BETHEL — A small camera is mounted to the wall at the back of the meeting room at Bethel Town Office. As the Wednesday select board meeting begins, Town Clerk Jessicca Grover walks to the camera hits the button and a video recording begins.

The coverage is important for housebound residents and offers clarity when an issue arises.

Yet, some towns opt for no coverage.

“I don’t understand why anybody would say no to WHAT, the public has a right to know what goes on in their towns… All it does is protect you from the rumor mill if you are doing the right thing,” said Bethel Select Board Chair Meryl Kelly

Western Hills Access TV Station Manager Josh Morton offers raw, unedited footage of meetings that he broadcasts on YouTube and on the WHAT website. Some meetings are live-streamed others are posted within a day or two.

In Newry, Josh’s father Brooks Morton, is usually behind the camera, but Town Administrator Loretta Powers knows how to use the camera, too. She said she doesn’t have a problem being filmed, “It does keep people informed more than not. I think a lot of people watch it,” said Powers.


Former West Paris Fire Chief Kevin Davis said a camera would help at select board meetings, “people act differently when a reporter is in the room,” he said.


While Bethel and Newry have opted for coverage, Greenwood, West Paris, and Woodstock have not. All are in the WHAT  coverage area as determined by the FCC and Spectrum/ Charter Communication.

Morton said he hopes to bring Greenwood back into the fold. Their board member volunteer passed away.

As for West Paris and Woodstock, Morton said he would welcome them.

“My philosophy is that every public government meeting should be live-streamed or at minimum recorded. Meetings need to be available for members of the public who are unable to attend the meetings. We have had some instances where a town’s board member has made the determination that a meeting should not be live-streamed, which is a disservice to the public as it causes a delay in the greater public’s access to the footage and creates more time consuming work on our end.


“At the end of the day unless a meeting is in executive session, it should be made available to the public in a timely manner,” said Morton.


“A frequent misconception is that public access television is funded by the taxpayer. While that may be the case in some cities, That is not the case for WHAT,” stressed Morton.

The Legislature mandates support for public access television. Each of the towns WHAT covers receives a franchise fee from the cable provider. Nearly all of the funding comes from franchise fees, which are determined by the number of subscribers in a town. A percentage of profits is negotiated and a franchise agreement is formed.

WHAT is nearly 100% funded by franchise fees except in rare and infrequent cases where additional funds are requested from applicable towns to cover the purchase of equipment for use in the town offices and other special circumstances like infrastructure upgrade. These additional funds must be approved by the taxpayers, said Morton.

Bethel approved $17,500 to WHAT in franchise fees, standard procedure for all public access cable stations, at their 2023 town meeting. This is pass-through money that the town accepts from the Cable Franchise Agreement to release to WHAT


Getting started

Morton said, any town interested in having coverage would need to appoint an active board member who would attend meetings, learn how to properly and consistently use equipment and software, and represent WHAT at their annual town meeting.

The volunteers WHAT currently relies on are board members: Jewel Clark for Bethel; Brooks Morton for Newry; Wayne Howe for Woodstock; and James Haines for SAD44.

He said, to record a meeting and live stream, ideally a wired (ethernet) connection is best. It prevents wireless interference from too many cell phones in a crowded room.

Besides resistant town leaders, the main obstacle Morton has run into is unstable internet connection and wireless interference.

LD 1967, an act to support municipal franchise agreements, like WHAT, passed overwhelmingly in the Legislature this January.

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