Capitol Alert

Concerned by California Channel closure, lawmaker in talks to keep Capitol coverage on TV

The California state Capitol in Sacramento in June 2019. The California Channel, a cable-TV-backed public broadcast service that provided “live gavel to gavel coverage” of the state Legislature since the early 1990s, will end operations this October.
The California state Capitol in Sacramento in June 2019. The California Channel, a cable-TV-backed public broadcast service that provided “live gavel to gavel coverage” of the state Legislature since the early 1990s, will end operations this October. rbyer@sacbee.com

State lawmakers are looking for ways to keep legislative programming on cable TV following recent reports that the state’s C-SPAN equivalent, the California Channel, plans to end operations this fall.

In a tweet and a statement emailed to The Sacramento Bee on Thursday evening, Assembly Speaker Pro Tem Kevin Mullin vowed to “pursue options to continue legislative programming on cable” after the channel, which has been broadcasting since 1991 and funded since 1993 by the California Cable and Telecommunications Association, voted earlier this year to shut down.

“I am deeply concerned about the loss of the Cal Channel in October of this year and have been in conversation with Legislative Counsel, the Chief Administrative Officer and will be meeting with the Assembly Rules Chair, Ken Cooley, to discuss reasonable alternative options that can be made available for legislative programming,” Mullin’s statement says.

“While online programming is available, it is insufficient for many constituents as well as many individuals who need to track legislative business from outside the Capitol. We must find a way to keep the people’s business transparent and accessible, and I stand ready to pursue all available options.”

Mullin’s statement came hours after articles by Capitol Weekly and The Sacramento Bee reported the impending closure, which was first reported in late June by the Capitol Morning Report. California Channel President John Hancock announced it would stop broadcasting at the end of October, based on a board vote held this spring.

The board arrived at the decision, Hancock said, largely due to the 2016 passage of Proposition 54, which requires that the state Legislature publicly post video of legislative proceedings online within 72 hours.

Legislative workers, advocates, journalists and others joined lawmakers like Mullin on Twitter to express concern and criticism regarding the end of the California Channel. Several users wrote it was “terrible news” and presented a challenge to transparency in state government.

“I am genuinely gobsmacked about this,” Anna Hasselblad, public policy director of United Ways of California, tweeted in a reply thread. “Advocates (especially those of us that work at non-profits) have to use every tool we have to try to be multiple places at once. This loss is HUGE...”

The California Channel is carried in Sacramento markets by Comcast, Consolidated and Wave, and is featured on other cable providers across the state, including Spectrum and Cox.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

Michael McGough anchors The Sacramento Bee’s breaking news reporting team, covering public safety and other local stories. A Sacramento native and lifelong capital resident, he interned at The Bee while attending Sacramento State, where he earned a degree in journalism.
  Comments