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Public television stations must open administrative records

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  1. Freedom of Information

    NMU         HAWAII         Freedom of Information         Sep 19, 2002    

Public television stations must open administrative records

  • Two Hawaii community television stations must abide by the same open record rules as government agencies to the extent that they are funded and administratively controlled by a state agency, the Office of Information Practices ruled in September.

Two Hawaii community television stations are subject to the state’s open records act because they are under a state agency and perform government functions, the Office of Information Practices concluded in a Sept. 6 opinion.

According to the OIP, the Department of Commerce and Consumer Affairs administers the public, educational, and governmental access channels for ‘Olelo: The Corporation for Community Television and Ho’ike: Kauai Community Television. It said that the department has administrative but not editorial control over the channels.

The Community Television Producers Association and the Kauai League of Women Voters requested that OIP determine whether ‘Olelo and Ho’ike are state agencies. Carol Bain, former president of the League, said Ho’ike barred its counters and that records were physically irretrievable.

“There were big barriers across the entry-way,” Bain said.

J Robertson, Ho’ike’s Managing Director, said, their records had always been open and that they had suffered “a false accusation” by the League.”

Although OIP concluded ‘Olelo and Ho’ike are state agencies, “we still consider ourselves a private non-profit organization,” Robertson said.

To determine whether ‘Olelo and Ho’ike match the act’s definition of a government organization, the OIP critically examined each company’s origin, function, funding, and government control. It concluded that ‘Olelo and Ho’ike are corporations “owned, operated, or managed by or on behalf of this State.”

As state entities, ‘Olelo and Ho’ike must follow public policy provisions set in the open records act which requires that “the discussions, deliberations, decisions, and actions of government agencies be conducted as openly as possible.”

The League issued a statement on Sept. 13 that calls upon Ho’ike to “open up your records to the public for accountability and oversight.”

Ho’ike denied accusations that its records were closed. “The OIP’s opinion has very little impact on us,” Robertson said. It requires us to abide by the openness laws “which is something we have always done.”

LF


© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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