Civic News

City Commission postpones Channel 28 vote, suggests collaboration amid controversy

Missing paperwork on both sides delayed the vote decided who will operate the community channel. But the real issues go deeper.

Community members await the vote on the fate of Channel 28 in January.

(Photo by Holly Quinn)

On Thursday afternoon, the turnout for the vote that would decide who will operate Channel 28 was bigger than expected.

By 2:00 p.m., Hanifa Shabazz, City Council President and chair of the Wilmington Cable, Video and Communication Commission requested that the standing room-only crowd be moved to larger chambers.

Ten minutes later, after the relocation, it was time for the vote.

Or… not.

As the Commission discussed the two proposals, submitted by DeTv founder Ivan Thomas and the Leased Access Preservation Association of Wilmington (LAPA), the organization that operates it currently. Commission members liked both proposals, for different reasons. Public Works Commissioner and Commission member Kelly A. Williams suggested that the ideal proposal would be to combine the innovation and quality content of DeTv with the LAPA’s experience, an idea that was echoed by her fellow members.

Things then took an unexpected turn, as members of the Commission noted that both proposals were missing documents, despite both having Procurement approval – a step that should have confirmed that all documents were in order.

“I’m not comfortable voting if documents are missing,” said Commission member John Rago of the Mayor’s Office, shortly before a motion passed to postpone the vote for missing documents.

Shabazz concluded with the suggestion that DeTv and LAPA consider “the viability of [combining your] innovation and experience.”

Sounds like a reasonable option, but what happened after the motion demonstrated that a collaboration is not likely. When the floor was opened to public comments, LAPA representatives and supporters lined up to speak. At first, the criticism was toward the Commission, who were castigated for the approval of incomplete documents and accused “railroading” of LAPA.

Then the ire turned toward Thomas himself.

Thomas’s vision of positivity was likened to censorship – a claim that had been dismissed by the commission earlier in the session.

On its face, the differences between DeTv and LAPA are wide, but not diametric. Thomas is looking to the future of Delaware broadcasting, with dynamic community content that appeals to younger generations. LAPA, with it’s track record of running the leased access channel and more traditional leased access content such as live church services, also wants to focus on the community.

Soon after the session, Thomas, who posted a video on Youtube to showcase his vision for Channel 28 ahead of the vote, expressed feeling betrayed by his own community in a Facebook Live video.

“They talked about me like I was less than human,” Thomas said as he recounted the scene. By the time he took to the podium, he was in tears.

“I almost gave up on this city,” he said. Then he looked into the camera. “Almost.”

As he posted on his Facebook soon after the session ended:

What was expected to be a generally uneventful vote has become a hot-button issue, and the Wilmington Cable, Video and Communication Commission appears hesitant to align with either side.

The Commission will reconvene in approximately two weeks to vote. The public will again be invited to attend and give their opinions.

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