UIS Press Release January 26, 2000
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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Date: April 18, 2001
Contact: Terry Martin 217-206-6382


     Springfield ?Illinois citizens are very interested in having television coverage of the three branches of state government. That is among the many findings included in an interim report issued today by the University of Illinois at Springfield’s Institute for Public Affairs entitled Creating the Illinois Channel.

     The report details the interest expressed by the citizenry, the costs associated with creating a statewide public affairs channel, and the steps necessary to establish a C-SPAN like network in Illinois.

     "It is crucial -- if our democracy is to survive and be effective -- that the people know what is going on in government," said former Gov. Jim Edgar, who co-chaired the study with former U.S. Sen. Paul Simon.

     "I’m for informing citizens so we can make the kind of sensible decisions we should make in a democracy," said Simon.

     The study’s findings show that 86 percent of Illinois citizens support the concept of a statewide public affairs channel. "Establishing an Illinois Channel provides the opportunity to inform and educate a citizenry obviously interested in government and legislative issues. It also enables lawmakers to set the standard for open government," noted Nancy Ford, executive director of the Institute for Public Affairs. "For less than the cost of a postage stamp, per person, per year, we can bring the Illinois General Assembly, executive and judicial branches, and a host of outstanding public affairs programs from around the state into the homes and businesses of constituents across the state," she added.

     The Illinois Channel’s programming would be modeled on the nonpartisan, gavel-to-gavel coverage pioneered by C-SPAN when it began coverage of the U.S. House of Representatives in 1979. Since that time, 19 other states have started similar public affairs channels, and this fall Wisconsin is scheduled to become the 20th state where citizens will have television access to deliberations of their state elected lawmakers.

     The findings contained within the report are based on a year of research that included close consultation with C-SPAN and existing state channels to review and understand their technical operations, programming objectives, and editorial guidelines.

     In addition, members of the project team crisscrossed the state holding town hall meetings to inform communities of the initiative, further assess public interest, and gain greater insight into public affairs programming interests of the broader Illinois citizenry.

     The project also commissioned a statewide telephone survey of a random sample of the Illinois public. The public expressed a high level of interest in specific programming options, including legislative floor debate, legislative committee hearings, agency hearings, and Supreme Court arguments.

     Based on the research and analysis conducted during this first year of the two-year planning study, the following are some of the recommendations contained in the study’s interim report:

  • Funding for the channel would be through legislative appropriation. Among the existing 19 state channels, 16 are funded using state government appropriated resources. The report presents three operating budgets reflecting varying degrees of coverage. The "Full Coverage" option includes a Chicago bureau in addition to a Master Control located in Springfield. This option, the most expensive of the three presented, would cost only $3 million a year, or about 25 cents annually per Illinois citizen.

  • In cooperation with local communities, the Illinois Channel could be distributed on existing government cable channels, the Internet, and the Illinois Century Network’s connections to schools and universities. Once broadcast digitalization is complete, distribution may also include multicast PBS channels and DBS satellite systems.

  • Cameras in the House and Senate chambers would focus only on the member who is recognized by the speaker or president. A member sitting immediately adjacent to the recognized member on the floor may appear in the periphery of the screen.

  • The Illinois Channel also would be available on the Internet.

  • Programming taped and/or produced for the Illinois Channel would be prohibited from commercial use.

     "The findings of this interim report provide the answers to three primary questions: Is the channel feasible? Is it affordable? And do citizens want it? The answer to all three is a resounding yes," emphasized Terrence Martin, project director. The next phase of the two-year study will involve a detailed analysis of specific technical and operational issues.

     The Illinois Channel project team continues to benefit from the leadership and guidance of a 50-member advisory board, chaired by UIS Chancellor Emeritus Naomi Lynn, that includes leaders from state government, business, organized labor, agriculture, the media, and civic organizations.

     The Illinois Channel planning study is a two-year effort that began in January 2000 through the generous funding of the Joyce Foundation and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. A final report will be issued at the conclusion of the study in the spring of 2002.

     For more information contact Terry Martin at (217) 206-6382. For a copy of the interim report, visit http://www.illinoischannel.org.