Session to go out over 'Net

Posted: Friday, January 04, 2002

JUNEAU (AP) -- When the Legislature convenes in 2002, every word uttered on the state record will be broadcast live on the Internet.

KTOO-FM and KTOO-TV, Juneau's public broadcasting stations, will stream live audio of all floor sessions and committee hearings on the World Wide Web, said Bill Legere, president and general manager.

''It's going to provide a level of access that's pretty rare in the country,'' Legere said.

KTOO already broadcasts video of some legislative events on cable television in 30 communities. That coverage, called Gavel-to-Gavel, generally shows all floor sessions but only some committee hearings. Many are not broadcast live.

The station this year will offer Gavel-to-Gavel video on the Internet along with a new program featuring only audio. The audio project is more sweeping than Gavel-to-Gavel because it broadcasts sound from all legislative events, not just a select few.

''We'll be able to stream up to seven different events at once,'' Legere said. ''That's the maximum number of official proceedings that are happening in the Capitol at any one time.''

KTOO will archive the audio so people who miss live events can listen to the recordings later on the Internet.

''It will be permanently available for as far forward as we can see, Legere said.

The leap to the Internet means people can listen to the Legislature live from virtually anywhere in the world, Legere said.

Internet access to state lawmakers is a growing trend in the country, said Gene Rose, public affairs director of the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Three years ago only seven states were streaming audio or video of lawmakers on the Internet, Rose said. More than 30 states offer the service today. However, most states broadcast only floor sessions, he said, and Alaska is ahead in terms of extending it to committees.

''There's probably only a handful of other states that are going that far right now,'' Rose said.

The KTOO venture will replace a pilot project by the Legislative Affairs Agency, which offered audio recordings of some committee hearings on the Internet last year, said Sue Gullufsen, manager of the state Information Teleconference Network.

The KTOO project will not replace other legislative access programs operated by the state. The Legislative Affairs Agency will continue to provide public access to committee hearings transmitted by teleconference to legislative information offices statewide.

The state also will continue to record all legislative events and furnish audio cassettes to the public upon request, she said.

KTOO purchased the equipment for the audio project with a $75,000 grant from the city of Juneau, Legere said. The station will pay ongoing costs through its Gavel-to-Gavel budget of about $557,000 a year.

Gavel-to-Gavel is funded in part by the city and private donors, including Alaska Communications System, which donated bandwidth on the Internet, he said.

Legere said Internet users should be able to monitor Gavel-to-Gavel and the audio program using a 28.8 dial-up modem, but he recommended a cable modem or DSL broadband connection for best results.

Internet users also must have software such as RealPlayer or Microsoft Media Player plus computers with sound cards and speakers, Legere said.

The Legislature reconvenes Jan. 14.

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