On behalf of the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce, Chairman Pat Cavanaugh submitted these comments at the May 22 public hearing on Channel 23:
As you may already know, the Conyers-Rockdale Chamber of Commerce was organized for the purpose of (1) preserving the competitive enterprise system of business and (2) promoting business and community growth and development. We appear before you today as a community stakeholder, to further our second charge of "promoting community growth and development."
Cable Channel 23, if properly used, is a great tool for the advancement of Government Access, Public Access, and Educational Access by:
1. Maintaining transparency in governmental operations, including deliberation of issues under consideration by the County Commission.
2. Giving the citizens of Rockdale County the opportunity to express their sentiments concerning issues under consideration, areas in need of governmental action, or to express happiness or dissatisfaction with existing conditions or current activity of their county government
3. Delivering content of educational value or the distribution of information from our school district.
While transparency of governmental operations is indeed a critically important and noble use of this important avenue of communication, such usage can be abused if monopolized in presenting a singular point of view, and thus its usefulness undermined.
Similarly, the input of the public is a critically important purpose of the channel, and citizens availing themselves of this important avenue of communication should not abuse the privilege by the monopolization of time.
There would be a serious concern if Channel 23 programming became used as a tool for political posturing. This is especially of concern during election campaigns. The temptation would be great for both sitting elected officials and aspiring candidates to utilize air time to bolster their campaigns. Those in charge of Channel 23 will need to be most diligent in ensuring that proper usage be upheld during this time.
We at the Chamber of Commerce respectfully suggest the following controls be put in place:
1. Develop, publicize and disseminate a well-written set of guidelines which must be followed by everyone using air time for presentations – either before the BOC or any other use of the channel.
2. Identify a “moderator” to assure that the guidelines are followed with the responsibility of monitoring adherence to the rules of air time presentation.
These guidelines would be used in identifying the Channel’s mission, objectives, priorities, and exclusions. The Chamber would recommend that public input be solicited in a committee or hearings for establishing these guidelines.
After the establishment of the proposed guidelines, it would be the Chamber’s suggestion that (1) the commissioners vote to adopt the guidelines, ensuring they will be adhered to, and (2) the commissioners have the responsibility of overseeing the proper utilization of this important resource for a more open, fair and transparent government.