JCETV: Origin and present day status of Jersey City’s Educational and Municipal Channels.

by Tom Horan, Jersey City Schools

My video production experience began in the mid 1980’s when cable television came to Jersey City.  At Seton Hall University in the early 1970’s I was taught filmmaking and television production on the then “portable” 1 inch machines. I also learned a lot about broadcasting and hosting a radio show for three years on the pre-Heavy Metal WSOU.  But the 1980’s arrival of Suburban Cable to the second largest city in New Jersey looked to me like uncharted territory for producing local commercials.

I opened Half Moon Video Productions and produced about 1000 30 second spots and industrial videos for customers ranging from restaurants to politicians. I also began to video a lot of dance productions for my wife, Diane Dragone, host of DANCE VISTA and Artistic Director of the Kennedy Dancers Inc.

In 1996, I was offered a Video Production teaching job at Snyder High School.  My arrival as a new teacher coincided with a football field tragedy when our 5’4” captain, Tahid Ramsey, sustained an injury that took his life after five days in the hospital.

As a storyteller I witnessed a mother rise up in front of all with a calm dignity as her son began to fail.  After his passing I, as a brand new TV teacher, waited two months and then guided my first class to produce a documentary telling the story of  where good kids come from…”Tahid Ramsey, the Warrior’s Gone Home” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JtBUIkOEIgY

Behind the Scenes in Studio

This video won a state-wide award and triggered a front page newspaper story in the Jersey Journal catching the eye of the Superintendent,  He realized that the students were producing on ancient equipment, and decided to invest $5 million in Abbott Funds to build a multi-media facility above the auditorium of Snyder High School. This enabled the school to offer a brand new Media curriculum.  This 12,000 sq. ft space included classrooms, two television studios and a full blown audio production studio.  Our ongoing message to incoming students is that their opportunity exists because of the opportunity that was deprived young Tahid.

Students using control room

In January 2001 I was the videographer for the City of Jersey City as well as Head of the Public School’s Media Program.  When Comcast arrived to hook up our PEG Channels, up I oversaw the building of a studio built in City Hall as well as on our facility floor at school. JC1TV was created with the Governmental channel sharing time on the air each week with the Educational channel. Students from my program were hired to help run the municipal station at City Hall after they completed their senior year at the Educational station – getting paid to produce for the school system.

Student using the Audio Board

Finally, in 2008, both stations were able to stop sharing the “one day on one day off” routine and JCETV (Jersey City Public Schools Educational Channel) as well as JCTV (Jersey City’s Governmental Channel) both had their own channels.  Until 2008 our High School media program was strictly for Snyder students, and from 1998 to 2008 students produced more than 800 daily morning newscasts to the building.  In 2008 we became a district program switching to District Newscasts winning a 2014 JAM/JAG Award.

Jersey City Station ID

The motto for JCETV is “Education for Life-Long Learners”. Over the years we’ve produced Master Classes, Concerts, Teacher of the Year spectaculars as well as a foray into Sports productions.  Here is a short example of our breadth of programming over the years.  https://youtu.be/V9eDslQVJUY

Guests we’ve featured in our television productions over the years have included two Attorney Generals, three New Jersey Secretaries of State, Major League, Super Bowl and Olympic Champions and college athletes from a number of sports.  We’ve also interviewed Cecily Tyson, RZA from WuTang Clan, Derek Luke (a Jersey City high school graduate) and a number of motivational role models such as the three doctors in our shows “Beyond Ten Square Blocks” and “Career Profiles”.

JCETV recently experienced a long awaited update upgrading our studio cameras to 4K and installing LED lighting. (First replacement of studio cameras since 2000 when we moved into the facility).  We have a New-Tek Tricaster at the core of our live production stream and our students learn production ranging from live studio productions to ENG & EFP.

Picture of the Staff

My staff consists of all professionals.  Mike Rauseo, my chief engineer, is a professional drummer as well as a seasoned recording engineer.  Patric Fharah , out television instructor,  has a deep background in television and radio production as well as knowledge of many current sports — high school, collegiate, and professional.  Lou Inzeo is a professional musician who has extensive experience in audio production as well as technical issues of the broadcasting medium.

Most importantly are the students who have come through the program, which is now called…The B.E.S.T. Program (Broadcasting & Electronic Story-Telling).

Bulletin Board Post for TV Producers

Although we don’t expect all students to stay with television production, we do expect them to be able to story-tell with a much better sense of laying out stories with the proper use of equipment and software.  One of our students has already retired from a career at NFL Films and has married CBS Sports Analyst James Brown’s daughter.  Another is heading up a video agency for professional videos requested by Casting Agents on both coasts.  Another heads up Video production at Grey Advertising and another is breaking through in acting on Television. All in all, Jersey City Educational Television (JCETV) and the B.E.S.T. Program has provided a platform for students to shine lights on good things going on in our school system, and to map out a successful future in any medium they choose. 

Federal Communications Law and Policy: What to Expect in 2022

by Nancy Werner, General Counsel, NATOA

After years of frenzied federal activity in the communications space, particularly by the Federal Communications Commission, 2021 was a relatively slow year for local governments in terms of battling proposals that would harm community interests and PEG access operations.  On the flip side, this reprieve also meant that little has been done to curb the harmful impacts of past laws and decisions.  So, what will 2022 bring? 

For the immediate future, the answer likely is more gridlock on several local government priorities.  The five-member FCC has been stuck at four Commissioners for a year.  As we await Senate confirmation of Gigi Sohn, President Biden’s nominee for the open Commission seat, the current 2-2 split of Democrats and Republicans on the Commission likely means that Chairwoman Rosenworcel will not have the votes to revisit Commission decisions that were most harmful to local interests, including decisions she opposed as a Commissioner such as the “Section 621 Order” that impacts cable franchise fees and PEG operations.

But there is hope for change.  With respect to the Section 621 Order, last fall a coalition of local governments, including NATOA, asked the Supreme Court to review the Sixth Circuit’s decision upholding portions of the Order.  If the Supreme Court agrees, we could see further judicial undoing of portions of the Order.  Even if the Court does not take the case, the FCC must revise the portion of its rules the Circuit court struck down, which may provide an opportunity to revisit portions of the Order.

Another reason for hope is that Senator Markey and Representative Eshoo have reintroduced the Protecting Community Television Act (S. 3361) (H.R. 6219).  This bill would amend the Cable Act to clarify that franchise fees do not include “in-kind” franchise obligations, essentially undoing the FCC’s misinterpretation of the term “franchise fees” in the Section 621 Order.  Representatives Payne and Watson Colman are cosponsors of the House bill, but as of early January, no other New Jersey members of Congress are cosponsors.  So, your homework assignment for the month is to get the rest of the delegation on board as cosponsors!

While the lack of movement on cable franchise fees and other key issues in 2021 was a disappointment, there were some truly remarkable changes that will continue into 2022.  The federal funds dedicated to closing the digital divide have the potential to bring broadband to historically un- and underserved communities, improving the quality of life for many Americans.  The FCC continues to implement broadband affordability programs established by Congress, including the new Affordable Connectivity Program established in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).  (Homework assignment number two: Help spread the word about these subsidies using information provided in the ACP Outreach Toolkit.)

This year will also bring an unprecedented investment in broadband through grant programs established in the IIJA.  The largest program is the Broadband Equity, Access, and Deployment (BEAD) Program, which appropriates $42.45 billion for states and territories to utilize for broadband deployment, mapping, and adoption projects. This program will be administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is currently working on a Notice of Funding Opportunity that will provide more details on the program.  Stay tuned! There will, of course, be many unforeseen challenges that come up at the FCC and in Congress in 2022.  NATOA’s mission is to provide our members and Chapters the education, connection and resources needed to respond to these challenges.  We will continue this work, and our advocacy on behalf of local governments and access channels.  Keep up the great work you do every day, and we hope to see you at NATOA’s Annual Conference from August 30-September 1, in Denver, Colorado.

New JVC PTZ Cameras for Remote Production Over the Internet (REMI)

JVC Connected Cam PTZ camera

CONNECTED CAM™ Line Offers High-quality, Low-latency IP Video Transmission

Producing live video broadcasts is never easy, but it is especially difficult during pandemic times with limited personnel and less travel options. In many cases, the traditional approach of shipping production equipment from location to location with a professional crew may not be an option. Ensuring you still get the content you need in this new environment becomes much easier with the right tools in place.

The new JVC CONNECTED CAM™ series of PTZ cameras feature technology for sending broadcast-quality video over the internet and local area networks (LAN), transforming the entire world into one big production studio where cameras and video switchers can be separated by thousands of miles. Cameras can be deployed from any location with an internet connection, while video switchers and other production equipment, as well as the operators, can be conveniently situated in a central studio, sometimes across the continent.

High-speed internet is widely available, and at an affordable cost for unlimited data, which makes it a perfect medium for bi-directional video communication. At the same time, the internet is a public network, being used by billions, which results in unpredicted congestion, data loss and jitter. These factors may not affect the regular user but will cause corruption of live video streams. So, special error-resilient protocols are required for successful production over the internet.

JVC CONNECTED CAM cameras integrate the Secure Reliable Transport (SRT) streaming protocol that is resilient to intermittent connectivity, data loss and connection speed fluctuations. The advanced streaming capabilities of the incorporated SRT technology adds Automatic Repeat Request (ARQ) and Forward Error Correction (FEC) to prevent packet loss typically found on internet connections. High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC) further enhances the Remote Production Over the Internet (REMI) workflow producing excellent video quality streams at low bitrates.

Both the JVC KY-PZ200 and KY-PZ400 PTZ models include SRT streaming and HEVC encoding for successful REMI, with only an internet connection needed for video transmission. The SRT streams can be sent directly to compatible video switchers, such as NewTek TriCaster and vMix, and to JVC’s BR-DE900 decoder for a 3G-SDI output. The incorporated Vertical Interval Time Code (VITC) with Network Time Protocol (NTP) provides the new JVC PTZ cameras with multi-camera synchronization for streaming and live event production. All cameras also feature 3G-SDI and HDMI outputs for conventional production and support RTMP/S streaming directly to Facebook, YouTube and other Content Delivery Networks (CDN).

Since most devices are protected by firewalls and Network Address Translation (NAT), PTZ controls over the internet can be challenging. JVC’s long-time partner Peplink provides an excellent Virtual Private Network-based (VPN) solution for these new JVC PTZ cameras. This secure, outgoing VPN provides camera control and PTZ/tally operation behind firewalls, with zero on-site network alteration needed. Small and affordable Peplink SOHO and Balance routers bridge remote sites to the central studio network for easy access to all devices around the world. JVC’s PTZ cameras can also be controlled directly by vMix and TriCaster video switchers, while the dedicated JVC RM-LP100 controller adds a PTZ joystick and a full set of video settings and presets.

The significance of the Network Device Interface (NDI) software cannot be underestimated for local video production. Developed by Newtek, NDI provides audio, video and PTZ control via a single LAN cable with Power over Ethernet (PoE). The KY-PZ400N and KY-PZ200N cameras support NDI®|HX and can contribute high-quality video streams to NDI-enabled video switchers via a standard LAN connection. Both NDI®|HX and SRT streams can operate simultaneously. This means that the same camera(s) can provide live video for the local NDI mixer and for REMI productions.

The JVC CONNECTED CAM family of products includes camcorders for all levels of production, including broadcast, sports, corporate, education and HOW. From the GY-HC900, a full-size 2/3-inch camcorder, to the handheld one-inch CMOS GY-HC500/550 and new KY-PZ200/400 PTZs, all JVC cameras support SRT streaming and remote control over the internet. In addition to sending video, the HC-series also adds integrated SRT decoders for return video and IFB.

No matter which camera solution is chosen, JVC CONNECTED CAMs work well for anything from a simple office livestream to a full multi-camera studio production. Reducing the sheer volume of equipment also allows users to build very portable systems while leveraging existing network hardware wherever they go, and without demanding a complex setup process. Join Edgar Shane, General Manager, Engineering for a presentation at JAG’s general meeting on January 25, 2022.

Social Media Stats – January 2022

by Doug Seidel, Social Media Manager, External Relations Committee

Now is your chance to let us know what you think of our newsletter.  You can use the link here or the link that you will receive via e-mail to fill out a quick survey.  Please take the time to fill this out, it can really help out JAG.  We want to make our newsletter the best resource it can be for our membership and your feedback will help make it the best it can be.  Survey will close February 28.

I also wanted to remind everyone to send submissions for the JAG YouTube channel.  Right now only a few stations are being featured on the channel.  You don’t want to miss out on the chance to get more exposure for your videos.  There are links below to check out our channel as well as my e-mail for submissions.  I hope to see our YouTube channel gain some more momentum this year and you all can help by keeping a constant update in our featured videos.  Thanks in advance to all our members.

Jersey Access Group

facebook.com/pegtv    linkedin.com/company/jersey-access-group   instagram.com/jersey_access_group


facebook.com/Easternvideoexpo      instagram.com/easternvideox/

Do not forget to check out our YouTube channel.  Have something you want on our YouTube channel?  Send a link to dseidel@piscatawaynj.org  for review. 

New Content on YouTube:   Broadband Panel at NJLOM – JAG  Holiday Extravaganza – Woodbridge 

Over the Top Panel at NJLOM – JAG

NEW CONTENT ON WEBSITE- We have now posted 24 programs from the Eastern Video Expo events to the members only section of our website.  To view the video content links below, you need a members only password.

Emaillbesink@gmail.com  for the password.

JAG has recorded our two sessions at the NJ League of Municipalities and added them to the Members Only session of our website.

Broadband Deployment in the National Infrastructure Bill. A JAG Joint Session with the NJ League.


Post Pandemic Tools That Can Help You Reach Your Citizens

Share the value of Jag’s newsletter with your elected officials, cable committee, station volunteers, associates, and friends.  Send this invitation: https://lp.constantcontactpages.com/su/B7EMU1R/JAGnewsletter

President’s Message – January 2022

by Bob Duthaler

Hail and Farewell

We began 2022 with the Annual Board of Trustees Reorganization Meeting and the election of officers with the following results:

Bob Duthaler- President, Doug Seidel- Vice President, Stephanie Gibbons- Corresponding Secretary, Anthony Pagliuco- Recording Secretary, and Linda Besink- Treasurer.

Standing Committees and Chairs are: Bob Duthaler- Executive, Linda Besink- Finance, Geoffrey Belinfante -External Relations, and Lee Beckerman- Production.

We have re-established the following Ad Hoc Committees and Chairs: Membership- Stephanie Gibbons, Legislative- Dave Garb, Leadership Development – Doug Seidel, Conference- Bob Duthaler & Geoffrey Belinfante, and JAG Awards- George Fairfield.

In addition to gaining three new Board of Trustee Members – Rick Gearhart, Doug Seidel and Bob Nicholson – we say goodbye to three others.  I would like to recognize departing board member Dave Ambrosy.  Dave played a significant role in the success of JAG throughout his years of leadership on the board and through his commitment to the success and fun with our annual conference.  We thank him for his work as a trustee and wish him well.  He will be missed.  We also thank Jeff Arban for his years of service on the board.  Jeff brought to the board his extensive engineering knowledge of our industry, production insight and, more importantly, he would also challenge the board to do and be better.  Jeff and his ability to keep us grounded will be missed amongst the board.  Finally, I would like to thank Darryl Love for his time he served on the JAG Board.  Darryl fought hard on the board to bring in new types of members and reach underserved communities.  In addition, Darryl’s extensive professional broadcast experience expanded the way we approached productions and was an insightful voice for those looking to learn.  He was also a good friend to me personally.  I wish to thank him for his time on the board and the changes he brought forth.

I have identified several goals for 2022 that I presented to the executive board at the reorganization meeting.  JAG needs to increase our member benefits.  Some ways we will approach this is through vital communication efforts like the one you are reading now, our newsletter.  In addition, we will continue to hold Station Managers round table discussions and webinars throughout the year.  We are in the process of planning an in-person trade show, JAG Awards Banquet and virtual conference sessions.  The hybrid Eastern Video Expo and Conference will be this year’s “must attend” event.  Save the date of May 24-26 and look for updated information on the conference website, www.easternvideoexpo.com in February.  JAG will continue to have guest speakers or vendor presentations at all its meetings to keep providing more value to your JAG membership.  JAG will continue to explore new membership classifications and fees and develop a new marketing plan for the organization.  Our production committee is working on a training video series – look for that in the second half of 2022.  The Legislative committee will continue to keep you informed and updated on the many legislative battles both nationally and on a state level.  I urge you to follow the progress on the Cable Preservation Act, FCC orders and Broadband to name a few.  Also be on the lookout for when the Legislative Committee calls upon all JAG members to act.  I look forward to a great year and thank the trustees for their support in electing me to lead this great organization once again… this is not something I take lightly.  .

President’s Message – December 2021

by Bob Duthaler

Annual Holiday Wish List

It is now officially the start of the Holiday Season, with Thanksgiving just past us and the New Year just a few weeks away.  Every year at my house, we get ready to celebrate Christmas as my wife starts working on the kids Christmas List!  They are getting older, and it becomes more of a challenge, plus the gifts become more expensive.  The same can be said for running your station.

What would be on your list this year for your station?  There is no wrong answer in this situation.  Each of our stations operates differently from others across the state and they vary greatly.  But each has the same core principle, to inform the community in which they serve.  When you make your wish list, keep in mind your community, their needs and how as a station you can serve them.  You should think of your station as both a marketing arm of your township and a main source for information.

It’s no big secret that I am a tech head!  I love new and exciting things that come along and can help our industry.  I love to play around with these items, demo them, beta test and give valuable feedback on how they would fit in with my station operations and how to best serve my community.  With that in mind, I am going to share with you some items that are on my wish list for this holiday season.  Now these may not be your needs but let these act as a guide or talking point for your station.

Enhanced Live Broadcasts – Going live seemed to be the number one item on my list last year.  Now we are challenged on ways to not only maintain the increased number of live broadcasts we are doing but enhance the quality as well.  We have moved past the point of being able to go live from anywhere, thanks in no small part from the many vendors that support JAG like LiveU, TelVue, Cablecast, Rushworks, and JVC.  We can already now do remote location meetings live (BOE, Zoning, Planning and Council to name a few) in addition to streaming them live on our website, the township website, and social media.  Our goal now is to increase the quality of those broadcasts by using NDI Technology, creative graphics, and enhanced production techniques.  New Tricaster switchers from Newtek help take the “Zoom Meeting” to the next level and make it a live broadcast production and not just another live computer meeting.  NDI 5 (latest release) also allows computers on your network to become inputs into your production as well.  This allows participants on these Zoom, Teams and other meeting platforms to become individual inputs into your production.  It is like having an individual camera in each location by leveraging the computer’s camera.  Now you can even send links via the public internet to invite people into your production, again by using  the cameras on their computer, laptop or smartphone and the public internet.

OTT and High Definition – While cable continues to be the heart of our operation and broadcast source, we need to find ways to enhance our broadcast quality and, at the same time include those who may have cut the cable cord.  Now is the time for our stations to focus on getting a high-definition channel on their cable system.  You know from your own viewing habits, high definition is the number one way we watch television on cable and on demand.  There is evidence over the years, and even more in 2020 and 2021, that people are not watching television in the same old linear format.   People do not always tune in at 9pm to watch a particular program.

Our lives are busier now than they were years ago, running in different directions.  We are now an “on-demand” society, wanting to consume video when we want, and how we want.  Therefore, it is important to establish an online presence, have a video on demand source and be active in social media.  People tend to turn to their mobile devices first, so you need to make sure you stay on their radar.  Since viewing habits have changed, binge watching programs and sources have become the new norm.  We must continue to be part of that source and get our station and programs out to those individuals.  Over-The-Top (OTT) devices like ROKU, Apple TV and Fire Stick are some examples of those sources of content distribution.  This is why we feel it is important to be part of that as well.  We just recently launched Apple TV, ROKU and Amazon Fire Channels in Bloomfield.  This allows our viewers on demand access to our content, while still having scheduled live events.  If you have any of these devices, feel free to add our channel by searching WBMA-TV Bloomfield, and add our channel!  We are currently working on getting both an iOS and Android App for the beginning of the new year.  This will allow app viewing from a cellphone and tablet.

Closed Captioning:  Have you been like me over these last few years and realized that closed captioning is important, but did not pay much attention to it?  Reading more and more about closed captioning solutions, seeing what our vendors have to offer and evaluating what has been presented to our group during our meetings, this will become a focus for 2022.  Discussions about closed captioning continue to pop-up in FCC discussions, on a federal level and even at state level.  What about a local level?  Does your community desire this ability?  Studies have shown that is the case.  Having video with closed captioning allows your videos to be more inclusive to a wider population.  As technology gets better and demand increases, so does the quality of the closed captioning.  Something to keep in mind is that there are several paths to take when looking at closed captioning.  Do I buy equipment outright and pay a licensing fee?  Is a cloud-based option right for me?  How can I ease my way into this?  These are all good questions and something you need to decide.  You need to figure out your community’s needs, your operational and capital budget and the ease of operations that is right for you.  Fortunately, you have access to many vendors like Municipal Captioning, Cablecast and TelVue who all have closed captioning solutions to meet your station’s needs.  I would urge you to figure out what you want and can afford, speak with all the vendors and determine which solution works best for you.  I am sure they all offer some sort of demo/trial you can explore to reach the solution that works for you community and station needs.

Let these items I mentioned be the start of your discussion at both your station and township level of things that will increase the quality and accessibility of your programming to your community.  Some of you may want the same thing, some may want something different, and others may just be trying to find solutions within their budget.  It does not matter what path you take next, the important thing is to have a plan in mind, get that information out to your viewers and keep engaging them as well.  It will be at that point that you find that wishes do come true!  I wish your station, your family and yourself all the best for this upcoming Holiday Season.  Please do not hesitate to reach out to me with any questions you might have as I am always willing to share my thoughts and experiences:  bduthaler@jagonline.org  

As we close out this year, I was thinking about how my wish list originally came out of the pandemic, but find it moving beyond that.  Seems that every step we have taken as an organization has centered around how we would communicate to our community but, more importantly, how we communicate with each other.  We continue our monthly meetings in a virtual environment.  We continue with webinars and virtual hangout sessions.  At some point in the new year, we need to explore how we start to get back together in person, while still offering the convenience of online gatherings.  I think the beginning of this will be our Annual Conference (Eastern Video Expo) and our in-person trade show which is tentatively scheduled for Wednesday, May 25th , along with our JAG Awards that evening.  Plus our virtual conference sessions surrounding that event on Tuesday, May 24th and Thursday, May 26th.

I need to recognize the work of the Executive Board.  I have been proud to be working with this dedicated group.  As you know they are responsible for the direction of the organization.  Many of them chair the committees of our organization. Each August they meet and evaluate JAG’s Policies & Procedures which includes JAG’s Mission, Goals, Objectives, Member Benefits and the responsibilities of all its committees.  The newsletter will focus on one of these subjects each month to aid our membership in understanding JAG.

In each newsletter a page is devoted to a list of the members on each of JAG’s nine committees.  If you look at the list, you will see a lot of names, but take a closer look — many of the names repeat.  There are only about 21 names.  If you found all that JAG accomplished this year amazing, you now realize how few members were responsible.  I would like to add one more item to my wish list.  I wish each member of JAG would find a way to give JAG an hour a month to help us deal with the new normal. Finally, as I mentioned each month in my article, JAG as an organization is a very social group.  Face to face interaction at this point continues to not be possible but there are work arounds.  I encourage you to take part in these events, webinars, monthly virtual meetings, impromptu online gatherings and perhaps an online happy hour!  Stay Home, Stay Safe and make the most of this time with your family and loved ones during this holiday season.

Spotlight Miriam – Producing a Show During Covid

by Miriam Rosenberg, Independent Producer

My name is Miriam Rosenberg and I am an independent producer, and the writer and host of Sing-a-Long with Miss Miriam which I produce in cooperation with the staff at HTTV in Summit.  I have been producing and airing a children’s show with HTTV for about 5 years now.  I currently have 19 episodes on the JAG TelVue server, and 52 stations have picked up the shows.

The themes include: Caring for our Planet, Planets, Courage, Spring, Magic, Puppetry, Science, Positivity, Kindness, Sports, Living Your Dreams, Trying New Things, Teamwork, Learning Popular Songs with Acting a Part, Diversity, Therapy Horses, and a Mr. Rogers tribute.  Each show has a unique theme, a featured craft, an interesting guest, an original song and story time.  It’s aimed at children from three to eight years old.

My shows are along the same line as Mr. Rogers, Romper Room, and Captain Kangaroo.  They are very positive and uplifting.  I feel that children today need positive role models so they can learn be kind to themselves and others. 

I am also a pediatric Occupational Therapist, Yoga teacher, and a musician, and I try to incorporate my expertise into each and every show.  This show is definitely a labor of love with a noble goal!

Making my children’s shows a reality has taken a lot of fairy dust and hard work!!!  Growing up, I always loved children’s shows.  I felt the characters were talking to me and I was right there with them having fun and learning something new.  They were so much fun.  I always liked romping around the room with Miss Nancy on Romper Room on my toy stick horse, or listening to Mr. Green Jeans, or Mr. Rogers.  They were interactive and oh so simple.   My goal is to bring that feeling back so today’s children can experience it.  The World is so complicated and there are so may negative images for children.  I hope to bring back the purity and magic of childhood in every show.

I work with a great crew at HTTV, so we were able to navigate the pandemic storm together.  This includes Amanda Olsen the station manager, and camera operator/editor John T. (Jay) McCann.  In addition, there is often at least one intern on the crew as well.

During the last year and a half with Covid there were more challenges in the studio and off site than usual.

We had to follow the protocol of using masks, being 6 feet apart and sanitizing surfaces and equipment as they were used throughout the shoot.

During the taping of the Tribute to Mr. Rogers show, which was in the studio, we had to be very aware of social distancing, sanitizing the surfaces and our hands constantly especially when we touched any of the equipment.

When I had to perform by either speaking or singing, I had to take off my mask.  Yes, we were at least 6 feet apart, and after each segment I put my mask back on.  All three of the staff in the studio also had to wear their masks throughout the shoot.

The cameras and equipment used were: two 4K JVC cameras and wireless lavalier mics for the guest and host.

On location at a horse farm

On location at the horse farm, we also used cameras on the horses to show their point of view.

Overall, the station manager and crew did a phenomenal job.  We always put safety first — even though it did take longer to shoot the episodes.

Another episode that I recently did with the crew was about Therapy horses.  This was shot on site outdoors at a horse farm called Hope’s Promise in Chester N.J.  This was much easier since there was much more space to socially distance and we were in the fresh air.  If we had to come closer for any reason, we would automatically put on our masks.

Funny, now it almost seems normal and automatic to do this rather than when we first had to follow the safety protocols at the start of the pandemic in the studio.  As we all know, if there is a will there is always a way and the show must go on, and indeed it did thanks to the efforts of the crew at HTTV. Please check out my show at www.singalongandfunwithmissmiriam.com

The Art of the Interview

by Dustin Dumas, Station Manager, SOMAtv, South Orange/Maplewood, NJ

Arguably, one of the most important responsibilities of an independent producer is getting a great interview. It may mean that, you, as the producer are wearing several hats…perhaps being the interviewer yourself or assisting the interviewer in creating a great interview.  Either way, there is definitely an art to getting the most from the interviewee.  I have touched on interviewing techniques in a previous column but due to its importance I would like to focus on it in this column.

Setting It up:  Let’s start with the setting.  The setting is important to a great interview because it shows your guest that you took time and thought about them before the interview.  The setting is not only having the studio prepared when your guest arrives but, if you are not in a studio, having the on-location site ready is also important.  For example, if you are shooting outside, the set up should be so that the sun is not in your guest’s eyes, if there is rain, there should be umbrellas or tents available.  If there is anything that you can do that will make your guest feel comfortable for a better interview, do it.

I vividly remember hosting a live outdoor festival and suddenly being asked to interview the person who had helped organize the event.  The producer never informed her that she would be interviewed but asked her on live TV to “say a few words,” just as she was passing the area set up for interviews.  She had been running around taking care of issues that had arisen during the event, was sweaty, wearing a baseball cap that was covering her matted hair, which she pulled even lower when she was put on the spot, and was wearing shorts and a t-shirt.  Besides catching her off guard by asking her to say a few words, she was extremely self-conscious of how she looked as she had been working. She graciously agreed to do the interview but when the producer told her to take off her hat because they could not see her face due to it being shaded by the sun, she refused.  They compromised and she flipped the bill of the hat up, which looked ridiculous. It was one of the most awkward interviews I have ever done.  The viewer was not able to learn of the great work she had done to create this event because she was embarrassed and gave monosyllabic answers so she could get out of the interviewee chair as quickly as possible.

Aside from not asking for an interview on the spot during a live segment, the producer could have prepared by having the chairs situated in a way so that she was not squinting into the sun, had a tent set up so that the sun was not an issue, had a mirror available and  provided water for guests.  All of these things could have helped this guest, and the ones who followed her, feel more comfortable.  But the most important thing that producer could have done would have been to ask her, privately, if she was available to be interviewed later, which gets me to the next section — preparing your guest.

Prepare Your Guest:  I like speaking to people and interviewing them but not everyone likes to be a guest or be interviewed.  Some may do it out of necessity and some may genuinely like talking about their subject matter.  However, as the producer, it is your responsibility to ensure that an interview achieves the goals of both the interviewer and interviewee.  One way of doing this is to let your guest get a feel for the questions you will ask by sending them potential questions. I do this with all of my guests because many have never been on television before and have no idea what to expect.  Seeing the types of questions and being able to prepare helps guests feel comfortable.  The more comfortable the guests are, the more candid and more conversational the interview will be.  I always let my guests know that these questions are a starting point, that we will deviate and may not get to them all.  The other great thing about sending questions in advance is that it gives your guests an opportunity to submit questions they would like to be asked.  This goes back to making sure that the goals of the interviewer and interviewee are achieved.  If you are worried about the guest being over prepared and having rote answers to questions, I have never found that to be the case.  Part of being a good interviewer is being able to follow up answers with appropriate questions, and not simply following a list of prepared questions.

Avoid Pre-Interview Conversations:  While I am adamant about sending questions to guests before an interview, I am just as adamant about not having pre-conversations with guests about the things I will cover during the interview.  I am fine with speaking with them and allaying any fears they may have and answering general questions, but I have found that extensive pre-interview conversations definitely take the excitement and the candor out of the actual interview.  Unfortunately, I know this from experience.

Years ago, I had a guest who wanted to talk about her memoir weeks before the show.  Her story was compelling and I felt it would be both accessible and relatable to our audience.  However, she was uncomfortable with being on television, as she felt she would not come across well.  At first, she insisted that I come to her house and do a pre-interview and once I told her that would not be possible, we agreed upon a telephone call.  During the telephone call, she wanted to go over each question and, basically wanted to conduct the interview over the phone.  Fortunately, I was able to end the conversation before we went too far.  Once she arrived at the station, the interview went well but it was not as powerful as it could have been.  Some of the things that she shared over the phone were remarkable but were not mentioned during the actual interview, even with some subtle prodding.  I have also seen this happen when the host and guest chat too much about the subject matter before the show starts and forget some of the pertinent things that would have been great to reveal on camera rather than before the cameras started rolling.  These are some of the reasons that pre-interview conversations should be kept to a minimum and, ideally, should not cover the topics to be discussed.

Setting up the space, preparing your guests and avoiding pre-interview conversations are a few of the ways to make your guests feel comfortable and elicit the most candid and useful responses in an interview.  Using the techniques above may garner that one response you were not expecting that made all of the preparation worth it.

Dustin Dumas is the host and producer of Dustin’s Kaleidoscope and What’s Up Around Town. She is the station manager of the award-winning South Orange Maplewood Television station (SOMAtv) and serves as Vice Chair on the Jersey Access Group, External Relations Committee. She has been part of community television stations in Illinois, California and New Jersey and enjoys helping people tell their stories.

JAG Shines at NJ League of Municipalities

by Bob Duthaler, Jersey Access Group, President

Once again, the Jersey Access Group had the opportunity to participate at the New Jersey League of Municipalities Conference in Atlantic City.  JAG was on hand on the trade show floor with our booth, speaking to Mayors, Council Members and Administrators about our organization.  Our purpose was to inform municipalities of the importance of effectively communicating with their citizens.  Who better to let municipalities know how to do this then JAG members?… this is what we do! 

 I am sure that most of you (if not all) know that the Jersey Access Group is an affiliate member of the NJLM.  So, what does that mean?  What is the purpose?  It means that the League turns to us for leadership and information on telecommunication issues.  It looks to JAG to provide guidance through our resource as a member of NATOA for national legislation issues and more.  The NJLM also looks to JAG to participate at their annual conference, not only on the trade show floor but in conference sessions as well.  JAG held two conference sessions at this year’s League Conference.  Our first session was a joint session with the League of Municipalities in which I was lucky enough to be a panelist, along with a group of distinguished experts well versed on this topic.  I urge you to read Ken Fellman’s article in this very newsletter.

Geoffrey Belinfante, George Fairfield and Bob Duthaler presenting at OTT panel

 Our second session was an all JAG event.  Geoffrey Belinfante, George Fairfield and myself presented to a group of fifty plus people comprised of Mayors, Informational Directors, Council members and others.  Our session was entitled:  “Post-Pandemic Tools That Can Help Your Reach Your Citizens – Ways you can continue to reach your community after the lockdown and social distancing”.   The workshop addressed the question of “Now that you have given the public access to their local government meetings and other events in their homes can you go back to business as usual? Reaching your municipal community through a traditional cable channel is not the only game in town. We’ll look at new ways to engage your residents with over-the-top (OTT) devices and applications like Roku, AppleTV, on the web, and mobile devices”.

Bob Duthaler talks to attendees

We explored everything that our stations did during the crisis, technology we discovered along the way, ideas for communicating moving forward and more.  Interestingly, we also had an audience full of people who were interested in learning how to start their own access channel and we gave guidance on how to do that as well.  I thought it would be nice to also share this session with our members as well. 

Geoffrey Belinfante, George Fairfield and Bob Duthaler answer questions at OTT panel

We currently have this session (and the Broadband one too) available on the JAG website and YouTube page.  I urge you to share the links with your legislative body in your municipality.  Let them know the power of our organization.  Here is the video link to JAG session:  https://youtu.be/cu8hiNNCpIo  

NJLM Broadband Session Report

by Ken Fellman, Of Counsel, Helmer, Conley & Kasselman, PA

As an affiliate of the New Jersey League of Municipalities, JAG annually provides a session at the League’s annual conference on communications related issues.  JAG has had a history with the League of identifying and educating on relevant communications topics to New Jersey’s local governments.  In past years JAG sessions have addressed cable regulation, social media and wireless facilities deployment.  This year, on November 17th we gathered in Atlantic City to discuss one of the most pressing issues to New Jersey municipalities – new funding for broadband networks.

At the start of the session, we had a video welcome and an introduction of the importance of broadband deployment to all New Jersey communities from Congressman Josh Gottheimer.  Joining me on our panel was Christopher Mitchell from the Institute for Local Self Reliance and Robert Boyle, CEO of Planet Networks.  Robert spoke about the work his company is doing to connect New Jersey communities to 21st century broadband, while Chris and I addressed the new programs coming from Washington, D.C. to promote broadband deployment and usage in hard to serve areas, and the once in a generation opportunity this provides New Jersey communities to take control of their broadband futures.

There are multiple federal programs underway and in the planning stages that will aid with both broadband network deployment and broadband adoption.  Chris and I focused on two major pieces of legislation, the American Rescue Plan Act, passed on March 11, 2021, and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that was signed by President Biden two days before our session.  Both will provide funding that New Jersey local governments can use to deploy new broadband networks and can have the effect of promoting better broadband availability and adoption throughout the entire state. 

The funding from both bills require interaction between local government and the State.  The American Rescue Plan Act funds require applications through the Division of Local Government Services.  The Infrastructure Act will provide funding through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), a division of the U.S. Department of Commerce.  Each state will, at a minimum, receive $100 million.  Beyond that, additional state monies will depend upon the conditions within each state demonstrating the extent of unserved and underserved areas, and whether the state applies for digital equity grant funds that will be made available under the new law. 

NTIA will be reviewing new broadband coverage maps from the FCC which will be available sometime in 2022.  It is currently participating in listening sessions to get input as to how it should structure its grant programs to states.  Once a state receives funding, it too must develop a process to funnel these funds to entities that will build the networks, including local governments.  In fact, the law requires states to collaborate with local governments in developing their rules.  How New Jersey does this is yet to be seen, and JAG has a role here in helping its local government members work with the state to ensure a fair process.

We received a wide range of questions from communities of all sizes at the session.  Some were concerned with how they might work with companies like Planet Networks to bring broadband into underserved areas.  Others expressed great interest in exploring the possible expansion of local broadband networks that might be possible with this new federal money, and how that might position their communities to develop partnerships with the private sector to bring more broadband availability and affordability to New Jersey.  Clearly, this is an issue facing a wide variety of New Jersey jurisdictions.  We had questions and interest about the new broadband funding from very small communities in Somerset and Cumberland Counties, suburban communities in Bergen County, larger communities in Ocean County, and even larger cities like Newark and Atlantic City.  Our takeaway was that broadband deployment and adoption, and how these new federal programs might help improve it, is going to be a critically important issue in New Jersey over the next few years.

It is not clear which department of State government will take the lead on implementing the funding from the Infrastructure Bill.  JAG members should note that on July 7, 2021, Governor Murphy signed legislation establishing a Broadband Access Study Commission.  The Commission’s role, in part, is to evaluate (i) impediments of access to broadband service in New Jersey and (ii) the feasibility of establishing community broadband networks in the State.  We don’t know yet whether this Commission may have a role in recommending how the new federal funding should be spent, but it may.  JAG members will want to follow the Commission’s progress and advocate for local interests, where appropriate.

Finally, JAG members should be speaking to others in your jurisdictions about what is being done to get ready for potential funding from the Infrastructure Act.  Do you have unserved or underserved areas that can benefit from better broadband connectivity?  Do you have segments of your community that need help with the cost of broadband?  Note also that the Infrastructure Act includes money for broadband planning.  If you haven’t already begun, now is the time to be starting that work.

If you would like additional info about broadband deployment contact Ken at kenfellman@helmerlegal.com. This session is now available on YouTube:   Broadband Panel at NJLOM