The MGTV Story

The MGTV Story

Michigan Government Television (MGTV) is a public affairs initiative of Michigan’s cable television industry.

The MGTV network was launched in July of 1996, but the story begins several years before that. In 1993, the Michigan Cable Telecommunications Association (MCTA) commissioned Public Sector Consultants to study the feasibility of creating a cable network to cover the workings of state government in the same manner that the national C-SPAN networks cover the federal government. Michigan’s governor, John Engler, was also interested in the possibility of initiating a state government network. Both the cable television industry and Governor Engler recognized that, although the citizens of Michigan could watch the federal government on C-SPAN and their local governments at work on the cable access channels, they could not see any part of state government in action on television.

In his efforts to correct this, Governor Engler took some major steps toward creating such a network in 1994 and 1995. Earmarking funds from a settlement between the Public Service Commission and Ameritech, the governor hired Communications Systems Group (CSG), a Detroit-area firm, to act as general contractor for the project. CSG designed and installed the master control room in the Romney office building as well as the control rooms and cameras in the House and Senate chambers, in the Supreme Court chambers, and in the Governor’s press room. In all, nearly $1.5 million was spent on equipment for the project.

The cable television industry in Michigan, recognizing that the ideal model for MGTV would be the highly successful cable network C-SPAN, made a proposal to Governor Engler in December of 1995. Having acted as supporters and advisers throughout the purchase and installation of the equipment, the cable industry now offered to take MGTV over and reorganize it as a non-profit 501 (c) 3 corporation with a board of directors composed of cable industry executives. The network would be completely independent of state government, financed by the cable industry through cable subscription fees, and editorial control of programming would reside entirely in the hands of the corporation’s executive director. The governor’s office turned the project over to the cable industry in December 1995.

MGTV was launched on July 15, 1996. Initial programming included House and Senate committees, commission meetings from within the executive branch (including the state board of education), press conferences, speeches by major policy makers, events from the state’s university system, and live phone-in programs with state leaders.

When it began to air oral arguments from Michigan’s Supreme Court in October of 1996, MGTV became the second television network in U.S. history to carry live coverage of a state’s highest court.

In its initial months, MGTV was offered only on cable systems in the greater-Lansing area. In February of 1997, MGTV became available statewide via satellite uplink. In October of that year, MGTV launched live and tape-delayed coverage of the sessions of the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate. The coverage of House and Senate sessions and Supreme Court oral arguments remain the mainstays of MGTV’s programming.

In late 2005, MGTV completed the conversion of all of its master control, studio, editing and portable equipment to state of the art digital.

MGTV currently reaches 1.6 million Michigan homes, schools and businesses served by cable television. Programming hours are Monday through Friday from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m., Eastern Time (9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Central). In addition to its on-air programming, MGTV offers extensive educational materials. Please see the education link on this website for more information.

MGTV has won two Cable Television Public Affairs Association Beacon Awards for its programming as well as two CNN/National Student Parent Mock Election Media Excellence Awards.

MGTV is a member of NAPAN: The National Association of Public Affairs Networks, Inc.,which promotes the establishment and expansion of noncommercial networks devoted to providing citizens with access to unbiased information about state government deliberations and public policy events in order to educate the public and advance the public understanding of and participation in political processes and the development of public policy.

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