multichannel connect
careers
all access

Policy

Stumping for ‘S-SPANs’

6/27/2011 12:01 AM Eastern

WASHINGTON — Paul Giguere, president of the National Association of Public Affairs Networks (NAPAN), says
he is ready to work with the Federal Communications Commission, cable operators, and what he suggests are
heretofore uncooperative satellite operators, to fulfill FCC chairman Julius Genachowski’s vision of an ‘S-SPAN’
(a state-government version of C-SPAN) in every state.

There are currently only a handful of such networks.
Genachowski told cable operators last week that he would like to see that happen as one way to make up
for what the FCC’s Future of Media study, released earlier this month, found was a deficit in reporting on state and local governments.
“[M]ore state C-SPANs can help the local information landscape by giving the public more information about what their
local governments are doing and making it easier and less costly for reporters,” he said.

Giguere launched Connecticut’s CT-N public-affairs network a dozen years ago, and six years ago founded the national association.
“Citizens in every state should have what we have in Connecticut — an opportunity to watch for ourselves and make
up our own mind about what we see,” he said. In fact, Giguere said, NAPAN has already established a “50 States, 50 Networks”
goal, in line with that of the chairman.

Giguere said cable operators have already stepped up in 23 states, while satellite operators have not followed suit. But he
said that convincing all of the parties — legislatures, providers and others — of the value of the networks, and having to do it
one state at a time, is the “primary obstacle.”

He has not talked to Genachowski about joining forces, but said he would welcome the FCC’s help. “We look forward to beginning
a national conversation on how best to bring the vision to fruition and thank the FCC for recognizing the important role
that these networks are playing in our states,” he said.

Giguere talked with Multichannel News Washington bureau chief John Eggerton about the current state of so-called State-

MCN: Why did you launch the organization?

Paul Giguere: Citizens have an inherent
right to watch their government in
action. I started CT-N in Connecticut
12 years ago, because I couldn’t. Major
decisions were being made every day at
the Capitol, but the only way for me to
watch it for myself was to take time off
from work, drive to Hartford and sit in
the gallery. How many of us actually do
that?

Today, everyone in Connecticut can
watch live coverage of the House and
Senate sessions, committee meetings,
Supreme Court oral arguments, state
agency hearings, press conferences and
discussions, symposia or lectures that
in their own way impact the development
of public policy in Connecticut; in
a timely way that allows people to become
part of the process if they choose.

I can’t tell you how many times we’ve
been at public hearings where testimony
was offered by people who had remarked
that they had starting watching
the proceeding on TV and just had to
come themselves to add their voice to
the discussion.

MCN: What is standing between you
and your goal, now the chairman’s, of
50 states, 50 networks?

PG: The two biggest challenges for any
individual network are, not surprisingly,
funding and carriage — multiply
that by the number of states whose initiatives
are operating suboptimally, or
who haven’t even gotten started yet.

But really, the single biggest obstacle
to 50-50 is having to sell the concept and
convince the legislatures, the video providers
and all the other stakeholders that
a state network is a good, necessary idea,
one state at a time.

MCN: Should we be concerned that these networks
could be controlled by the state governments?

PG: We advocate a few “best practices” at NAPAN, independence
from state government being one of the key
ones. The imperative is developing independent, nonpartisan
governance and programming
models that meet the unique
needs of each state, and the FCC recommendation
was left broad to try and
encourage precisely that.

There are already a lot of independent
nonprofits and PBS affiliates in states
doing good work. Some, like Wisconsin
Eye, don’t accept any state dollars
whatsoever; others — like us at CT-N —
work under a contract for services with
operational and decision-making firewalls
between the nonprofit and the
state built in.

So, a lot of blueprints already exist to
ensure that these networks can operate
independently and make programming
and other decisions free from political or
government influence.

MCN: National Cable & Telecommunications
Association President Michael
Powell agreed with the chairman that
the nets were a “helpful contribution.”
How helpful have cable operators
been?

PG: The cable industry has been supportive
in some markets; in others, it
hasn’t been. In the current environment,
individual networks have had to
rely on the vision and receptiveness of
the regional management for each individual
MSO that operates in their state
to obtain carriage, and in some cases,
funding.

There has not been a national, industry-
wide position taken on how to approach
the state networks, either as a
public service or as business partners.

MCN: Obviously, you are hoping the
chairman’s push can help with that …

PG: NAPAN has been working the
past few years to stimulate a national
conversation about public-affairs programming,
and we do have a positive
relationship with NCTA, but there has remained a lot
of ground to cover in building awareness and urgency
among the MSOs at the national level. Th at’s why we’re
hoping the FCC’s call for a network in every state will be
a game-changer for that national conversation.

September