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County Council decides to end local TV station coverage

March 26th, 2011 Posted in Opinion

By Rhett Wilkinson

LOGAN– When it comes to broadcasting its meetings to the public, the Cache County Council wants a changing of the guard.

At its last meeting March 22, the council determined to end KUTA TV8’s coverage of its meetings, putting an end to a nearly three-year arrangement in which the station was filming the meetings at no charge and posting them on its website, www.kutatv.com.

County Council Chairman Jon White said it just didn’t make sense to be produced by KUTA TV8 any longer, for several reasons. He cited issues such as the risk of violating journalistic integrity and the confidence that the council can broadcast themselves just as well without having to pay for KUTA TV’s new request of $1,650 per month as reasons why current ties need to be severed.

“When they were in there, it was interruptive,” he said. “Their production wasn’t necessarily bad, but if you do it yourself. Now, we can show just what the actual meeting is, that nobody sponsored it, that nobody controls what it is or does, just ‘here’s the meetings and this is what happened.’”

It is a concern that several of those employed by KUTA TV8, including Nanette Miller, saw as far from grounded.

“The problem with that story (concerning conflict of interest) is number one, we are not ‘journalizing’ them,” she said. “We are producing them and giving them bandwidth. Would it be bias how you do things just because you are filming it straight on? We have not been filming them as a journalism department, but as a production company and server.”

Although multiple council members, including White, insisted they will make sure to broadcast each individual, twice-per-month meeting, Miller doubts that the council will remain dedicated to such a goal.

“Well, I’d think since they are elected officials, people who put them in charge would want to know what they are doing,” she said in the midst of expressing such doubts since they were not doing so before KUTA TV8 intervened in 2008. “Since most people have jobs and church callings and school and can’t make it there, it just seems like they’d want to give that service to the people who elected them.”

During the meeting, Councilman Cory Yeates said he found “no reason” to pay KUTA TV8 its requested fee. The station requested a monthly charge in the previous council meeting March 8 after learning that the council had paid nearly $50,000 towards other programs, including $28,000 towards a weekly serial, and the remainder towards KBYU, which operates beyond county lines.

“I don’t see why the county is going to start paying for something that one, we haven’t contracted to pay, and two, we haven’t asked for,” Yeates said.

Yeates said that any county citizen will be welcome to come into the county offices in Logan to obtain a burned CD from the council’s own broadcast, or will now be able watch it on the county’s website.

Yeates said he received a call from a citizen who came to observe the March 8 meeting and who witnessed KUTA TV8’s presentation that evening. Yeates said that the citizen was appalled by KUTA TV8’s behavior at the meeting, having told Yeates that he was surprised the council allowed “dog and pony shows” into the building. “That was his terminology, not mine,” Yeates said. “I just, you know, I felt bad that he felt it was that out of control.”

Jamie Forbush of the Northern Utah Media Group, who has worked with Miller to produce the meetings, was vehement in expressing that no blue ribbons should be divvied just yet. Forbush said that KUTA TV8’s involvement with the council meetings hasn’t come to an end, but rather a shift from producing to critiquing the meetings will certainly take place.

“The real dog and pony show will happen when we start the meetings and expose our local officials and what they do,” he said. “They had protection with us just filming them, but we will now provide our own journalism on it. It’s going to call and question things when they are not right.”

“We have done nothing but tried to do what was the right thing to do, and that was to put information out tho the public,” said Forbush, who had made the meetings available on a variety of websites, including cachevalley.com, northernutah.com, loganutah.com and bridgerland.com.

“If a member of the public felt that way, I’m sorry. I would love that person to ask where else can they put those meetings in full, to view your government in action from the beginning to the end? Where else can you go to one of the largest websites in the valley in cachevalley.com and view the meetings from a public perspective at your leisure? You can’t. No one else has the names.”

Despite lacking the number of websites and avenues in which the meetings can be viewed, and with a loss of professional broadcasting, White said he feels confident in the council’s ability to produce themselves.

“We can do it as good as somebody else, I would think,” the chairman said. “I think we’ll do a good job. I don’t know why we shouldn’t.”

Forbush heartily disagreed. “My message is GOOD LUCK, and put bold on that,” he asked Hard News Cafe when told that White had said that he thought the council could produce their meetings with the same quality.

“They don’t have the venue to disseminate that kind of footage to the public in such a broad way as we have. We have spent several hundred thousands of dollars acquiring Internet names to be able to do that. At this point, lots of those names are taken and gone. They don’t have that ability to acquire that kind of venue.’”

Forbush said that acquiring the cachevalley.com domain name cost $55,000 in 2007, the second-highest domain name purchase the Northern Utah Media group has ever made. He was not willing to disclose the name of the priciest URL, which cost $140,000.

The videos of the meetings received 2,800 views from the combined sites in the
month of February alone, he said, part of a viewership that receives between 400,000 to 700,000 hits monthly primarily from Utah as well as California, Idaho, Nevada, and other western states. Ten to 12 percent of all views are made outside the United States.

Miller said that kutatv.com alone receives upwards of 80 views for any meeting, a number that can spike to 280 when there is a meeting concerning a “hot topic” issue.

Yet White had doubts about how often the meetings are viewed when asked why he didn’t see a priority in keeping KUTA TV8 in-house. “I don’t know how much people actually look at it anyway,” he said. “Maybe they do. I don’t know.”

When told about White’s doubts about if the meetings are viewed online very often, Miller described his comment as a “great example of them not doing their job” in being ignorant to facts, and said it was “amazing” to hear that the council would not have a greater understanding of how the public views them.

“The whole thing is, number one, they have access to a channel and could have been doing it themselves. Two, it’s a problem when they give money to people who just make a TV show when they should help with local media,” she said.

“The backbone of America is having leaders get to people,” Miller added. “You’d think leaders would be getting to people and let those who pay taxes and elected them know what’s going on.”

So the “dog and pony show” continues — an assessment that Miller celebrated in a day of a free speech nation that she felt a certain local council wasn’t reflecting. “We live in America, everyone is entitled to their opinion,” she said. “Good thing we do, huh?”


  1. One Response to “County Council decides to end local TV station coverage”

  2. By Amy on Mar 27, 2011

    Go figure! So let me see if I have this right. There going to try to give out CD’s of a meeting if someone wants one??? Why don’t they just just go back to a typewriter for heck sake! I watched a few Cache County meetings online in the past and appreciated the service. I’m troubled to hear they want the service gone. I can’t help but wonder if they don’t want to be made available to the public. Makes me wonder what they have to hide. I’m a USU student and don’t have time to attend the meetings. You would think they would come out of the black and white days! Shame on the Cache County Council!

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