the network going for the past year,” he said, adding how Connecticut Public Affairs Network still needs to determine its technical plan going forward, such as how to provide closed captioning services. The state Bond Commission last fall approved about $1 million in borrowing for new equipment for Connecticut Network, including cameras and a new video service that will complete an upgrade to high-definition service.
He said CT-N will now focus again on its core mission of covering events involving the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government, such as gavel-to-gavel coverage of legislative sessions.
But Bevacqua said the Connecticut Public Affairs Network, which is dedicated to improving civic literacy in Connecticut, is considering a way to still provide additional educational and explanatory programming about state government. That would be through a separate media project with separate funding, possibly from private grants. The network currently has other projects unrelated to Connecticut Network, including overseeing the operations and programming at the Old State House in Hartford and operating the Kid Governor initiative, where a 5th grade student is chosen annually from a statewide election involving fellow fifth graders across Connecticut for a one-year term.