FAIRFIELD, Conn. – FairTV’s access to town meetings is vital to Fairfield’s open government, Jim Kennelly said. That’s why Kennelly, chairman of the existing FairTV Public Access Committee, wants the Board of Selectmen to form a new, independent commission to watch over the network.
FairTV began when the town took control of its public access channels from Soundview Media in 2006. It runs video of town meetings and educational programs on Cablevision Channels 78 and 79 and through online streaming video.
“Having the ability to have this specific programming in our town has been a tremendous asset,” Selectman Cristin McCarthy Vahey said.
Since its start, FairTV has been managed by a volunteer group called the FairTV Public Access Committee. This summer, the Board of Selectmen began the process of reforming the committee’s charter to reflect its status in town. Kennelly warned the three selectmen against creating another ad-hoc committee.
“I’ve lived through weak committees, without proper process,” Kennelly told the board last week. He instead suggested a new FairTV Commission “enshrined in the Town Charter.”
The board would have five members. The Fairfield chapter of the League of Women Voters and the PTA Council would appoint one each to represent nongovernment interests. The other three members would need a unanimous vote from the Board of Selectmen and a majority vote from the Representative Town Meeting for appointment. The town’s Ethics Commission is chosen by the same process.
“So that way there’s no chance that anyone looking from the outside can say these nominees are a reflection of the party in power,” Kennelly said. “Because FairTV … is akin to the Ethics Commission. It’s the video equivalent.”
Station manager Gerald Speno, who films much of FairTV’s programming, also suggested making sure the new committee has a strong relationship with regional cable councils. The Area 2 Cable Advisory Council, for example, works with stations in Fairfield, Bridgeport, Stratford, Orange, Milford and Woodbridge. That group could help Fairfield’s new volunteers gain funding and learn about cable TV access law.
“I think that when you’re forming a committee of individuals who are not [knowledgeable], it’s important to have someone who knows what’s happening,” Speno said.
The Board of Selectmen will talk more about forming a new commission at its next meeting in September.