Now that the Connecticut legislature has taken control over its own television network, some advocates of government transparency are questioning the move.
After 18 years of providing extensive coverage of all three branches of state government with complete editorial control, CT-N was in a prolonged contract dispute over that very issue with the General Assembly's Office of Legislative Management, who wanted all content matters to be decided by a bipartisan group of lawmakers.
Then the public affairs network was dealt a 65 percent budget cut, a move that prompted CT-N's parent, the Connecticut Public Affairs Network to shut down the network for good last Friday.
But OLM wasted no time taking control of the network. In a letter last Friday, OLM urged CT-N staff to fill out an job application in the hopes the network would be staffed and ready to go Monday morning. Cheri Quickmire, executive director of the government watchdog group Connecticut Common Cause described the turn of events as "stunning."
“The demise of CT-N is going to make it easier for those who are holding power in Hartford to avoid scrutiny, and I fear this is going to invite more of the corruption that plagued our state just a few years ago,” Quickmire said. “Ultimately this is going to weaken our democracy.”
In a statement to WNPR, Connecticut Comptroller Kevin Lembo called for the state to immediately restore CT-N editorial independence.
“I respect that the legislature has faced tough decisions, but access to an open and transparent government is a fundamental value that must be protected,” he said. “Public trust in government – at near historic lows – will only further deteriorate if Connecticut fails to continue CT-N’s services.”
“I am confident that the state will do right by the people of Connecticut and immediately find a solution that restores CT-N’s operations and editorial independence,” Lembo said.
WNPR reached out to the Office of Legislative Management's executive director James Tracy, who refused to comment on the situation at CT-N.