Whose channel is it anyway? A look inside Channel 23 (Aug. 19, 2012)
Rockdale's government access channel, Channel 23, and its content is back in the spotlight after Commission Chairman Richard Oden said the county had offered to include school board and City Council meetings or events.
Chairman Richard Oden, at a June Board of Commissioners meeting, commented that the county had not heard back after making an offer to air school system and City Council meetings on Channel 23. A letter had been sent Dec. 4, 2012 to Rockdale County Public Schools Superintendent Richard Autry and Conyers Mayor Randy Mills.
Autry said he and his staff had been in discussion with the county's technical staff.
Autry, who spoke at a June 13 school board meeting in response to a question made during the public comments period, said the school system had been looking at a bigger picture of broadening Rockdale County Public Schools' server capacity to be able to handle video such as school board meetings and other video and teleconferencing needs on RCPS's own website as well as sending links to the video to the county.
"I have not expressed displeasure with being able to videotape our board meetings," said Autry.
"What I do know from our conversations with Chairman Oden and his technical staff, it is fairly easy for us to send that link" to the video of the school board meetings. "Then they can do whatever it is they need to do to air it on Channel 23."
Conyers Mayor Randy Mills said the idea of airing city council meetings on Channel 23 was brought up briefly at the beginning of the year. "We brought it up at our retreat but it wasn't a front burner issue," said Mills. "We've been working on budget issues since January. That's been the front burner issue." The city, like the county, faced a deeper-than-expected drop in the tax digest due to falling property values, ending up with a budget that was $308,000 less than last year.
Mills said city staff had been exploring the possibility of streaming meetings live, which he felt would be more useful to citizens than watching a meeting after it concluded.
Channel 23 and its content has been the subject of controversy before, such as when the county declined to tape or air the Rockdale-Newton League of Women Voters and Rockdale-Conyers Chamber of Commerce Candidates Forum last fall. Commissioner JaNice Van Ness had offered to give up her training/travel budget to cover the cost of taping. Neither Commissioner Oz Nesbitt nor Oden seconded that motion. Oden cited the lack of a county policy and application process to fairly consider the multiple requests from community groups for taping events.
Van Ness said she and Community Affairs Director Tonya Parker had been working on a policy since summer of last year. However, no progress has been made on that, said Van Ness. "I did present it to Tonya (Parker) and Greg Pridgeon," in the fall, she said.
Parker said her department had internally developed a draft standard operating procedure, with no outside input.
Both drafts are available for viewing attached to this article.
The county's franchise agreement for Channel 23 with AT&T/Comcast, signed in June 2002, runs until June 21, 2014. In that agreement, the county received a one-time grant of $50,000 to go toward capital expenditures for setting up the channel. In return, the cable company had access to the county's right-of-ways.