By Don Knox, STATE BILL COLORADO
The Colorado Senate is getting a preference when it comes to live broadcast coverage during the 2010 and 2011 General Assemblies, a new state authority decided today.
The newly constituted Colorado Channel Authority voted this morning to defer to the Senate largely because the House has had its broadcasts air live for the past two years, said the Legislative Council’s Scott Nachtrieb. The authority next will work on a policy on how to switch over the live broadcasts to House whenever events may warrant it, Nachtrieb said.
The coverage issue came to a head because the Senate is broadcasting for the first time next year; the House has had TV cameras since 2008. While Internet broadcasts aren’t affected because both houses can be broadcast simultaneously on the channel authority’s website, the broadcasts on cable TV have a restriction: There is only one cable TV channel, Comcast Channel 165.
Authority members debated several possibilities, including providing live coverage to each chamber on alternating days, before making the decision to give preference to the Senate. They even considered giving the coverage to which ever chamber “gaveled in” first.
The coverage decision sparked a lengthy debate about TV viewing habits: Who watches House and Senate hearings? When do they watch it? How long do they watch it?
Comcast provides no viewership data, but some authority members guessed that evening broadcasts are more consequential than the live broadcasts. Both chambers typically meet in the mornings and briefly in the afternoons. But some sessions have gone late into the evening.
Ken Fellman, an authority member who is a telecommunications lawyer for the law firm Kissinger & Fellman, cited his experience as former Arvada mayor. Citizens there saw him after a broadcast and often commented that they happened upon the meeting while scrolling through the cable TV menu.
John Montgomery, an assignment editor at KCNC-TV Channel 4, said he suspected that there are more viewers for legislative coverage during prime time than in the mornings.