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Public access TV drops local meetings

WINSTED — For the third time in just more than a month, meetings held by the town’s two major boards have disappeared from local TV screens. No one from the town’s local community-access cable television station appeared to cover Board of Selectmen and Board of Education meetings held in the P. Francis Hicks Room.For more than a decade, coverage of town meetings ranging from local selectmen and school boards to the annual town budget meeting have been covered by Charter Community Television’s Channel 13 and 15 in Winsted. Coverage by the station has quickly dropped off in recent weeks, however, with no clear explanation from the station. Board of Selectmen’s meetings on June 20 and July 5 were not covered, nor was a school board meeting held June 14.Charter’s two local television stations, cable stations 13 and 15, are run by Public Access Coordinator David Whitney. Under Whitney’s direction, municipal meetings were recently moved to Channel 15, which is considered the government access channel, while Channel 13 was reserved for public-access programs produced by community members.In the transition, some viewers have become confused as to which programs will appear on which channels. The confusion has been exacerbated by the absence of coverage at local school board and selectmen’s meetings.Whitney said last week that Charter Community Television is designed to encourage the work of local residents in producing programs, including coverage of local meetings. “We are supposed to be more like supervisors,” he said of the station’s small staff.Whitney’s predecessor, John Palinkas, took a more active role in covering local meetings, appearing at the vast majority of Board of Selectmen and Board of Education meetings. Whitney would not say whether the policy of covering municipal meetings had changed, but in an interview in March he said it was not the station staff’s responsibility to cover municipal meetings.“Providing someone to film a meeting is not what a public access station is supposed to do,” Whitney said. “Our job is to get the public involved and have the public shoot meetings and shows. We have been doing all the work. They [the public] are the ones who are supposed to do the work.”Whitney asked that further questions be referred to a public relations office at Charter Communications. Charter Community Television is owned by Charter Communications, the St. Louis, Mo.-based company that provides standard cable television service to Winsted and surrounding towns.No plans have been announced to resume coverage.

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