LACONIA — Lakes Region Public Access TV station manager Denise Beauchaine was cautioned by members of the board of directors of LRPA Tuesday night over questions she had asked of Gilford selectmen at their January 22 meeting.
Beauchaine said that she had asked the questions, all of which dealt with issues being negotiated in a new contract between LRPA member towns and MetroCast Cablevision, in her capacity as a private citizen, not as station manager, and was well within her First Amendment rights to do so.
But that didn't cut it with Phil Warren, Meredith town, manger who is also that town's representative on the LRPA board and has been working with the group that is negotiating the new MetroCast contract.
''I have a problem with that. You work for this board and the public sees you in that role as our station manager,'' said Warren.
He said that the issue isn't about her free speech rights but about her responsibilities as an employee working for the board.
""We have the right to restructure and even terminate your contract,'' said Warren, who pointed out that there were misstatements that she made at the meeting, including a reference to a Gilford Cable Committee, which is inactive.
He asked her to have a discussion with the board before she made any similar public appearances and she agreed that she would.
''Why is it being done in the dark?'' Beauchaine had asked earlier about the negotiations, saying that the reason she went to the selectmen was because she wasn't able to get any answers from negotiators and was concerned over reports that that LRPA had been removed as the content provider in the new contract and that the station would no longer receive the $30,000 in funds from MetroCast it had received each year in the last contract.
Other questions she had asked of selectmen included whether or not the WLNH Children's Auction would be broadcast and how Gilford residents would be able to make video submissions to be shown on cable.
Chan Eddy, chairman of the LRPA Board of Directors, confirmed that LRPA was not named in the new contract and would no longer receive funds from MetroCast, but said other doors of opportunity were being opened up. He says the new business model being developed by LRPA will be based on corporate and business sponsorships and a fee for service opportunity for the LRPA production staffers to produce programming for other organizations which may not even appear on LRPA.
The new plan calls for each of the dozen or so member communities served in the MetroCast franchise area to operate their own education and government channels (24 and 26) while LRPA will provide public access on Channel 25 as a regional channel which will air material from citizens, organizations and groups from any community which is a member of the LRPA.
The education and government channels will air only in the communities in which their programs originate and Warren says that he suspects that most towns won't want to take on the public access responsibilities and that all of that programming will end up with LRPA.
Town-specific productions will be streamed via computer from those towns to separate nodes at the studio so that they are transmitted only within that town or city, while regional productions will be broadcast on Channel 26.
''We're all set up for our local government channel to operate and I expect the schools will do the same with education. But we're not all interested in handling public access,'' said Warren, which means that LRPA will pretty much have that area to itself.
Eddy suggested that there could well be a place for LRPA to handle production needs for the local government and educational channels in those towns which don't want to do it locally. ''Some may want to have LRPA do all of the taping and production.''
''We're going to see it evolve,'' said Eddy of the LRPA. He plans to complete the business plan he has been working on since last summer and submit to the LRPA board when it meets next month. It is anticipated that a new cable franchise agreement will take effect on July 1.