Editorial: A little more oversight would be wise

February 28, 2014 

The non-profit East Wake TV has expanded aggressively in recent years as the retirement of Knightdale Town Manager Gary McConkey freed him up to spend more time focusing his energies on the public, educational and government television station.

The television station came under scrutiny last week when they were told they may have violated state law by filming from an unmanned mini-helicopter. We truly do not believe there was any intent to disobey the law, despite McConkey’s initial protestations they they were not covered by the law in question. The television station’s board of directors wisely overruled McConkey and agreed to ground the device until the proper permits were acquired.

The incident does raise larger questions about how strong the oversight is, or needs to be. The board of directors is seven members strong. The town manager of each town served by the station serves on the TV station’s board. Yes, that’s right. Seven towns are now part of East Wake TV, including two towns in Johnston County, one in southern Wake County and another in northeastern Wake County.

The expansion has come, in part, as a way to pool money together in a larger pot. That has allowed the station to expand facilities and equipment. It has caused a need for more programming. But exactly where does all that money go. Managers have considered requesting an audit of the station’s books. One hasn’t been performed since the station’s expansion began. Taking a look under the hood is a good idea.

East Wake TV is a largely underutilized asset. It doesn’t track viewership numbers, and few people find themselves chatting at the water cooler about what they saw on East Wake TV last night. But it does provide video coverage of town board meetings, which means residents can keep up with their elected leaders from their laptop or the comfort of their easy chair. The educational programming gives residents a chance to learn about local history, new activites being planned, growth and a host of other topics that interest residents of the towns that are partnering in the project.

As the partnership grows stronger oversight will become more important. While the dust up over the drone doesn’t really amount to anything deceitful, it does shed light on the need for all involved – from station manager McConkey to the seven managers of the towns that pay the bills – to be aware of the rules and regulations that govern the station’s work. Grounding their decisions in a good, thorough knowledge of the rules and the operations of the station ensure that the quality programming the station provides its viewers will continue long into the future.

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