JAG held another session at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference this past November. I was lucky enough to do this session with Geoffrey Belinfante. Our goal was to illustrate the different emerging trends and communication tools to effectively engage residents beyond a traditional access channel.
Running an effective and efficient station can be a challenging job. The degree of difficulty also changes depending upon your ability to spend time at your station. Some stations have the luxury of a paid station manager who oversees the operation on a daily basis. Others must rely on volunteers or boards to operate them successfully. Some are even a combination of both. However it is that your station is staffed, you need tools to help you successfully operate. JAG understand this. With this in mind, JAG is announcing our Manager’s Roundtable Discussions for 2023. These are special virtual meetings designed specifically for those who are involved in the oversight and operation of the PEG channel.
If you have been in this business for over 10 years, you recall that there was only one way to do it. The formula was simple, cover the event in full, get it to post and air it on cable – repeat. That applied to both meetings and township events. Somewhere along the way in recent years, the viewing habits of the consumer has changed, and so must the formula. Stations need to adapt to move forward and survive. We will cover three areas to focus on to move forward with: Broadcast Trend, Cord Cutters and Hybrid Productions.
As the community media hub serving the City of Midland, Michigan, Midland Community Television (MCTV Network) enables residents to create original content to inform, entertain, and educate. Operating four cable access TV channels on Charter Spectrum and AT&T U-verse, MCTV expanded its reach last year to include Roku, Apple TV, Amazon Fire, and mobile devices as well as enhancing its streaming offerings.
These days, more and more people are buying HD televisions, so naturally access channels want to switch to HD to accommodate it. Therefore, if you run a local access channel, where do you start? What exactly do you need to accomplish the switch to HD? What should you buy first?
If your municipality uses a statewide franchise agreement, you should be able to have them provide an HD channel.
My local access channel, OPTV, bought HD cameras first. This was a major decision to make, and a moderately expensive one – with inherent budget considerations and cases to be made for it.
Currently, many cameras have dual outputs – both HD and analog – so they can easily make the switchover without too much additional cost. If that isn’t possible, as is the case with some PTZ cameras that only have a digital output, most likely you will need to buy converters to accommodate digital-to-analog temporarily, so that your channel is able to stay on the air in the meantime.
The next item would be the switcher. There are many switchers out there, ranging in cost from a couple of thousand dollars to many thousands of dollars. The size and scope of local access facilities vary, so you will need to do your homework as to what you will need, both now and in the future. Some switchers can handle analog, SD digital, and HD digital. Of course, these will have a bigger price tag.
Another way to go is to buy a switcher that is solely digital, with the use of converters. If you have analog equipment that you want to use, but also want a new switcher, you can still buy converters that will take an analog source and output as serial digital.
Additionally, another consideration to make is that for HD broadcasting you will need to change cabling. Your choice will be either to make the cables you need, or you can buy them separately.
After the switcher, the next item to consider is the video server that feeds the cable station and OTT streaming service (if you have one). Again, all the new servers handle digital signals, both SD and HD. In the case of my station, we have Altice which requires an analog signal, so we need to use a digital-to-analog converter for broadcast to Altice customers. Verizon, however, allows for an HD signal; in our case, we also have an HD channel, which is no problem for us.
After making these decisions, over time you can consider various upgrades as needed. Most don’t require very much cost, but they all do involve time and effort to install.
Finally, as a member of JAG, you have the ability to connect with other local access facilities as to what they have done in their switchover to HD and what they plan to do. “Picking the brains” of other members is an invaluable benefit of membership.
In the end, you will be very happy with the difference in picture quality with HD!
When it comes to determining what stations need to operate efficiently and optimally, JAG members spoke up at our last meeting during our discussion session. Members expressed their interest in conference sessions which they would like to see as part of our annual conference. The purpose of this discussion topic was to shape the direction of our annual conference. In case you were not aware, our event will take place May 24-26th of this year. This year’s conference will be a hybrid event. Wednesday, May 25th we are holding our Trade Show at the Crowne Plaza in Edison, NJ. The show will run from 8:30am-4:30pm, followed by a special Users workshop, cocktail hour, banquet and the JAG Awards. Tuesday, May 24th and Thursday, May 26th will be our virtual conference sessions.
Part of JAG’s ongoing effort is to educate stations on strategies which can help them operate a better station. We have been focusing on those efforts through our online Managers Roundtable Discussions and during our monthly meetings with our discussion topics. These are specifically designed for members to learn from other members, take away some of their success stories and incorporate them into their own station operations. This collaborative effort is the driving force behind JAG and one of the main reasons why this organization was founded.