TVW is one of Washington’s marvels – the closest equivalent to CSPAN the Northwest has.
CSPAN is so rigorously neutral that it could be taken for a government operation, although it – like TVW – is actually a nonprofit that simply watches government very closely, televising legislative hearings, official events, interview programs and so on.
That it isn’t actually a part of government comes up every so often, such as when it sought to stream action on the floor of Congress (there was a dustup over that). And now TVW has a dustup of a structurally related sort.
Earlier this year the Washington Legislature tried to get a handle on regulating the use of drones in Washington air space, specifically restricting their use by government agencies. Governor Jay Inslee vetoed the measure, apparently less out of broad philosophical disagreement but because he wanted an independent group, a task force, to take a run at it. In the meantime he issued an order to state agencies: No drones for now.
TVW has latched on to the subject and wanted to do a program about drone policy. That wasn’t a problem, but this was: It wanted to launch a drone and send it around the statehouse, maybe to give a sense of what they’re like and what they’re capable of. An Olympian article said that after reporter Christina Salerno, a state Department of Enterprise Services official responded, “While we can appreciate your desire to fly a quadcopter—a drone—around the Capitol Building and the campus, we are denying your request. The reasons include our concern that the use of this device for filming the campus may violate the privacy of tenants and visitors as well as posing an unnecessary public safety risk for those who may be below its flight path. Additionally, we believe this activity could unreasonably disrupt normal conduct of state business.”
For now, that can be attributed simply to wariness, and uncertainty about the implications of seemingly small current actions. But as policies get hammered out in the months and years to come, we may be seeing a lot more drones and a lot more requests that may be harder to comfortably deny. And from organizations not nearly as normally plugged in as TVW.