Session hits 'Gavel to Gavel' budget

KTOO staff must figure out how to cover costs of extended session

Posted: Wednesday, May 22, 2002

The Legislature's adjournment Tuesday evening came not too soon for the people working the cameras for "Gavel to Gavel," the public television program that provides live coverage of committee and floor action.

The past week of extended and special sessions has been left to the call of the presiding officer, creating additional lag time for camera crews waiting to cover the events.

Bill Legere, general manager for KTOO-FM and TV, which produces "Gavel to Gavel," said the overtime threw the program off budget.

"Our producer never leaves," Legere said. "He's worked 15 to 20 hours a day for the past several days."

The "Gavel to Gavel" operating budget is about $450,000, covering staff, maintenance, satellite feeds, Internet streaming and other costs. Legere said the temporary crew cost of $60,000 was slightly over budget by the end of the regular session.

The extra week has thrown the program significantly off budget, but Legere said he would not know the final amount for a few weeks. He said there are still residual costs for cleaning up and moving equipment.

"We'll try to figure out how to recover once this is all over," Legere said.

"Gavel to Gavel" producer Randy Burton said the city covers half the operating cost and the rest is generated through corporate sponsors.

He said the station is committed to covering the session until the very end, but added it might have been forced to reduce coverage if the Legislature had continued with little action.

Camera crew members covering the Capitol for the past two days said they spent most of their time hanging out in a second-floor committee room waiting for lawmakers to do something.

"The Butrovich Room has pretty much become the 'Gavel to Gavel' lounge," said Damon Stuebner, a cameraman for the program.

Prior to adjournment Tuesday evening, Stuebner and partner Chase Shumway said they worked 12-hour days Monday and Tuesday but covered only one meeting that lasted about 20 minutes.

Legere said the station wants to continue coverage of all official meetings regardless of what time they happen.

He said discontinuing coverage before the end of the session would be "like cutting the camera at the end of a football game."

Timothy Inklebarger can be reached at timothyi@juneauempire.com.



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