How to Work With Your TV Committee

by Geoffrey Belinfante, External Relations Committee, Chair

This month, on Thursday March 21, JAG is scheduled to have a Managers Roundtable on how to work with cable TV committees/commissions. Here in West Milford we don’t have a TV committee per se, all of the folks who are involved in the running of WM77 are considered commissioners and serve on what we call the TV commission. While most of us run the day-to-day operation of the station, the most important commissioners are the two liaisons from the council that represent our interests.  And represent us –with enthusiasm and insights about what the mayor and council are thinking.

Ada Erik and Marilyn Lichtenberg have been staunch supports of the station since its inception more than 10 years ago.  Ada, whom many of you know, was instrumental in getting the station launched and she is the first to tell anyone who will listen that she and her fledgling committee couldn’t have done it without JAG.  Likewise, the members of the committee couldn’t have done it without the full support of our council liaisons.

During the early days, we got guidance from JAG about everything from policies and procedures to technical advice on equipment purchases, but once the station was up and running, it was our council liaisons who provided those of us on the operational side with the support to keep us going. 

As you might expect, not everyone on the council was a fan of the station. Some members didn’t want the meetings filmed at all and others were concerned that there was yet another item to finance with a budget that was already tight. However. the station persevered despite the naysayers and doubters. In the early days, our program schedule was filled with council meetings, a community bulletin board and not much more. Then, gradually we added programing, in part thanks to the JAG server, but inevitably, at the urging of our council liaisons, there was the desire to produce more local programming and of course that meant the need for new equipment. I suppose that’s the normal progression for stations like ours, but our detractors on the council had their reservations. When faced with the need for more funding, Ada very wisely told the commissioners to give the township more local programming to make the channel more valuable to residents.  This turned out to be sound advice. 

First, we kept it simple, adding single camera shoots of school board meetings, lecturers at the library and town events like coverage of our Autumn Lights Festival and Memorial Day Ceremonies. Finally, we added more ambitious coverage of some of our high school sports, our summer concerts and a series of musical performances from a restaurant in town known as the Vreeland Store.  We even won our first JAG Award for a local show we produced on a Civil War reenactment at the historic Long Pond Iron Works in town. Just as Ada predicted, we gave the council and the residents programming that they didn’t know they wanted, but once they had it, WM77 was able to raise its profile among its most important constituents—the township council.  

The end result was, over time, funding for two new cameras, a wireless microphone package, a LiveU solo, a Black Magic switcher with monitor and an audio board. While we still don’t have a studio, there is even hope that the township will find us a permanent home in the very near future.

So, based on our experience up here in the highlands, the cable commission and its council liaisons, Ada and Marilyn, have been a driving force for our growth.  I would urge all members who have to work with a TV Commission to treat them as partners.  Win their respect with your dedication and the creative programs you produce. Give the council and your residence something they didn’t know they needed. Allow them to see themselves, their children and their elected officials at work and at play. Give them something they can’t see anywhere else on the dial—themselves.