With references to outmoded technology like video tapes and VCRs, county officials say the policy governing local community access channel is in dire need of revision.
At a recent meeting of the Scotland County Policy Committee, a revision is exactly what it got.
Chaired by County Commissioner Carol McCall, the committee voted to eliminate all the policy’s dated language. Archaic phrases were replaced with references to the latest digital technology,similar to terms used by St. Andrews Professor Sean Moore to operate the channel.
Moore is responsible for managing the channel’s content as well as recording meetings of both the Laurinburg City Council and the Scotland County Board of Commissioners. Meetings of the Scotland County School Board also air on the channel, but those meetings are captured by students at Scotland High School.
All three entities partner in oversight of the channel.
In revising the channel’s policy, the committee also considered more philosophical issues, like the purpose of the channel and the kinds of content it should be permitted to air.
There had been some discussion at past meetings about changing formats to a “government access” channel, which would allow only for the broadcast of content produced by entities of local government.
“That was never seriously considered,” McCall said.
Decency standards, however, were the topic of extended conversation. With a representative of the University of North Carolina at Pembroke’s journalism department on hand to offer advice, the policy committee determined that it would be best to respect free speech and deal with the consequences after a program has aired.
“That’s basically what we have to do (because of free speech),” McCall said. “We will have to air programming without any real kind of review process and then deal with (any resultant controversy).”
At earlier meetings the policy committee was warned by school system spokesman Andy Cagle to avoid “limiting the programming based on content” for fear that such a limitation could be seen as a prior restraint on free speech.
Because of poor attendance, the advisory board overseeing the channel’s activities was basically in mothballs throughout 2012.
“We are going to solicit interested persons and revive (the advisory board),” said McCall. According to McCall, two members will be allowed on the board from each of the three partnering institutions involved.
Assuming there is adequate interest, McCall said that she thinks the “(advisory board) should set off working by May or June.”
Under new leadership, the hope is that the channel will seek and discover new and diverse sources of content. The channel’s programming currently consists almost exclusively of government meetings and church gatherings, according to County Clerk Ann Kurtzman.
Calling the channel an “underutilized resource” McCall said that she would like to see locals contribute their own programming.
Those interested in submitting content can reach Sean Moore of St. Andrews University at 277-5255.