See state government in action
The 200 miles separating Rockford and Springfield presents quite a hurdle for area residents wanting to view Illinois state government in action. Now, thanks to Insight Communications airing programming from the Illinois Channel, state government proceedings are as close as the TV remote control.
We are very pleased to be able to offer our customers this type of public affairs programming that would otherwise not be available in our area. Providing a viable avenue for our communities to access the proceedings of state government is a valuable and meaningful contribution that we as a cable provider can offer, said K.C. McWilliams, district vice president of Insight Communications and current chair of the Illinois Cable Association.
Just as C-SPAN provides unedited coverage of the federal government, the Illinois Channels programming allows viewers to see unedited coverage of Illinois state government. Rockford is one of several communities around the state participating in the pilot phase of the Illinois Channel.
The one-year pilot will provide about two hours of new programming each week to local government access channels in participating communities. In the Rockford area, Illinois Channel programming is available on Cable Channel 17 to approximately 70,000 households.
After six years serving in the Illinois House, Im especially pleased that Insight Communications is bringing this service to its subscribers. The Illinois Channel will help bring state government closer to voters and taxpayers in the Rockford area at a time when events in Springfield are especially important, said Rockford Mayor Doug Scott.
When fully operational, the Illinois Channel will provide citizens with daily unedited coverage of the Illinois General Assembly, Supreme Court oral arguments, State Capitol news conferences, regulatory hearings, executive branch proceedings, business conferences, and major speeches delivered at Illinois colleges and universities.
During the one-year pilot program, we expect to provide public affairs programming to 12 to 15 communities across the state, said Terry Martin, Illinois Channel project director and former member of the C-SPAN congressional coverage unit. In addition to Rockford, the Illinois Channels programming currently airs in Champaign, Urbana and Springfield to approximately 210,000 cable viewers.
State public affairs channels are already available to millions of citizens in 20 states. Additional efforts are underway to launch similar channels in states from Montana to Maryland, and Maine to Missouri. Efforts to create the Illinois Channel began two years ago. Details on how to establish a statewide public affairs channel were researched by the Institute for Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Springfield. Former Governor Jim Edgar and former U.S. Senator Paul Simon serve as co-vice chairs of the Illinois Channel Advisory Board.
Plans call for funding to be provided by the Illinois General Assembly through state appropriation, which is the financing approach used by 16 of the 20 states with established statewide public affairs channels. The business plan developed last year by the Illinois Channel Planning Study estimates the annual operating cost at $3,000,000. Thats the equivalent of about 25 cents a year, per citizen, to turn living rooms into a virtual visitors gallery, said Martin.
However, given the states current budget problems, were seeking private funding from Illinois corporations and foundations to support the pilot program. The pilot programs funding will be about a tenth of the proposed budget, so the number of hours of programming produced will be far below what the channel would produce when the project is fully funded. Nonetheless, the pilot program will enable citizens to become acquainted with the Illinois Channel, and it will bring them far more public affairs programming than is currently available. As the economy improves, our plans are to continue to urge lawmakers to provide state funding as a means of expanding access to the workings of Illinois government, said Martin.
A statewide poll conducted last year found 86 percent of Illinois citizens supported starting a statewide public affairs television channel. For more information on the Illinois Channel, visit the website www.illinoischannel.org.