Skip to main content

Originally published March 27, 2014 at 4:35 PM | Page modified March 27, 2014 at 5:02 PM

  • Share:
  • Comments (14)
  • Print

Editorial: Funds needed from Legislature to keep cameras rolling at TVW

When the Legislature failed to pass a capital budget this session, Washington’s public affairs network lost a critical opportunity to replace old cameras. TVW’s gavel-to-gavel coverage exposes government’s inner workings to a statewide audience. Lawmakers and viewers should rally a

Seattle Times Editorial

Most Popular Comments
Hide / Show comments
Rolling back newspaper tax break would cover tab without taking $ from K-12. MORE
The Governor and Legislature are not committed to keeping the cameras rolling and would... MORE
It's probably better that we don't watch their proceedings. Experiencing the results... MORE


FOR most Washingtonians, traveling to Olympia to attend the Legislature’s public hearings is difficult. Instead, many tune in to or stream Web video from TVW, the nonprofit public-affairs network that offers C-SPAN-like coverage of the state’s three government branches.

Constituents have a right to see their elected officials in action, to see what questions they ask, what arguments they make and what votes they take. Journalists rely on TVW’s live capabilities and vast archives to do their work. Cameras in the Capitol mean more transparency and access to political debates.

This valuable public service is threatened, though. Lawmakers and viewers must help.

TVW’s legislative cameras are old. Ancient, actually, by modern standards. Equipment used for the public-private partnership has not been upgraded since 1995.

The station’s legislative request last session for $2.8 million to replace 49 robotic cameras — and controls to operate them — went nowhere. Though both houses support TVW, the station’s money was held hostage in a larger political battle. In the end, lawmakers did not pass a capital budget at all.

TVW cameras are mounted in every state Senate and House committee room — for now. Three devices broke last year; five more this year. TVW scrambled to move cameras from less-used rooms and out of its mobile units, which usually cover events and meetings statewide. There are no more backups.

“If they break, that’s what really worries me,” TVW general manager Greg Lane says.

The public should be concerned, too.

Some lawmakers do not consider transparency and giving citizens the ability to see their legislative actions a priority. A few might even prefer to have no cameras around to record their votes.

Lane says TVW is in the midst of a $5 million fundraising campaign. Without the state’s financial assistance, the station will have to raise nearly twice as much to maintain gavel-to-gavel coverage in the future. Lane says fundraising is constant, but it’s hard to squeeze private donors for millions more to cover the cameras.

TVW went on the air in 1995 as a public-private partnership with the state. Next session, the Legislature should kick in its share of funding to ensure video of legislative events continues to be available to the public.

Want open government? Donate to TVW directly by calling 360-725-3999.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

Four weeks for 99 cents of unlimited digital access to The Seattle Times. Try it now!

Relive the magic

Relive the magic

Shop for unique souvenirs highlighting great sports moments in Seattle history.



The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►