By Jesse Lerman, President and CEO, TelVue Corporation
Between advancements in technology and the pandemic, the progression to an increasingly virtual world is accelerating. Almost everything is veering virtual – work, school, meetings, events, conferences, major motion picture releases, doctor’s appointments, grocery shopping, you name it. While vaccines will hopefully reopen the world soon this year, there is little doubt that virtual is here to stay, including throughout the broadcast industry.
For community broadcasters, the virtual trend might have started with establishing remote access to existing, on-premise equipment, and a few live feeds migrating from dedicated meeting rooms to streaming video conferencing platforms like Zoom. Even this first step presented new challenges for broadcast engineers and operators–as you were used to having hands-on access to everything in your broadcast chain.
At this point it is clear that remote live production will quickly become the norm, and more of your equipment and applications will move to the cloud. IP video, cloud integrations, and mobile devices are becoming the glue for broadcasters in a virtual world, and will change the way we think about workflow, operations, redundancy, and high availability.
The same trends are driving changes in viewer habits. In a virtual world, viewers expect programming to be easy to find with instant access on a variety of devices, including mobile phones while on-the-go. From traditional broadcast to OTT, Social Media to phones and apps, your channels and content need to be everywhere.
TelVue has long embraced new industry trends to make the migration to modern broadcasting easy for community broadcasters.
● We partnered with you to move from tape swaps and DVD drop-offs to the JAG Media Exchange on TelVue Connect.
● The PEG.TV streaming platform developed into CloudCast, complete with mobile apps for iOS & Android, OTT apps for Roku, Apple TV, and Fire TV, and podcasting.
● The original Princeton Server Group channel-in-box evolved into the modern TelVue HyperCaster AIO, and virtual HyperCasters for 100% Cloud broadcasting.
It has been exciting to work with so many JAG stations through major industry transitions including analog to digital, SD to HD, baseband to IP video, and now to virtual and cloud.
Join TelVue virtually at the February 24th JAG meeting to discuss the evolution of community broadcasting in a virtual world. At the meeting we will demonstrate and review:
● the latest features in HyperCaster v7, “where automation rules”, specifically for streamlining remote operations, managing remote live meetings and events, and increasing automation to save you time scheduling, acquiring programming, enhancing the on-air look of your channels, and delivering your content to more viewing destinations.
● how you can automatically and affordably Live caption your programming with HyperCaster v7.3, no additional hardware required. Captioning is great for both accessibility and for making it possible for viewers to search meetings for topics of interest.
● The latest IP video protocols and provide tips on best uses and practices for live production, meetings, sports, sharing live programs, and social media.
● how easy it is to launch your own Apple & Android mobile phone apps with CloudCast, in addition to OTT apps on Roku, Apple, TV, and Amazon Fire TV.
We will also share our 2021 roadmap that includes even more automation, plus streaming & app “paywall” monetization for new sources of revenue. As always, we hope to get some great feedback from you to help us shape our products and services to be virtually future-proof. We are looking forward to seeing you virtually at the next JAG meeting!
By Ed Salvas, Secretary, Asbury Park Cable TV Advisory Committee
January 2020 marked the beginning of the eighth year on the air for the Asbury Park Cable TV station, better known around the shore community as APTV. But 2020 would soon become a year of challenges for the station, and for viewers of its programs on Cablevision/Optimum and Verizon FiOS.
Staffed by volunteers and part time technicians and advised by a committee of nine members, the city recognized there was a need for APTV to have a full time Station Manager and begin an expansion to include a second channel and upgrade of its equipment. Station Manager Nate McCallister was scheduled to start on Monday, March 16.
That was the day City Hall was closed because of the rapidly spreading Covid 19 Pandemic and everyone was working from home. With Nate’s background in commercial TV, he was able to keep the station on the air and provide information and entertainment to a community that was stuck at home.
During the Pandemic we curated dozens of PSAs on Covid 19 from the CDC, state and county. These ranged from preventing infections through mask-wearing, hand washing, and social distancing, detecting infections in yourself and others, caring for infections, contact tracing and minimizing stress. Because schools were closed and classes were held remotely, we had discussions on talking with children about a Pandemic and returning to school and returning to work. We also utilized the station to share free Covid 19 testing dates and locations and now information about getting the vaccine.
Asbury Park Mayor John Moor appeared on APTV to help communicate the new rules in place as the summer season approached with limited dining and the city’s popular nightclubs, including the Stone Pony, Paramount Theater and Convention Hall, closed and daily beach badge sales limited. Government continued to function with the City Council, and the various Boards and Commissions taking to ZOOM for meetings, hosted by APTV.
At the same time, APTV began laying the groundwork for “APTV-2.” McCallister said APTV plans to use the second TV channel as an information hub for all city residents, employees and business owners and tourists. Using digital signage hardware and software from our longtime partner TelVue, APTV will have up to the minute weather event and safety information available via cable TV, the website, www.AsburyParkTV.com , and the Roku/Apple apps. Rollout is expected in the Spring 2021. APTV serves the city of Asbury Park on Optimum channels 77 and 116 and Verizon FiOS channels 28 and 30.
The new channel is not the only new development at APTV. Changes are also planned in other areas where the technology that was available in 2013 has been replaced by newer technology for the 21st century. APTV last year purchased a Sling Studio for use in multi-camera situations. The Sling Studio was first used to live stream the Asbury Park High School Graduation, which took place in the summer because of Covid 19 restrictions. The outdoor ceremony has been viewed more than 500 times. The station also added a new SONY Camcorder, a SONY 4k, model PXW-Z150. Other improvements are being considered for the Council Chambers. Originally, there was just one camera mounted on a tripod that was replaced by two PTZ cameras from GRAMCO which also updated the audio system in the room.
Hopefully, the Council and the public will be able to return to City Hall when the world returns to “normal.”
In our continuing effort to enhance the Social Media profile of JAG, through the efforts of the Production and External Relations committees, we are proud to announce the launch of the JAG YouTube Channel. You can find the new channel at https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmA3j3MeNeEjN5WkZarVilQ. We are asking all our members to subscribe so you will receive notices when new shows are posted. We need to get 100 subscribers to get our own JAG YouTube URL.
It is our hope that the YouTube Channel will become a showcase for the outstanding work of our stations, religious institutions and independent producers. The channel will launch with productions from our local JAG stations and some older material produced by member stations from the JAG produced “Access New Jersey” shows. The material posted to the channel should be not time sensitive and should have appeal to an audience beyond your local township. Once you are subscribed, you can sit back and enjoy the outstanding work of your JAG colleagues. Below are the instructions as to how to add a video to the channel.
Please consider adding material to the Channel. It can only be as good as the content that our members supply. If you are a Municipal or Access Channel this will give you another venue to showcase your best work. If you are an Independent Producer, this is yet another way to distribute your program. The kinds of material that you might consider adding would include:
• Profiles of interesting people in your community—artists, authors, business executives
• Concerts or other music programs with universal appeal
• Shows based on history or historic events
• Children’s shows
• Shows on Nature, Climate Change, and Environmental issues
• Health related programs with universal topics
• Lectures with prominent thought leaders in your community
In short, any kind of programs that are timeless and have universal appeal.
Please note that members of the Production and External Relations Committees will review videos for approval before they will be added to the YouTube page. Thanks to Doug Seidel and Robert Horvath for their contributions to the development of the Channel.
Do you have a YouTube account for your station/show/entity?
Just send the URL for the video and it will be added to the playlist on the JAG channel, plus you still get the view counts for anyone that watches it.
Do you have the video on the shared connect server?
Be sure it is shared with the JAG group and send an email letting us know you would like to submit that video for the channel. It will be downloaded and then uploaded to the YouTube page.
Don’t have connect or a YouTube page?
Upload the video to a file transfer site like dropbox, google drive or wetransfer and send it over to Doug Seidel at the email address listed below. It will be downloaded and then uploaded to the YouTube page.
It’s no surprise that JAG did not hold an in-person conference during the midst of the pandemic in 2020. Not only was it not safe for our staff, members, vendors and guests – the State of New Jersey had declared a state of emergency. We weren’t alone. The NATOA national conference, New Jersey League of Municipalities and even the ACM went virtual.
Now it’s the year 2021 and it was the hope of the organization that we could hold an in-person event again. Unfortunately, there was no magic at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve. The pandemic is still an issue throughout the country. We might be on the right path with people practicing social distancing and the vaccines being introduced, but now is still not the time to hold a big event like our conference in a closed, indoor space. Again, we are not alone. Both the ACM and NATOA are doing virtual events for their upcoming conferences. NAB has moved their event to the end of 2021 and NJLOM is hopeful for a late November conference again in Atlantic City.
Let me jump back to the title of this article, “To Conference or Not To Conference? We Have The Answer”. Good news, JAG does have the answer! We are going to do a virtual event this year. The goal is to provide a wide variety of informational & education sessions, vendor presentations and networking. The details are to be worked out and I need your input and help.
To help shape this event and make it successful for JAG Members, vendors, sponsors and the JAG Organization we need to create a conference committee made up of people who will be invested in this event. That is why I am reaching out to our membership to get people involved. Let me start with this, here is my email address: email@example.com . Please send me an email ASAP letting me know you are interested. I will reach out to you and get you involved with the committee. The next meeting is scheduled for Thursday, February 18th @ 2pm. We will be meeting virtually.
Here are some things that we are currently thinking about:
1) Conference Date: May or June?
2) How many days?
3) What days of the week and time?
4) What sessions would our members like?
5) What vendors would you like us to get involved?
6) How can we incorporate the JAG Awards?
The only way we can answer these questions and provide the best possible conference, is to get the membership involved. We need members to be invested in the conference. On the plus side, this is a virtual event. We are not asking you to do heavy lifting, travel long miles or even stay overnight at a hotel. We are asking for your number one quality – your thoughts! Your input is vital to make this event successful. Let me restate my contact information, here is my email address: firstname.lastname@example.org Please send me an email ASAP letting me know you are interested. I will reach out to you and get you involved with the committee. The next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, February 17th @ 2pm. We will be meeting virtually.
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.
President, Jersey Access Group
As most of you should be aware at this point, Verizon came before the Board of Public Utilities in September 2020 for the Franchise Renewal. The stakeholders and public were given a chance to speak at this meeting. Dave Garb and I constructed a letter that we sent to the BPU (see below), and I spoke at the hearing. It was never JAG’s intention to deny franchise renewal to Verizon, but rather to hold their feet to the fire so to speak on promises made and not kept, along with things missing that hurt PEG Stations. Recently Verizon has begun to respond to our requests. I have included our letter below and then have included their answers. Please note, not everything has been addressed at this point, but I feel this is a good start.
September 29, 2020
Attn. BPU – Office of Cable Television & Telecommunications
RE: Comments on the Statewide Renewal of Verizon. BPU Docket No. CE20080516
JAG – the Jersey Access Group, the non-profit organization representing local government, educational and public television channels throughout the state of New Jersey would like to submit our comments into the record regarding Verizon’s New Jersey Statewide Franchise renewal.
Local PEG (Public, Education, Government) stations are main source for community communications, news and involvement with our municipal government officials and school boards. These PEG stations provide important information directly to our local residents. This fact couldn’t be more apparent than during the current pandemic. PEG stations throughout the state have had to creatively redefine themselves in order to get vital messages out from their respective municipalities to the general public.
JAG would like the following concerns specific to Verizon franchise renewal to be considered:
HD (High Definition) Television has been around for over 15 years. By 2009, all television networks had switched to this amazing technology, except for PEG. PEG has been denied this technology and kept in the SD (Standard Definition) bottomless pit. The problem is, SD has gone away. Replacement equipment is no longer being made and impossible to obtain. PEG stations already have converted to HD equipment for content creation and play back, but now need to downgrade their signal to a sub-standard level for Verizon.
The Federal Cable Act states that we (PEG facilities) are not to be treated any differently from any other network/cable channel. It is evident in this situation PEG channels are. “So it appears that Verizon is now willing and have started to upgrade some the PEG stations delivery systems. Both Bloomfield and Scotch Plains have had new fiber systems and ONTs constructed at their locations in addition to having Verizon’s Encoders being placed at the stations end. This has allowed both stations to hand-off a digital HD-SDI signal to Verizon Encoder and not a composite, analog feed as in the past. In addition, they have configured their broadcast of this feed to be in a 16:9 format. However, at this point the channel is still not broadcast in HD, this is the first step in getting there. The same encoder newly installed is cable of encoding a HD feed and sending it to Verizon to be broadcast in HD”
To go along with the first point, PEG also has not been allowed to list their programming in the channel guides. In a time where people search programming guides and record programs from information listed in them, PEG channels have been left out. Again, PEG is treated differently. “We are waiting for a response”
Verizon never completed their buildout as originally proposed. Many municipalities are in limbo as to whether it will ever happen. Many smaller communities are still in need of cable competition and high speed internet access as promised by Verizon.
a. There are many communities in which Verizon has started buildout and has yet to complete it. Leaving portions of a municipality’s residents in the dark when it comes to local government communication, especially during a pandemic, when they do not have access to the local PEG channel. “We are waiting for a response”
b. Municipalities are often left to wonder where their local channel broadcasts to, as there is no clearly defined service map showing exactly were each PEG station broadcasts to. “We are waiting for a response”
c. The lack of complete buildout in a community has left many municipalities and their stations in limbo. Many stations are broadcasting on the Verizon FiOS network, but because cable service has not been completed in their town, they cannot even get service to see their own PEG channel at their facility for oversight and quality control. “We are waiting for a response”
Currently most local government and PEG station managers have no local government contact information within Verizon that they can reach out to in case of an outage, broadcast issues and general questions. We strongly urge the BPU to demand that Verizon provide a local contact and their information to municipalities, PEG Stations and JAG Members.
“Verizon Response Below”
Verizon understands the importance of Public, Education and Government (PEG) programming and the need to address/resolve signal quality and outage issues as quickly as possible. Therefore, it is Verizon’s pleasure to inform you that Verizon’s National Network Management Center (NNMC) is available to PEG Program providers should PEG signal quality or outage issues occur. If you experience signal quality or outage issues with your PEG channel, please follow the instructions below to report the problem.
If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact me. Thank you.
Verizon Fios TV
NY & NJ Franchise Service Manager
111 Main St, 6th Floor
White Plains, NY 10601
PEG SIGNAL QUALITY OR OUTAGE ISSUES
The National Network Management Center (NNMC) is staffed with experienced Network Specialists currently working with National Broadcast Providers. The NNMC will provide more efficient and expeditious resolution of PEG signal quality or outage issues. The NNMC is available 24×7 and will immediately initiate PEG Network troubleshooting eliminating the need to call Franchise Service Managers when problems occur. Franchise Service Managers will remain a resource to PEG providers on PEG signal quality and outage issues as necessary.
WHAT PEG PROGRAM PROVIDERS NEED TO DO
Call the NNMC at 1-800-243-6994, Option 4, Option 2
• Identify yourself as a PEG Provider
• Provide the community and channel number(s) affected.
• Provide call back number and access information should a need to dispatch a technician be required.
WHAT THE NNMC WILL DO
• The NNMC will troubleshoot the Verizon Network to determine if the problem is connected with the Verizon Network.
• If necessary, a dispatch to the PEG provider site will be arranged.
The NNMC is not responsible for provisioning the PEG monitoring drop. The PEG monitoring drop is a subscriber drop used for viewing PEG channels on the FiOS Network. For information on the PEG monitoring drop you need to call your Franchise Service Manager.”
Verizon has not adequately provided the proper production and post-production equipment (cameras, microphones, edit systems and more) as outlined in the original systemwide franchise agreement. In locations where they began to setup these repositories for equipment and training, municipalities were not notified of them, there is not clear and concise information on how to gain access to them and equipment currently on hand at them is outdated or no longer available.
“Verizon Response Below”
Verizon NJ PEG Training and Equipment Program
In areas where Verizon NJ provides cable television service, and with the assistance of select New Jersey County and Community Colleges (see list below), makes equipment and training programs available to municipal-authorized representatives or residents for use in the development of local programming content that can be shown on local community public, educational or government (“PEG”) access channels, pursuant to N. J.S. A. 48:SA-28(1). NJEdge is the program implementation coordinator for the PEG Training and Equipment Program (or the “Program”).
Through the Program, any municipal-authorized representative or resident can take a free Basic Video Production training course at a participating County or Community College and then be eligible to borrow a complete location video production system to record a community event or program. Once the video shoot is complete, the authorized representative or resident can edit the footage at the participating County or Community College in order to produce a complete video program, ready for broadcast on local PEG channels. An Advanced Video Production training course is also available, once the Basic Training has been successfully completed.
Participating County and Community Colleges are:
Bergen Community College James Quimby – email@example.com
Brookdale Community College Lauren Concar – firstname.lastname@example.org
Essex County College Victoria Timpanaro – email@example.com
Gloucester County EN John Mondelli – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mercer County CC Steve Voorhees – email@example.com
Ocean County College Lee Kobus – firstname.lastname@example.org
Union County College Patrick Gallagher – email@example.com,
If you have any questions or need more information Forough Ghahramani at NJEdge at firstname.lastname@example.org, or your local County or Community College.”
As outlined in the Board of Public Utilities Guide to Cable Franchise Renewal, “…is to examine the past performance of the cable operator and identify the future cable-related needs of the community.” We are not advocating that Verizon be refused their franchise renewal; rather, JAG respectfully requests that Verizon be held accountable to their original agreements and keep up with current technology and trends such as High Definition Broadcast of PEG channel. We believe this inequity should be rectified.
Thank you for this opportunity to comment.
President, Jersey Access Group
President, NJ NATOA
Member, National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (EMMYS)