Ketchikan International Airport will continue to broadcast CNN Airport News following a vote Monday by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly.
Or, at least, what plays will remain up to borough management.
Assembly Member Rodney Dial was the only yes vote for his motion for the airport to either broadcast “non-political” content, or to offer more than one news channel.
Dial says he has heard complaints from people about the airport’s broadcast of CNN-generated content.
“I’m gonna ask everybody to just keep an open mind. Let’s not be Republicans or Democrats about this,” he said. “Let’s just be honest with ourselves and say if Fox was playing over there all the time, would we get complaints? I think we would.”
Dial argued that the borough isn’t supposed to financially support political purposes, and the use of electricity to power the televisions counts.
The TVs and the content are provided free of charge to the airport by KPU Telecom. Airport Manager Mike Carney told the assembly that CNN is the only news service that currently provides content specifically tailored for airports. It doesn’t air graphic news, or footage of airplane crashes.
Carney says he gets maybe 20 complaints in a year about CNN in the airport waiting area. The volume of complaints is seasonal in a way, with more coming in when the weather’s bad.
“Just over the last year and a half, we tend to want to argue more about our views,” he said.
In response to questions from the assembly, Carney said there’s no rule that the airport must broadcast special news designed for airports, and the airport could choose to broadcast anything it wants.
He says the airport could caption the televisions and turn off the volume for those who would rather not listen to the news. As far as removing the TVs, though, Carney says the borough will definitely get complaints about that.
Assembly Member Judith McQuerry is a retired librarian, and said in her experience, no two people share the same view about content.
“I don’t believe that it is possible to have everybody’s opinion covered, especially on a television,” she said.
Assembly Member Stephen Bradford agreed and said the borough has managers who should make this kind of decision. He added that they could air non-stop videos of puppies and end up angering cat lovers.
“I just don’t think it’s possible and I certainly don’t think government has any business in trying to define neutral or non-political,” he said.
Bradford says CNN Airport News doesn’t include the cable channel’s opinion programs; it mostly provides headline news and features. He adds that nobody is forced to watch the television; it’s there as a service.
Dial’s motion failed in a 5-1 vote. Assembly Member Susan Pickrell had been participating by phone, but wasn’t on the line for that vote.
Also on Monday, the assembly decided to hold off making a decision about how to spend a portion of tobacco tax proceeds. Most of the proceeds go to the Ketchikan Gateway Borough School District, but 15 percent is designated for tobacco programs.
Borough staff drafted a request for proposals based on assembly input. But, the assembly decided to meet in work session later and talk in depth about the best way to use those funds.