The Jersey Access Group (JAG) was formed in March of 2000 by a small group of stations that saw a need for open communication between all the cable access stations in New Jersey. From its inception, it was clear that JAG would play a dominant role in the development of New Jersey’s public, educational, and government (PEG) television stations.
JAG began its efforts to unify the member stations by gathering each station’s documentation (Franchise Agreement, Policy and Procedures Manual, and any related forms). Additionally, we looked to establish a mechanism for sharing programs. JAG elected an interim slate of officers, adopted a mission statement and formulated a set of goals. JAG membership consisted of 12 stations representing 222,500 households. JAG also initiated production of a 1⁄2 hour magazine show called Access New Jersey.
Access New Jersey is a magazine format information show consisting of four segments. Each month four JAG member stations volunteer to contribute to Access New Jersey. Each submits a six-minute story of interest to New Jersey residents. These stories are edited together to form that month’s program. The show is then made available to all JAG member stations for televising in their communities. The series premiered in July of 2000 and reached more than 222,500 homes in New Jersey. *ended program in 2015
Access New Jersey was honored at the annual International Conference of the Alliance for Community Media. Access New Jersey received the 2001 Hometown Video Award in the category of Professional Magazine Format. This category is extremely competitive, with submissions received from stations throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe.
During the first quarter of 2001 JAG adopted bylaws for the Jersey Access Group, elected officers and established four standing committees (Executive, Financial, Production, and External Relations). JAG also premiered its web site: www.jagonline.org including a special Members Only Database; its e-mail address firstname.lastname@example.org , and a members only e-mail address which is linked to all member stations. JAG’s membership reached 20 stations representing 350,000 homes.
JAG then focused on establishing a relationship with the New Jersey League of Municipalities. The development of this relationship made it possible for JAG to communicate with all the municipalities through their newsletters and articles in the League of Municipalities’ magazine. At the Annual NJ League of Municipalities Conference, JAG participated in a seminar on cable television and had representatives at a table during the Consulting Period.
The web site was expanded to contain Shows to Share, Subscribers List, and Vendor Lists, and JAG began work on a Station Equipment Inventories section. The application to join JAG and a Station Questionnaire were available on the web site.
Three ad hoc committees were formed to handle issues of importance to JAG: Marketing (to
develop workshops for League of Municipalities annual conferences), Social (to develop an
annual social function), and Conference (to investigate producing a trade show specifically geared towards the technical needs of PEG stations). By the end of 2002 JAG’s membership had grown to 32 stations representing 487,000 homes.
JAG’s meeting agenda was altered to include time to discuss issues and answer questions raised by members. Operational topics have included hiring vs. volunteers, franchise fees and who gets the money, the televising of religious programs, staffing, and the Public Information Act’s effect on taping. We have also discussed equipment related issues including editing systems, cameras, video switchers, server technology, and old equipment disposition.
In 2003 JAG began the task of surveying every municipality in the state of New Jersey to develop a comprehensive database covering operating and future PEG stations. The Emergency Management Ad Hoc Committee was formed to evaluate a proactive role in the state’s EMS. Later that year JAG presented a workshop at the NJ League of Municipalities Annual Conference on the role PEG stations can play in support of emergency management.
The following year JAG held its first one day expo that included 12 exhibitors and was attended by over 80 PEG station operators, local producers and volunteers. Additionally two annual workshops, Basic Talk Show and Critique Night were conducted to support station operation. By the end of 2004 JAG’s membership had grown to 40 stations representing 692,000 homes.
JAG produced two promotional videos (This is Access TV and The Importance of Access) showing the diverse scope of our member stations, a brochure outlining the benefits of joining JAG, and a display about JAG that can be used in support of JAG presentations. JAG also conducted three sessions at the League of Municipalities Annual Conference. JAG representatives also provided consults at the New Jersey School Board Conference. JAG became a member of the Alliance for Community Media. JAG’s video The Importance of
Access was a winner in the About Access – Professional category at the 2004 Hometown Video Awards,
JAG partnered with The Alliance for Community Media, Mid-Atlantic Region to hold a combined two-day conference, Access Television, The Visions of Liberty. The conference included 35 exhibitors and 12 panel discussions, with 175 attendees. JAG expanded into Pennsylvania. Membership in JAG was expanded to include any non-profit organization operating a closed loop network making it possible for PEG stations to partner with colleges and universities.
Additionally, JAG began testing the use of a common server to distribute programs of interest to member stations. JAG produced over 50 programs as part of our magazine series, Access New Jersey that is seen in over 1⁄2 million homes. JAG’s membership has grown to 40 stations (2 from Pennsylvania) covering over 100 towns representing 873,000 homes.
JAG has also taken a proactive role on the federal, state, and local levels to preserve PEG stations. Members have met with most of New Jersey’s state legislators and spoke at meetings and hearings in an effort to insure funding and connectivity from all providers of video programming to the home.
JAG continued its efforts to insure PEG stations are protected. Our second joint conference brought together over 200 attendees. Two new elements were introduced: six workshops by industry professionals and a production studio where programs were produced to inform the public on pending legislation and asked them to join the fight to save PEG stations and a documentary about the conference.
JAG began to meet with US Senators and Congressmen to expand awareness of the
organization and the large number of PEG stations in NJ that are in danger of elimination and in need of protections through federal regulations.
We also joined The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors to increase avenues of communication on issues in Washington. JAG took another step in its development with the addition of stations in Manhattan and the Bronx to its membership. JAG now reached over 1.5 million homes in three states.
JAG’s efforts turned towards monitoring and insuring Verizon’s delivery of PEG stations
on their system as specified in the NJ System Wide Franchise Agreement. JAG organized workshops at both the JAG/ACM and NJ League of Municipalities conferences with panelists from Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon, and The NJ League of Municipalities to insure that an open dialog would exist with PEG station operators. JAG also opened up a dialog with the NJ Office of Cable Television to provide information on PEG stations connectivity.
This year for the first time a group of students spent the day producing a documentary about the conference and attended many of the vendor workshops. JAG will explore how it might get more students involved at future conferences.
After a year of Verizon’s fiber build out JAG began efforts to amend the NJ System Wide Franchise Agreement to plug the many loopholes that were hampering the delievery of PEG stations to residents. Meetings were held with the chairman of the NJ Assembly Telcommunications and Utilities Committee.
JAG hosted two workshops at the NJ League of Municipalities Annual Conference; New
Technologies Provide Support to State, County, and Local Government Agencies and The
Effect of Statewide Franchising including panelists: Former FCC Commissioner, Gloria Tristani and NJ Assembly Telecommunications Chair, Assembleman Upendra Chivukula, NJ BPU Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso and Washington DC attorney, Jim Horwood.
JAG was able to get a bill introduced by the NJ Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee to support changes to the NJ State Wide Franchise Agreement. The committee votes in favor of the bill.
The JAG/ACM conference continued to grow with focus on two major issues; Tapeless Workflow and Content Distribution and Regulation and Enforcement: Role and responsibilities of state offices regarding cable TV issues including panelists Celeste Fasone, Director, Office of Cable Television, Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso, NJ Board of Public Utilities, Christopher White, Deputy Public Advocate.
Late in 2009 JAG kicked off a marketing campaign with a booth on the trade show floor at the NJ League of Municipalities Annual Conference. In 2010 JAG launched its new web site www.jagonline.org with a number of features, embedded videos, and links to keep our membership informed about the work of the organization and related activities in the area of telecommunications.
JAG/ACM annual conference developed a new model to increase the outreach and success of the event though new partnerships. Renamed The Eastern Region Community Media Conference, Power of Partners Version 1.0, the conference moved to a larger venue. Presentation by vendors became a major educational component of the conference as technology changes require stations to address changes in station workflow.
JAG begain to recognize excellence in video production to see if there was
interest in an annual video awards program. With only a few categories the response made it clear that this would become another benefit in being a member of JAG.
As part of JAG’s outreach program, a one day Student Symposium was added to the conference events which allows students in New Jersey the opportunity to learn about the field of televison from industry professionals and the resources available at their town’s local television facility. They also are able to spend time on the trade show floor visting with the vendors and learning about the latest technology.
JAG mobilizes its membership to combat state legislation that would eliminate
the requirements for telecom providers to care or support community media.
While the bill was fast tracked through the NJ Assembly it still needed to be
introduced into the NJ Senate. JAG notified it’s membership and within 24 hours
JAG mobilized and members met with their state senators to explain the damage
the bill would have on local community television. JAG was able to get enough no
votes in place so that the bill never was presented before the NJ Senate for a vote.
This marked a major victory in what continues to be an ongoing effort by telecommunication providers to remove any support for community media in NJ.
JAG begins annual JAM Video Awards, recognizing excellance in video production. This program is for members and residents of New Jersey and adds to the many benefits available to members of JAG.
JAG launched its conference web site www.powerofpartners.org and increased its conference partners to nine. The conference recorded its largest trade show with 55 vendors. We also added a pre-conference training day to the event and made the JAM Video Awards part of the banquet.
JAG becomes the New Jersey chapter of The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). This marks a major change inJAG’s structure that expands it into all areas of telecommunications to include broadband, right-a-way, franchise fees, wireless communications, and developing technology. This opens membership to all municipalities in New Jersey regardless of whether or not they have a TV station.
The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors’ Executive Director, Steve Traylor, is conference keynote speaker. NATOA is the premier local government professional association that provides support to its members on the many local, state, and federal communications laws, administrative rulings, judicial decisions, and technology issues impacting the
interests of local governments. Founded in 1980, NATOA offer a wide range of advocacy services to individual and agency members representing cities, towns, counties and commissions across the country. NATOA actively analyzes and addresses emerging issues in areas such as local government communications and internet policy; broadband planning best practices; cable franchising; wireless zoning; new technology initiatives and advancements; and operation of public, education and government (PEG) access channels. www.natoa.org
JAG partnered with the NJ League of Municipalities to present a 1⁄2 day workshop on broadband.
As a chapter of NATOA, JAG began work towards reaching out to other organizations in support of New Jersey’scommunications. JAG hosted its 9th annual community media conference. JAG added new conference partner, the NJ League of Municipalities, representing over 500 municipalities. At this year’s conference NATOA and the NJ League of Municipalities partnered to produce a full day of municipal workshops.
The Jersey Access Group, through its student outreach program, hosted a student symposium allowing us to reach out to the educational community to allow students to fully experience our media conference. 200 students from 12 area high schools and vocational schools, interested in the media field, were afforded the opportunity to participate in a day-long program that explored the many facets of a career in video production. The program included a special guest lecturer, NASA TV producer, Mike Bibbo and time to visit with over 50 exhibitors on our trade show floor.
Special recognitions for legislative support of community media in New Jersey were presented to Senator Barbara Buono, Legislator of the Year and Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, Municipal Excellence Award.
The NJ League of Municipalities approved JAG as an affiliate organization resulting in JAG taking a major role in providing support to New Jersey Municipalities in all areas of communications.
JAG also held its annual JAM video awards which included a special student category.
JAG continues to have monthly meeting and has added a guest presentation to keep our membership informed of technology changes in the communication industry and related issues.
JAG provided a number of articles for publication in the NJ League Magazine: Building the Business Case for Government Fiber Networks: A Guide for New Jersey Municipalities, Cybersecurity: Local Governments Need to be Prepared, Social Media After 10 Years: Free Speech and Employee Use of Social Media Sites in 2014, The Value of Community Access Channels and The Jersey Access Group. (available at www.jagonline.org )
JAG also filed comments with the NJ Board of Public Utilities regarding proposed changes to the New Jersey Cable Television Act (available at www.jagonline.org )
JAG celebrated the tenth anniversary of its annual conference. JAG has entered into an agreement with MassAccess, Massachusetts to share resources that include becoming a conference partner and providing support in the development of workshops.
Special recognitions for legislative support of community media in New Jersey were presented to NJ Assemblyman Craig Coughlin, Legislator of the Year and Bloomfield, NJ Mayor Michael Venzia, Municipal Excellence Award.
JAG presented two sessions at the NJLOM annual conference: Cable Franchise Renewals in an Era of Changing Technology and Joint Session with NJLM and JAG, Local Government Communications in a Digital World?
The JAM Awards continues to grow.
JAG responded to the NJ Board of Public Utilities because they were readopting with Amendments the rules for the “Regulations of Cable Television – N.J.A.C.-14:18”. JAG put in many objections to why certain sections of the changes would not work.
JAG, an affiliate member of the NJ League of Municipalities, conducted a joint workshop with them at their annual convention in Atlantic City. It was entitled “FirstNet/JerseyNet”.
JAG responded to the White Paper #6 request about – Regulation of the Market for Video Content and Distribution. U.S. Representatives Greg Walden and Fred Upton wanted information on the “Reasons for the Continued Existence of (PEG) – Public, Education & Government Television Stations”. A ten point response was created by JAG and sent to both Congressmen. A copy of these responses was also sent to NJ Representatives Frank Pallone and Leonard Lance.
JAG hosted its biggest outreach event of the year, the 11th annual community media conference. Our biggest moments of the conference was when our guest speaker was announced, Representative Frank Pallone, ranking member of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The Congressman made it clear to all of us that if we need to talk to him about Access television, to call him.
JAG has added an Organizational Membership category that provides vendors with an
opportunity to take a more proactive role in our group. There are a number of benefits to include an annual submission of an article for our newsletter and a product presentation at one of JAG’s meetings.
At the request of the FCC JAG responded with input on Multichannel Video Programming Distributers. JAG stated its views regarding channel line-up placement, the fight to get HD, and not being allowed to place our content information on their programming guides as everyone else can. Also in April, JAG sent in a letter to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities (NJBPU) about the pending deal between Altice and the existing cable company, Cablevision. We took no sides on the issue, but just simply stated that JAG was hoping to continue the same level of cooperation and support with Altice that we have had in the past with Cablevision.
In May, JAG hosted its biggest outreach event of the year, the 12th annual communication and technology conference. Our vendor trade show was represented by over 60 exhibitors showcasing the products from major manufacturers in the television production world. Joining us were representative of JerseyNet, New Jersey’s component of FirstNet, consisting of a fully operational emergency network simulation.
JAG added instruction and demonstrations of the operation of unmanned aircraft (drones). There were also workshops to discuss the proper use, regulations and FAA certifications by Christina Engh, ex-Apache helicopter pilot and current COO of UASolutions Group. She monitors booth FAA and FCC issues related to the use of unmanned aircraft technology.
JAG’s recognized Legislator of the Year recipient, Representative Leonard Lance, member of the Energy and Commerce Committee for his support of community media.
In February, JAG climbed on the band wagon with other stations from around the country to add our thoughts to the FCC’s request for input on the Small Cell Matter. Since May of 2016, JAG’s has been working with one of our vendors on the Closed Captioning issue. At our 2017 Conference, this vendor
reported out that they are very close to a solution to our needs.
In May, JAG hosted its biggest outreach event of the year, the 13th annual communication and technology conference. Our vendor trade show was attended by over 50 exhibitors showcasing the products from major manufacturers in the television production world. A special section on lighting included 14 vendors. JAG presented the Municipal Excelance Award to Jim Bullard, Councilman, Piscataway and the Legislator of the Year to Freeholder Alexander Mirabella, Union County.
A keynote presentation Next Generation IP -5G and the Internet of Things discussed 5G technology has the power to transform our communities into “smart” cities, bringing with it super fast wireless broadband, autonomous cars, telesurgery – and a lot more infrastructure. Special Guest Panelists included Elad Nafshi, Comcast, Senior Vice President Next Generation Access Network, Samuel Delgado, Vice President External Affairs, Verizon, NJ, Ken Fellman, Esq., Helmer, Conley and Kasselman and was moderatorbySteve Traylor, Ex. Director, NATOA
JAG’s annual conference changed its name to Eastern Video Expo to open the event up to everyone working in video. Partnerships were also established with NJ’s Free Press and the Center for Cooperative Media.
Newly hired Nancy Werner, NATOA General Council was introduced and spoke at the keynote lunch. A presentation at the lunch contiuned to discuss Wireless Broadband and 5G Deployment: How it Works and Why We Need it. This presentation dealt with understanding the technology with support for higher data rates, lower latency and a denser network and the infrastructure needs to be deployed in government rights-of-way.
Industry experts on the panelist were Joshua Broder, CEO, Tilson; Danny Dichter, Senior Manager-RF Design, Verizon Wireless; Anthony (Tony) Suppa, Project Manager, PSE&G; and Charlie Bostek, NAR Mobility Technical Sales- VzW Customer Team, Nokia. The moderatorwas Mayor Brian Wahler, Piscataway, Chair of the NJLOM Telecommunications Committee and Chair of the Utilities Task Force.
JAG faced FCC’s efforts to require municipalities to use their franchise fees to pay for the current in-kind services provided by the cable provider. Because this could result in towns needing to decide if they will use their franchise fees to support their cable channel or give up their channel. JAG filed comments, visited the FCC, meeting with all of the commissioners and the media bureau. While in DC JAG meet with representative of the Commerce and Trade Committee that oversees the FCC.
JAG’s annual conference partnered with FM Valenti to produce the trade show resulting in over 50 vendors participating. Our Legislative Workshop, New Jersey Telecommunications Policy: Where We Are and Where We’re Going addressed the pending FCC rulings and the battle that will ensue. The panel included Mayor Brian Wahler, Piscataway; BPU Commissioner Upendra Chivukula; Mayor Colleen Mahr, Fanwood, President of the NJ League of Municipalities; Moderator: Ed Purcell, DiFrancesco Bateman. This workshop resulted in JAG and NJLM introducing a Call to Action in an effort to energize the state to fight the FCC.
2020 was a challenging year for everyone. As Covid 19 spread around the world, JAG responded to the pandemic by immediately cancelling our 2020 Eastern Video Expo Conference and with it, the 2020 JAG Awards. To ensure safety, we made all our monthly membership meetings virtual, and we supplemented those meetings with virtual webinars and on-line social chats.
During the pandemic, many of our member stations found new ways to service their communities. In addition to providing hyper local Covid 19 updates and health tips to help control the disease, JAG stations did their best to help their residents experience some form of normality. Our members carried virtual town council meetings to provide residents access to issues facing their local governments. Many stations carried the governor’s entire daily press conferences, and covered other health crisis related updates from their local officials. When attendance at gatherings outside the home was limited, many stations carried services from local religious institutions. With kids stuck at home, several stations provided children’s programming from mayor’s reading books out loud to drawing lessons for kids in need of something to do while their parents worked from home. When normal high school and college graduations were canceled, many stations provided coverage of virtual graduation ceremonies.
Despite the serious health crisis, the Pandemic gave our municipal members a chance to prove just how valuable they are to the communities they serve.