City Officials: Proposed ‘Casper 1′ TV With Channel 192 Poses Constitutional Problems
(K2 Television and K2 Radio -- 1030 AM -- are separate businesses. Despite having identical call letters, the two outlets are owned and operated separately.)
The petition for a nonprofit corporation to expand the City of Casper's government access television channel 192 into a 24-hour news and community activity station likely will run into a basic legal buzzsaw, the city attorney and a council member said Tuesday.
That's the Wyoming Constitution, which forbids governments from transferring public assets to private entities or persons without receiving compensation, Casper Attorney John Henley said.
If the city were to go down that road, it would need to put out a request for proposal for others to consider buying it, Henley said.
Casper City Manager Carter Napier said the council didn't need to make an immediate decision about the proposed "Casper 1: TV at a Higher Elevation." Council members wanted more information, and petitioner Mark Hyman said he would get it.
Last month, former K2 Television news director Hyman said Casper 1 would be based in Casper to inform, educate, empower and promote the city with its politics, meetings, businesses, sports, arts and entertainment, outdoor activities, and other aspects of community life.
The proposed nonprofit station would use no city funds, only private donations, sponsorships and grants, and have no commercials, he said.
Tuesday, Hyman repeated some of those advantages. "We deserve our own TV station."
He referred to a recent plea by Mayor Steve Freel on the city's YouTube channel for the need to wear masks to slow the spread of COVID-19. "That press conference should have been on the city's television station, and that's one of things we would do, is be at the city's behest when there's important information out there that we need to get," Hyman said.
Council members again voiced their interest in Casper 1, with Mike Huber saying local broadcast news covering the city was all but nonexistent.
Charlie Powell raised questions about Federal Communications Commission rules that restrict government access channels -- Casper's being restricted to "government" and "education" -- from other programming.
Hyman responded that "education" could be broadly interpreted to include high school football games and travelogues.
City Manager Carter Napier said he spoke with a representative of Spectrum, who suggested Casper 1 could adopt a model like public broadcasting that has sponsors, but no commercials. However, reworking the franchise agreement between Spectrum and the city would be problematic, he added.
Charlie Powell wondered about free speech issues, and what would happen if Casper 1 were perceived as promoting religion or unsavory political views.
He and other council members also wondered about liability issues and Federal Communications Commission rules.
Hyman said he never had a problem with liability issues when he was a news director.
Steve Cathey referred to Henley's previous comments about channel 192 having value.
If Hyman were to approach Spectrum about acquiring his own channel, Spectrum would charge him, Cathey said
"That means this (channel 192) has value," Cathey said. "If it has value, according to what Mr. Henley said, we can't give that away. We need to get fair market value for it, which says we then are in violation of the Constitution if we give you access to that channel."
Free speech, potential liability and FCC rules are secondary to the Wyoming State Constitution, Cathey said.
He asked Hyman to find out the value of channel 192 or find his own station.
"We can all like this all we want, but this gets back to the rule of law, and that's what should be governing at this point is the rule of law," Cathey said.
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