(11/15) The Emmitsburg Town Commissioners
turned down Mayor Jim Hoover’s request to uses the town’s cable channel to
broadcast a monthly program highlighting the town.
Hoover wanted to privately produce a
30-program each month that highlighted some of Emmitsburg’s positive features.
He had asked the commissioners for permission to broadcast the program one a
week. The show was not intended to be a debate forum or to venture into
Commission President Chris Staiger said
that program would be a good way to promote the town but “Unfortunately, I
don’t think I’m real comfortable for opening us up to that.”
The “That” would be whether airing such a
program would force the town to broadcast other types of programming under the
demands of “equal access.”
Hoover asked Town Attorney John Clapp
about the issue. Clapp wrote in a letter to the town, “Therefore, just because
a local official uses Channel 99 for a particular purpose and in a particular
manner (so long as it is for a governmental purpose), this does not give rise
to the right of any citizen to also use the station for his or her own purpose.
It is a government access channel, not a public access channel. Whether it be
the Mayor or some other government official, the Town has the right to allow
such person access to the Channel (again, for government purposes), but may
still deny access to the public (which is not, of course, the local
government).” However, Clapp also noted situations could still arise that could
demand equal access to other parties.
The letter did not soothe the
commissioners’ concerns. Commissioner Glenn Blanchard said he still thought
allowing Hoover’s broadcasts could be “opening a can of worms.”
Staiger said the situation showed that the
town needed to develop a policy for what could and couldn’t be broadcast on the
government station. Though Comcast owns the station, Emmitsburg controls the
content. Currently, the town only broadcasts town meetings and planning and
zoning commission meetings.
The commissioners decided not to allow the
broadcasts, though they did not vote on the issue.
Hoover hasn’t given up on the idea of an
Emmitsburg television program, though.
“What I need to do now is find another
avenue to broadcast the program.”
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