CASPER, Wyo. – The Town of Casper began in January seeking proposals from organizations that may be interested in providing content for the town’s cable TV channel. Spectrum provides the city with access to channel 192 for educational and government programs.
Casper 1 TV submitted the only bid to the city and at a meeting on June 16 demanded that their proposal be withdrawn, according to a note from municipal staff. Casper 1 TV’s board has asked city council to reopen a “call for proposals” for the cable channel and set a new deadline.
The city council is expected to discuss this request during its working session on Tuesday, June 22.
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The idea of having an organization provide content for channel 192 originated in the fall of 2020 when former K2TV news director Mark Hyman presented the previous city council with a proposal to use the city’s Spectrum channel to make its vision of “Casper 1 TV” a reality.
In order to avoid unfairly ceding the value of the channel to Casper 1 TV, the board has decided to launch a call for proposals to give other organizations the opportunity to also present proposals for using the access channel. to the cable.
Hyman provided details of his vision during the Casper City Council working session on Tuesday, October 27. As part of the proposal, the city would not be asked to provide funding for the operation of “Casper 1”.
Instead, Hyman said the nonprofit that would be created to run the channel would seek private grants, donations, corporate sponsorships and fundraisers to cover the costs. He felt that the start-up costs plus year one expenses would total $ 591,250.
When the city issued its first request for proposals, it said the channel’s usage goals would be to provide programming that does the following:
- promotes the public interest in the Town of Casper and showcases the services provided to the community
- highlights city policies, procedures, resources, activities, services and events
- provides means for residents of Casper to obtain information about the city;
- tells the stories of Casper’s ‘diverse local community’
- educate and inform the public
- engages citizens
- improves the democratic process by making government more transparent
When Hyman presented his vision to City Council, several obstacles were identified by City Attorney John Henley.
The city has access to cable channel 192 through a franchise agreement with Spectrum which allows the city to broadcast government and educational programs.
Henley explained that since the cable channel has value, if the city were to give control of the channel to Casper 1, they would have to find a way in which the city would receive a reward for giving that value to Casper 1.
He added that the city may have to open up the concept of ceding access to the channel to other entities that may be interested. The city could potentially do this by opening a tender so that the city does not unfairly cede the value of the chain to a particular entity.
Another obstacle to the city’s implementation of the proposal is whether the type of content Hyman is proposing to stream on Casper 1 would violate the city’s franchise agreement with Spectrum.
City manager Carter Napier said in fall 2020 that he had discussed the proposal with the city’s contacts at Spectrum. He said at least two major limitations to what could be broadcast exist under the agreement.
First, the show could not be marketed. Napier said Spectrum has indicated that PBS is serving as a model for something that might be acceptable in that they don’t run ads.
Second, Napier said the city’s franchise agreement limits the type of content that can be released to government and educational material.
Hyman told the previous city council he believed all of the content Casper 1 aired could be considered “educational.” In her opinion, this could include coverage of things like high school sports, political talks, and local music coverage.
Since Casper 1 would broadcast political news and programs, the topic of free speech was also brought up during the council discussion. Henley said freedom of speech issues could arise, which he said would not be “just hypothetical.”
“People get angry quite easily,” he said.
Hyman said he believes the exposure resulting from questions about the content will fall primarily on Casper 1 rather than the city.
“We take the risk,” he said.
Hyman asked if some type of liability insurance deal would allay the city’s concerns that it could face litigation arising from content being broadcast by Casper 1.
“It could be one of the things that could help us,” Henley said.
NOTE: Oil City News and Casper 1 TV have entered into an agreement whereby Oil City is able to share content from Casper 1 TV. Oil City does not produce Casper 1 TV content and is not involved in Casper 1 TV’s requests to use channel 192.