Loudon residents accuse public TV station of editing content during commission meetings

Video from a May 4 Loudon County Commission meeting shows that the station edited public comments from the recording, which was broadcast by LCTV-3 on May 8, said Pat Hunter, a Loudon County resident who records most of the meetings herself.

"It's obvious what they are doing," Hunter said. "They say they don't edit, but they do edit."

The recording made by Hunter at the commission meeting shows the public comments followed by comments from members of county commission. The broadcast version of the same meeting does not show the public comments or comments from the county commissioners.

"LCTV would not edit the recorded material, but show the 'business' portion of the meeting in its entirety," said LCTV-3 station manger Jim Fella in an April 17 letter to local government officials.

The station's policy is to turn on the camera at the start of the "business" portion of the meeting and turn it off at its conclusion, Fella said.

Public comments are listed on the beginning or the end of every agenda of every county, school or city government meeting and are absolutely a part of the "business" portion of every meeting, Hunter said.

The county rules and procedures handbook specifically states that "public comments" are to be listed on the agenda under order of business prior to adjournment, she said.

Fella said the current policy of not broadcasting public comments has the support of all the government bodies in the county that provide funding for the station, including the County Commission, the school boards, the city of Loudon and Lenoir City Council.

"No one has ever asked the commission's opinion on broadcasting public comments," said County Commissioner Bob Franke. "I think the comments should be broadcast with the rest of the meetings."

On the unedited recording of the May 4 commission meeting, Franke can be heard expressing his support for including public comments. His comments were not included in the broadcast version of the meeting.

School board member Van Shaver said that during his tenure on the board, the issue of including public comments in the broadcast has never been discussed. Shaver said he supports the idea of including the public comments in the broadcast.

The decision to keep or change the policy on public comments has been postponed by the station's advisory board until the June meeting.