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10. Project/Task/Work Unit No.
9. Performing Organization Name and Address
PROGRAM OF POLICY STUDIES IN SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY
11. Contract /Grant No.
NASA NGL 09-010-030
12. Sponsoring Agency Name and Address
13. Type of Report & Period
14. Sponsoring Agency Code
15. Supplementary Notes
16. Abstracts The author summarizes the results of an exploratory inquiry into the potential use of emergent telecommunications technology for communication between congressmen and their constituents. The study employed a number of specific methodologies: interdisciplinary systems model-building, technology analysis, a sample survey, and semi-structured interviews using sketches of the emergent channels.
Six telecommunication configurations were identified as representative of emergent channel characteristics: the teleconference, videoconference, videophone, cable television, cable TV polling, and information retrieval. Analysis of the interview data resulted in an overview of the current congressional-constituent communication system and an assessment of the potential for emergent telecommunications, as perceived by congressmen and senior staff from the 40 offices in the stratified judgment sample.
Connecticut Public Television, “Television Coverage of the
Connecticut General Assembly (1969–1973)”
A REPORT TO THE William Benton FOUNDATION
By S. Anders Yocom, Jr., Vice President, Programing When an American thinks of government—who runs it, what it does or does not do, what annoys him, what conjures up feelings of loyalty-one is most likely to think first of the Federal Government. Specifically, he is likely to find at the top of his consciousness the President, other high officials and certain members of Congress. But increasingly, and rightly so, State government is finding a more and more prominent place in the awareness of the average individual.
In Connecticut, State government collects in taxes and spends approximately $1.6 billion each year. It retains considerable authority over the State's public school system. It helps feed the poor and care for the retarded and mentally ill. It licenses motor vehicle operators, beauticians, morticians, TV repair people, barbers, and scores of other professionals. There are boards of examiners of embalmers, nurses, optometrists, physical therapists, podiatrists, psychologists, hypertrichologists and others. The State regulates a wide variety of industries ranging from insurance to cable television. While some of this State authority is unseen, much of it is becoming increasingly visible, touching the life of every citizen of the State every day.
Meanwhile, the law-making bodies of the States, including Connecticut's legislature, are undergoing profound changes brought about by several factors. Probably the most significant of these is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Baker vs. Carr case which requires all state legislatures to apportion their memberships according to the principles of one-man-cne-vote. Suddenly, at the time this decision was handed down in the mid-sixties, the Connecticut General Assembly found that the power which has belonged to the largely conservative rural constituency had vanished. The urban population centers realized newly found clout in the Legislature.
Soon after reapportionment, came a movement to make Connecticut's General Assembly more modern, more efficient and more responsive to public needs. National groups such as The Citizens Conference for State Legislatures, The National Conference of State Legislative Leaders and more recently Common Cause along with The Eagleton Institute at Rutgers University began to nudge state legislatures in all fifty states to take steps to reduce their sizes, reduce the numbers of standing committees and adopt rules and reforms designed to make them more accountable to the electors.
A more recent development in the increasing visibility of state government is the Federal Government's apparent new posture by which more power, responsibility and economic control is being returned to the states through the so-called "new federalism” as evidenced particularly in current revenue sharing programs.
The newest and by no means the least significant external force which is producing change in state legislatures is television. For more than six years in Connecticut and recently in a growing number of other states,' the legislative process is taking place under the scrutiny of television cameras. Public television stations and state networks in Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Nebraska and other states are bringing regular coverage of the legislative process into the homes of the citizenry with significant results.
CPTV BACKGROUND Connecticut Public Television (CPTV) is a state network operated by a private, non-profit corporation founded in 1961. (Most state public television networks are operated by their states through state governmental authorities or state universities.) Although CPTV has received capital appropriations and an operating grant requested annually from the State of Connecticut, private money has been raised at an increasing rate over the years from foundations, the corporate community and private individuals. The licenses for the three CPTV transmitters (WEDH Hartford, WEDW Bridgeport, WEDN Norwich) were originally held by the State Board of Education and remained inactive until the Connecticut Educa
1 Much of the activity in other states has been sparked by a national awareness of
Connecticut General Assembly, and the important role played by the William Benton Foundation. In 1972, a sample of this coverage was fed by PBS to all stations across the country. CPTV has been consulted by many of these stations.
tional Television Corporation activated them (Hartford in 1962, Norwich and Bridgeport in 1967). The original staff of approximately one dozen persons has grown to nearly 60 technical, production, administrative and other personnel. In ten years, the production center has been developed into a full color facility with some of the most advanced broadcast equipment available. In addition, both color and black and white facilities are available for travel to production sites anywhere in the State. A black and white production facility is permanently in place at the State Capitol.
Connecticut Public Television, as a public broadcasting entity, offers four basic types of programming: instructional, cultural, childrens and public affairs. The instructional service is aimed primarily at persons who are actively pursuing some type of formalized education ranging from grade school to college credit. The cultural programming includes all elements of American and foreign culture from sports to fine arts and along with extensive public affairs programming (dealing with public issues and officials) is aimed at general audiences. Some programs and series are offered for specialized audiences such as the hearing-impaired, the elderly and the various ethnic groups. The general audience programming is offered in “prime time" so that maximum numbers of viewers can be attracted to these programs at times of greatest convenience to those viewers. The children's programming is broadcast at times when large numbers of children are available for viewing.
Since 1962 much of CPTV's energy and resources have gone into the production of public affairs programming. Numerous issues, local and state, have been explored on programs of varying format. CPTV has built a track record for excellence in coverage of major events such as State political conventions, election returns, city council meetings, public hearings and other events which supplement the pioneering General Assembly coverage.
A natural match exists between the reach of CPTV's signal and the potential audience of concern for the affairs of state government. Although the people are diverse as to interests, economic status and heritage-although their lives are greatly influenced by varied economic and cultural centers, some of which are in other states, there is still one significant factor which the people of Greenwich in the southwest corner have in common with the people of Thompson in the northeast corner and with all others in between: they pay taxes to and receive services from the same political entity, The State of Connecticut. CPTV has the signal reach and the technical and manpower resources to bring the work of the General Assembly to all such people. This resource gives government leaders and their political opponents access to their various constituencies via public television.
The decision to cover the General Assembly was an obvious one. And CPTV had the added incentive of the opportunity to develop a rapport with the General Assembly and demonstrate the public need for a strong, independent public television network.
HISTORY OF City's COVERAGE During the spring and summer of 1964 the General Assembly was wrestling with two separate reapportionment problems (Congressional districts and State Assembly districts) as a result of the Supreme Court's decision mandating the one-man-one-vote principle. During this special session, CPTV filmed several hearings and floor debates which were processed and edited into special reports and aired usually the day after the event. For the 1965 regular holdover 1 session, CPTV stepped up its coverage using essentially the same technique, augmented by interviews and discussion programs.
By 1967 a newly apportioned General Assembly was in session as a result of the Constitutional Convention of 1965. This was the first year that CPTV produced regular weekly coverage of the General Assembly. Each week, an issue was selected, and appropriate me nbers of the assembly were invited to discuss it with key lay people. The series of round table programs soon built a following and became a significant communications force in the process of that session.
But the culmination of that session was the first ever “live-on-tape” television coverage of floor debate from a house of the State Legislature. CPTV had acquired and put into operation a fully-equipped mobile remote production van. It was taken to the Capitol and recorded the entire five hour budget debate from the House of Representatives. The tapes were played back on the air that same night.
i The 1965 session was a holdover of the 1963 session because the General Assembly had failed to reapportion itself in the special session of 1964.
Many more hearings and debates were covered in similar fashion during the 1969 session. But a new dimension was added when CPTV acquired microwave equipment which made truly "live" coverage possible for the first time. Many events including the ceremonies on adjournment night were broadcast live from both the House of Representatives and the Senate, the first time ever for such coverage from the Senate. Included in the coverage was an important late evening statement by Governor John Dempsey from his office aired live visually and aurally made possible through the extraordinary efforts on the part of the CPTV crew.
If ever there was a General Assembly session suited to TV coverage, it was the 1971 session. A new Republican administration was in office: Democrats were in the majority in the Legislature. Many important issues, including abortion, no-fault insurance, legislative reform, legalized gambling, and others were debated fully in both houses. The Legislature faced (and failed to resolve) the problem of reapportionment which had arisen again because of adjustments which were needed to bring the districts into conformity with one-man-one-vote following the 1970 Federal census.
The Governor and the Legislature were constantly at odds, particularly over taxes. By adjournment day, after many late night sessions, no tax law was passed. Finally an income tax was enacted in a stormy special session early on the morning of July 1, the first day of the new fiscal year, only to be repealed later that summer.
Eighty-three hours of broadcast time were devoted to coverage of that tumultuous and extrac rdinary 1971 session, most of it originating live from the State Capitol.
The 1972 session of the General Assembly was the first regular even year session in modern times. According to the Constitutional Amendment by which the General Assembly went to annual sessions, the even-year session is to be three instead of the traditional five months in duration and limited as to subject matter. This change in the nature of the session resulted in some changes in CPTV's coverage. Interviews and nightly reports became prominent in the CONNECTICUT NEWSROOM program. Moreover, 2612 hours of special programming originated from the State Capitol.
Several new factors caused still more changes in CPTV's approach to coverage of the 1973 session. For the first time since before reapportionment, Republican majorities existed in both houses along with the Republican Governor. Rules and new adherence to rules resulted in sessions beginning on time, a sharp reduction in the number of night sessions, and executive sessions of standing committees were for the first time opened up to the media, including television Fifty-five individual nightly reports were produced in a series called THE STATE OF CONNECTICUT. In addition, twenty hours of coverage of hearings and debates were broadcast live.
In contrast to 1971, the session was low keyed in spite of several very important measures that were considered. Because there was not an abundance of spontaneous public interest, as had previously been the case, CPTV sought new ways to present legislative issues. Because of the new rules, it was possible to cover some committee meetings and votes. TV debates modeled after the national public TV program THE ADVOCATES were arranged. These were matrixed with the more traditional formats-discussions, film reports and interviews-into the most complete coverage of any session theretofor covered by CPTV.
STAFF AND FACILITIES Such complete daily coverage requires considerable staff and technical facilities. In 1973, CPTV devoted one full time producer, one full time production assistant and TV director, a researcher-reporter hired especially for the legislative session and a part time reporter. Whenever production was originated from the Capitol, a technician and a production crew of at least three persons were needed. A videotape machine operator was required each time materials were recorded for later broadcast.
In 1972, CPTV installed four black and white cameras permanently in the State Capitol Building. A small control room with audio and video control facilities was installed in an unused store room. Lighting was installed at critical locations including the legislative chambers, Communication facilities were added to link the production areas with the control center. All materials were transmitted by microwave back to the CPTV studio (a distance of two miles) where they were recorded or broadcast live. The cost of presenting this coverage amounted to approximately $500.00 per day of coverage.
JOURNALISTIC INTEGRITY Accuracy and fairness have always been achieved in all of Connecticut Publio Television's activity in news and public affairs programming. Fortunately, strict adherence to these principles has caused CPTV to gain the respect of the members of both parties and the leadership of both houses.
All decision making as to what issues were to be covered and how they were to be handled were always made by CPTV personnel. CPTV has never shied away from its responsibility to report information it judged to be the public's business. All broadcasts have aired whatever facts have become known to CPTV personnel whether nor not such facts presented powerful factions in a favorable light.
All issues, which in the judgment of the producers were worthy of coverage, were covered. Never, to the knowledge of anyone who has worked on CPTV's coverage of the General Assembly, has any political figure attempted to influence CPTV's journalistic judgments.
EFFECTS OF CPTV's COVERAGE ON LEGISLATORS No one questions the fact that in its present state of technology with bulky cameras and bright lights, television introduces an artificial atmosphere to any institution or event that it is covering. Television lighting often makes a room look abnormal (although sometimes more pleasing). The lights can be annoyingly bright, and they generate heat that can be bothersome in areas where there is poor air conditioning. (The legislative chambers have no air conditioning.) To the individual member of the General Assembly television coverage brings a certain measure of discomfort.
But human beings (including legislators), being what they are, like to be in the camera's eye. In the camera's presence some members of the General Assembly have had a tendency to speak from the floor longer and more often than they otherwise would, sometimes to the annoyance of the leadership and other members. Some argue that this human tendency can work to the advantage of the articulate, vociferous "showboater" among the membership and to the detriment of those who are outwardly quiet, but perhaps thoughtful and persuasive behind the scenes.
Some argue that the camera is intimidating to a few naturally shy legislators. However, with each day, with each debate covered by television, the artificiality of the presence of the cameras is reduced. When the members become aware that their speeches do not always show up on the air; when the leadership and peer pressure began to work on those who abuse their speaking privileges for the sake of being on television; when members understand the way TV can make an unprepared or insincere speaker look exactly that way, the cameras become more and more like the furnishings and assume a silent, positive effect.
CPTV also makes it a policy to reduce the light and heat factors by covering the House and the Senate with black and white cameras for which little or no artificial lighting is needed. Another small step taken by CPTV at the request of the leadership was the removal of the tally lights which indicate which camera is recording at any given time. This accommodation was designed to remove the incentive to “perform" while the camera was "on".
Given sufficient television coverage over an extended period of time, the individuals who are the subject of the coverage begin to come across as they really are. Insincerity has a way of showing through on television. Yet sincere, well informed members as portrayed accurately. Most importantly, the members become humanized--that is animated persons, not printed or spoken portraits of persons whose integrity is subject to interpretation by third parties.
The legislator who has an important message to bring to the public knows that he usually can gain unfiltered access to the public through interviews and/ or statements from the floor. Television can and does transmit exactly what the individual legislator (and his opponents) want the people to hear, without the interpretation of an intermediate human being who may with all due integrity function as an interpreter for another medium.
Legislators have reported hearing viewer comments on the street. They have felt the effects at the polls of what their constituents have seen through this "people's window" on the State Capitol. They seem to understand that the appeal of coverage of the General Assembly is a result of the fact that people like to Watch people. Because of television's positive potential and by and large demonstrated effect, the members of the General Assembly have been very cooperative in dealing with CPTV staff and in tokrating minor annoyances such as bright light and heat.