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Mayor’s show a no go on Channel 99

(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 controversial topics.

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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