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  February 18, 2002

Husky Vision to Offer Public Issues Programming
By Richard Veilleux

A state-funded television network that offers round-the-clock coverage of state government and also has aired dozens of UConn seminars, workshops and lectures, will be offered on Husky Vision and to northeastern Connecticut's cable television subscribers, beginning in mid-March.

Charter Communications and Husky Vision, which will run the programming on channel 15, will be the Connecticut Network's (CT-N) first full-time carriers. Currently, the nearly three-year-old network airs its programming only when cable system operators have open slots on cable access channels.

"This will be an excellent addition to Husky Vision's offerings," says Patrick Sheehan, chair of the board of directors of the Connecticut Public Affairs Network (CPAN), the parent of

CT-N, and a UConn alumnus who has taken a leading role in advocating for the University's growth. "The directors were interested in Husky Vision and Charter being the first to offer CT-N on a full-time basis because we believe there is a higher level of interest in public issues in this area of the state, and because CT-N will serve certain academic interests particularly well.

Bringing Debates to Campus
David Yalof, a political science professor who teaches a course on constitutional rights, is enthusiastic about the program.

"When the Connecticut Supreme Court came to campus, the students were overjoyed to see constitutional arguments before them. Having CT-N on a dedicated channel would be a great opportunity to bring the court into the classroom on a more regular basis, as it relates to issues we're studying," he says.

Sheehan says his first recollection as a political science student at UConn was going to the state Capitol to sit in the gallery and watch the legislature debate the death penalty. "It was wonderful, really interesting," he says.

Now CT-N will bring such debates to campus. "To be able to watch this occur, to have the debate going on right in your dorm room or classroom, that's a great opportunity for UConn students and faculty," says Sheehan.

Paul Giguere, president and chief executive officer of CPAN, says he is working with other cable television providers in the state to gain access to their systems as well. But he and Sheehan, a former anchorman on WTIC-TV 61, credit UConn officials with working hard to get it done in Storrs first.

"Our belief is that CT-N's programming should be available to all citizens of the state whenever they want it. And our hope is to get more people involved in the legislative process. There's been a decline in coverage of the General Assembly in the traditional media, and we want to fill that gap," Giguere says. "This is a chance to see government in action with no spin, no analysis."

That lack of "talking heads," or experts, is what sets CT-N apart from other coverage of state government, says Giguere. The station doesn't employ anchors or reporters. Instead, it focuses cameras on speakers or events, such as debates or discussions in the state legislature or speakers at UConn and other sites, similar to its better known national cousin, C-SPAN.

Viewers have the chance to watch state legislators debate bills and budgets, complete with all the compromises, disagreements and successes that occur at the Capitol. CT-N cameras last year also covered arguments in more than 60 cases before the state Supreme Court, regulatory discussions at the state Department of Public Utility Control, the Special Transportation Summit where officials debated how to improve the infrastructure of the state's roads, an economic summit sponsored by the Connecticut Business and Industry Association, and more.

Election Programming
The station plans to expand programming this year to the elections, including the Democratic and Republican state conventions, and debates among candidates for Congress, the governor's office, and other state constitutional offices.

Giguere says the availability of CT-N programming, which will be offered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, will provide UConn professors with another tool for their classes, especially in political science and history.

He says the station may not top the ratings, but it will perform a useful public service: "We're never going to compete with ESPN, but every year, something at the state Capitol is going to affect every citizen of the state."

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