Lawmakers, Advocacy Groups Explore Replacement For California Channel After Cable Industry Shuts It Down

Lawmakers, Advocacy Groups Explore Replacement For California Channel After Cable Industry Shuts It Down

Cal Channel
Type: 
Public Statement

California’s version of C-SPAN has gone dark after 25 years of televising the Legislature’s floor sessions and committee hearings.

The California Channel’s board, comprised of the cable industry companies that funded it, voted earlier this year to shut it down effective Wednesday — in part because voter-approved Proposition 54 now requires the Senate and Assembly to live-stream and archive their meetings online. “The passage of this initiative eliminated the need for The California Channel,” the California Cable and Telecommunications Association said in a statement."

That’s prompted an outcry from some advocates and lawmakers.

A coalition of groups, including the League of Women Voters of California and the California Association of nonprofits, wrote in a letter to the industry Tuesday that they’re “deeply concerned that this gift to the public will now [be] privatized on October 16th, to potentially be used for infomercials, shopping networks, or other programming.

“It’s like building an office tower on a previously donated public park,” the letter says.

Asm. Kevin Mullin (D-South San Francisco) is looking for solutions.

“Frankly, I don’t think it’s sufficient right now how (legislative webcasts are) presented on the Assembly and Senate websites,” he told CapRadio on Wednesday. “I think there probably needs to be a more central location where all of this programming can be made available and easily captured and downloaded and all of that.”

“It’s niche-y, right?” he said. “It’s not as though there’s a huge viewer community that’s outraged that the California Channel shut down. But for those loyal viewers, and just for the principles around democracy and transparency, I think this whole issue needs a fresh look.”

The cable industry association notes that its members are the only video providers across the modern media landscape required to carry the Cal Channel. For example, Comcast, Spectrum and Cox offered the Cal Channel, while AT&T U-Verse and Dish Network did not. Nor did digital video services such as Netflix or YouTube TV. The industry has argued it’s unfair to only require some providers to carry legislative proceedings but not others.

The Cal Channel’s comprehensive archive has been taken down from its website. The video files are in the process of being moved to the California State Archives, which is part of the Secretary of State’s office. Next year’s state budget is expected to include funding to maintain the archives.

As for future broadcasts, under current California law, the state could require a cable company to carry public affairs programming such as governmental proceedings.

CCTA President Carolyn McIntyre said the industry will be meeting with lawmakers to discuss the matter. In an email to CapRadio Wednesday, she acknowledged that the 2006 Digital Infrastructure Video Competition Act (DIVCA) “allows the state to require a DIVCA franchise holder to carry public affairs programming upon request.”

Read the petition signatures.

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