Spotlight: Princeton “Within crisis, are the seeds of opportunity” – Marilyn Monroe

by George McCollough, Princeton

The crisis for Princeton Community Television began in 2019 when the organization was unable to negotiate a contract to manage the access channel with the Town of Princeton.  In a startling decision the Town decided to take advantage of a recent law which allowed a Town to utilize its franchise fees to offset property tax increases.  Public outcry could not reverse the decision.  Like many public access stations across the country, Princeton TV found itself at a crossroad.

The station was formed in 1997, when Princeton residents urged the Town to establish a local community station. In 2005, after years of growth, a non-profit, Princeton Community Television, was established to manage the station. Board members were appointed by the Town.  A long term contract between the Town and the new organization provided the means of support to operate and soon activity began humming.

Over 600 community shows were produced yearly.  Classes were held in topics ranging from video production, acting, photography and even makeup for television.  Princeton TV also managed the broadcasts of government meetings for the municipality.

Despite public support the station was unable to get the Town to reconsider its decision.  The station was able to continue operating on the fumes of its reserves until an agreement was made for Princeton Community TV to retain control of the two access channels on each of Comcast’s and Verizon’s systems.  The station would continue with private support moving forward.

In 2020 the Covid lockdown implemented in New Jersey wiped out all activity by the members of Princeton TV.  Housed in a municipal building which was closed to the public further deepened the downward financial spiral. Incredibly, instead of closing temporarily, the station remained operational, presenting as much Covid/Health information as possible as a community service during the health emergency.

Our Opportunity

A new energy began to prevail in 2021 as Princeton TV started its rebuilding efforts.  Princeton TV’s board was completely overhauled.  Business and Civic leaders stepped up, which represented a much wider geographic area than Princeton.  Areas as diverse as Trenton and Montgomery Township were given a seat at the table.  These leaders saw the tremendous value in having a communication outlet that could serve the public in an age of dwindling local media.  Finding a model that would sustain the organization now became the new priority.  However, if a private funding model was going to succeed, creative steps needed to be taken.  The station needed to focus its programming and services beyond Princeton.  Thus, The Central New Jersey Network or CNJN was born.

CNJN is an effort to include other towns beyond Princeton in Mercer County, and to serve towns in Hunterdon and Somerset counties as well.  CNJN is carried in parts of both counties on Verizon’s system.  Since sponsors want the most bang for their buck, expanding the Station’s broadcast reach would become paramount.

Most towns throughout the area have the ability and the right to have access channels but for one reason or another have not utilized these resources.  Initial efforts to reach out to area officials about getting CNJN carried on their local systems have been positive.  However, expanding coverage will be an arduous process.  Even though CNJN takes advantage of many streaming platforms, being carried on cable helps differentiate it from other local media outlets.

CNJN sees a tremendous opportunity buried in the unused access channels throughout Central New Jersey.

Beginning in 2022 efforts at fundraising began to see an uptick.  However slowly, it is a positive sign that CNJN’s efforts are beginning to be recognized.  New programs are being rolled out almost weekly, and they are beginning to see sponsors to help support them.  Even a few veteran community producers have begun to come back.  It is a testament to the hard work of all involved that CNJN still continues to operate.

CNJN is setting off on a new path.  That path is filled with great opportunities. Those opportunities are well worth aspiring towards.

The Power, Lure, and Magic of Numbers

by Linda Besink, Finance Committee, Chair

What do Mick Jagger, Robert Plant, and Kenny G have in common?

Each either studied or have a degree in Accounting.  Jagger studied Accounting and Finance at the London School of Economics on a scholarship.  Plant dabbled in accountancy for a few weeks before choosing to study music, but that he considered it at all is not widely known.  And Kenny G holds a degree in Accounting from the University of Washington.

Each and every corporation, including nonprofits like JAG, needs to have a commitment to accounting and place someone in a Treasurer role.  I have filled this role since late 2017 and remain honored to do so.  I do enjoy being a “bean counter.”

Accounting is sometimes regarded as dry and boring.  This is far from the truth!  If you’re someone who values logical thinking and being organized, you probably have some sort of affinity for math and its place in business.

Numbers are pure and constant.  Despite all the inherent challenges, working with numbers helps people with communication skills, allows them to learn new things, and improves their proficiency in spreadsheets.  The scope is literally unlimited, and the excitement of “everything adding up” never fades.  Bookkeeping might seem to be tedious at first, though  it can be continuously interesting if you have an affinity for numbers (or even if you only aspire to it).  Any aspect of business can be or become boring if it doesn’t interest you.  Nobody enjoys watching grass grow.  This happens when you feel there is nothing more to learn.  When you do what you’re interested in, you will take even more interest in learning more about it.

The budgeting process is about more than money.  It touches and influences every aspect and facet of every business.  It promotes problem-solving and brainstorming.  The size and interests of any company do not matter.  It’s rather a holistic approach to the health of an organization.

In my role as JAG Treasurer, accounting and bookkeeping tools have empowered me to be part of larger aspects of JAG; for example, budgeting, cash flow, and decision-making processes in general.  In this sense, there is always room for improvement as well as room to grow.  It’s not a case of merely tallying numbers.

The financial workings of the Jersey Access Group have evolved to be much more complex than when the organization began over 20 years ago.  In those early days, the membership fees were nominal, and we only had one membership category – currently we have five categories.  Since expenses increase as we expand, membership dues are critical to the organizational functions, as well as the overall financial health of JAG.  Additionally, JAG’s annual Eastern Video Expo (a.k.a. the JAG Conference) continues to grow as a major community media event.

JAG’s Treasurer files a number of monthly reports with the Executive Board on the fiscal position of the organization and the filing of annual tax returns.  As JAG is a membership organization, the treasurer is responsible for invoicing and tracking of annual membership dues.  This requires coordination with the Membership Committee as to the addition of all new members and payments received from current members. Members then enjoy access to JAG’s List Serve, JAG’s monthly newsletter and the ability to share content on JAG’s shared server.  Membership in JAG also provides access to the members only section of the JAG website.  This is password protected and each June the Treasurer changes it.  (And here’s a reminder:  the member password will change effective June 1. This annual change exists to ensure security.  A notice will be sent on May 2 with a reminder on May 16.)  Other responsibilities of the Treasurer include chairing the Finance Committee and serving on both the JAG Awards and Conference Committees. 

Not everyone who is employed as accountants or bookkeepers have glamorous tasks such as counting Academy Award ballots (by hand!).  But numbers are the same all over, and when working with them facilitates personal happiness – and even brings joy – the magic of numbers is obvious.  It’s one of the best ways to watch an organization grow and thrive. If you believe you’d like to be an important part of the financial aspects of JAG, please consider joining our Finance Committee.  An accounting background is not required; you only need to have an interest.  The time commitment is minimal, yet the work is important, enjoyable, and satisfying.

JAG Members Help Decide Conference Operational Sessions

by Bob Duthaler, Executive Board, Chair

When it comes to determining what stations need to operate efficiently and optimally, JAG members spoke up at our last meeting during our discussion session.  Members expressed their interest in conference sessions which they would like to see as part of our annual conference.  The purpose of this discussion topic was to shape the direction of our annual conference.  In case you were not aware, our event will take place May 24-26th of this year.  This year’s conference will be a hybrid event.  Wednesday, May 25th we are holding our Trade Show at the Crowne Plaza in Edison, NJ.  The show will run from 8:30am-4:30pm, followed by a special Users workshop, cocktail hour, banquet and the JAG Awards.  Tuesday, May 24th and Thursday, May 26th will be our virtual conference sessions. 

Picking up on last year’s successful virtual conference, JAG will continue that this year.  The purpose was to allow people to get away for one day for an in-person trade show and then bookend that with two days of virtual sessions.  The goal of the conference committee was to help ease our members back into the full conference mode.  Having an in-person trade show in which vendors show off their latest products and services, holding user’s groups and then a networking gathering was what our members were looking forward too.  But we also understood that most municipalities and members were not willing to commit to a full three-day event out of their office and multiple days away.  Although we all look forward to that, we thought now was not that time.  This is where the hybrid expo and conference were the right step. 

So, what did our members want to see at this year’s conference?  Our members are interested in learning more ways, techniques, skills, and technology that will help them take their station operations to the next level.  With that thought in mind, our conference committee worked hard trying to find the right panelists for the sessions in which our members are interested.  With that thought in mind, we not only tapped our member stations that are already doing incredible things, but we reached out to others outside of our organization to get a feel for what others are doing and is possible for us as well.  This year’s conference will have a balance of operational information, production techniques and legislative updates as well.

We are all looking for ways to operate our stations in the most effective manner — Learning from others who are already doing some of the things we are interested in doing.  How are stations handling live streaming from remote locations?  How are they incorporating multi-camera shoots or enhanced single camera shoots with graphics and commentary?  How can you leverage cellular data, public internet, and dedicated internet drops?  Think of this as a master’s session on streaming.  Speaking of masters, we will gather people from around the country who have firsthand knowledge of franchising, what stations are asking for, what are the cable companies willing to give and unique asks for your station.  This is one of those sessions that will teach you things you didn’t even realize you needed to know.  To round things out, we will continue our manager’s round table discussion, but on steroids.  We will continue to discuss ways to increase our productivity and creativity, but also technically.  What better way than to add some industry technicians to the conversation.  Find out what stations and project managers had to undertake to increase their technology, some of their success stories and how to avoid the pitfalls they may have run into.  This is an open and free flowing conversation.  Your questions and interest will help steer and guide the conversation.  Think of this as your chance to ask the questions perhaps only a technician and engineer can answer.

Our conference sessions will continue to have several productions sessions throughout the two days (along with user’s groups on tradeshow day).  Want to see good video?  Then the “Light Your Way to Good Video” will be a session you do not want to miss.  We will discuss everything from run and gun lighting techniques and studio lighting to one on one interview lighting.  Find out the right fixtures for the right job and what you need to do to light the way to better video.  We also have two other production sessions to enhance your production quality and creativity.  We are bringing in two industry veterans and award-winning producers.  In one of our sessions, learn about documentary film making and how to use that information in creating documentary style marketing video shorts.  These can be used to promote events and to create department or township informational videos.  Combine those sessions with another from the current chapter president of the NATAS (National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences – EMMYS).  Find out what it takes to take your production to the next level.  What goes in to creating an award-winning video?

Rounding out the offerings are other sessions, including “Ask The Lawyers”, which is your chance to learn more about legislative challenges, FCC rulings and more.  Perhaps you just want to know about using drones, music background or understand fair use.  Come prepared to ask your own questions and take notes on things you need to know.  Enjoy a session on “Social Media – It’s Not Just Facebook”, where you can learn the right way to post, share and gain more likes.  Learn more about the latest social media trends including Instagram and Tic-Tok.  As you can see, this is going to be two full days of intense learning, mind opening creativity and a roadmap to next level of operations and productions.  Again, these sessions were designed after hearing from our members and understanding our needs.  But you can only take advantage of these sessions if you register for the conference.  We have created our own conference website that is not only an informational site prior to the event, but the landing point for the conference, sessions and live “main stage” interviews throughout the event.  For more information and to register yourself, staff and crew for this year’s Eastern Video Expo and Conference, visit our website at www.easternvideoexpo.com  and I will see you at this year’s show!

State Video Franchising Laws and the Legal Actions Taking Place in New Jersey

by Dave Garb, Legislative Committee Chair

Last month we talked about legal action that has begun here in New Jersey against over-the-top service providers and their franchise fee obligations.

The following is from the law firm Kessler, Topaz, Meltzer & Check, LLP, who are leading this action.  It is a brief summary of the factual allegations and procedural history of Borough of Longport and Township of Irvington v. Netflix, Inc. and Hulu, LLC, No. 2:21-cv-15303-SRC-MAH (D.N.J.) (the “Netflix/Hulu Litigation”).

*On August 13, 2021, Plaintiffs Borough of Longport and Township of Irvington (“Plaintiffs”) filed a class action complaint in the District of New Jersey, individually and on behalf of all other similarly situated municipalities against Defendants Netflix, Inc. and Hulu, LLC (“Defendants”) alleging violations of New Jersey’s Cable Television Act, N.J. Rev. Stat. § 48:5A-1, et seq. (the “CTA”).  As set forth in the Complaint, Defendants have been providing online streaming services, using wireline facilities (i.e. broadband wireline facilities) located at least in part in the public rights-of-way, without paying Plaintiffs and other New Jersey municipalities franchise fees required under the CTA. The CTA requires entities, like Defendants, that provide “video programming” and “cable television service” to pay franchise fees to municipalities in exchange for their use of the public rights-of-way. Because Netflix and Hulu qualify as providers of “video programming” and “cable television service,” they are obligated under the CTA to pay Plaintiffs, and other New Jersey municipalities, franchise fees equivalent to a percentage of their gross revenue. Plaintiffs have sued Defendants to recover these fees on behalf of themselves and the putative Class.

By way of background, to fall under CTA’s franchise fee requirement, an entity must provide a “cable service over a cable system” and, either directly or through an affiliate, own a significant interest in that “cable system.” N.J.S.A § 48:5A-3(g).  An entity can also be covered by the CTA if, “through any arrangement,” it controls or has responsibility for the management and operation of a “cable system.”  Id.  Plaintiffs have alleged that Netflix falls under the CTA because, inter alia, it (1) provides video programming comparable to traditional programming and thus provides cable services and (2) owns a significant interest in its billion-dollar infrastructure program which it controls and operates through contractual arrangements with local Internet Service Providers (“ISPs”).  As for Hulu, it falls under the CTA because, inter alia, it (1) provides cable services through live broadcasts similar to traditional cable services and (2) owns a significant interest in a cable system through its affiliation with ISPs and, in addition, its ownership by Comcast. Plaintiffs allege that despite being covered by the CTA, Netflix and Hulu have failed to pay the required franchise fees.

On October 29, 2021, nearly two months after Plaintiffs filed their complaint, Netflix and Hulu filed Motions to Dismiss. In their Motions to Dismiss, Defendants asserted that Netflix and Hulu do not fall under the CTA, Plaintiffs do not have a right to enforce the franchise fee requirements of the CTA, and that the statute’s provisions do not apply to streaming services. Thereafter, on December 23, 2021, Plaintiffs opposed Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss, disputing Netflix and Hulu’s assertions. For example, Plaintiffs pointed to provisions in the N.J. Constitution as well as the CTA’s legislative history, which showed that Plaintiffs have a right to enforce the statute’s franchise fee requirements. Moreover, Plaintiffs highlighted the numerous ways in which the CTA applies to Netflix and Hulu’s streaming services.

Following Plaintiffs’ Opposition, Defendants filed reply briefs on January 26, 2022. The Motions to Dismiss are fully briefed and pending. While the Motions to Dismiss are pending, the parties continue to negotiate the protective order and ESI protocol and Plaintiffs plan to serve an initial round of discovery.   (ESI-Electronically Stored Information) Should this action win in court, it could potentially mean more income via franchise fees and therefore more support for our PEG channels.  While this is going on in New Jersey, other states like Connecticut are actually attempting to pass a bill that would require OTT providers to pay a yearly fee per subscriber.  The bill is SB278 and it has come out of their Energy and Technology Committee.  We are currently waiting on the next steps as to where this bill is heading.

Equipment Donation to JAG

by   Doug Seidel, Social Media Manager

At JAG’s last general meeting on April 27th RUSHWORKS provided a vendor presentation that included discussion about their A-LIST Streamster.  When he completed his presentation Rush Beesley, President of RUSHWORKS, announced the donation of a Streamster to JAG.

The A-LIST Streamster is an Internet appliance for scheduling and playback of files and live passthrough. It provides a host of powerful but simple-to-use features and functions that make you the Master of your Internet mediacasting. This is the perfect solution for managing and streaming your own Internet TV station, featuring NDI and streaming input and output. It includes the latest generation i9 processor, 16GB of memory, a 256GB NVMe boot drive, a 1TB SSD storage drive, and keyboard mouse and monitor. It runs on Windows 10.

Many of our members have content distribution servers that they use to distribute their programing to various cable providers.  This is great for towns that use franchise fees toward PEG channels, but what about areas that do not have such funding?  The Streamster gives towns, organizations or individuals without cable channels a way to create a streaming channel.  It has a built in encoder that allows you to stream a channel directly to YouTube, Facebook or Restream.

While this seems to be a great tool for communication, JAG looked at the possibility of using the Streamster as a marketing tool.  There is a great marketing potential for JAG with the addition of the Streamster.  We basically can create a 24/7 internet based channel for JAG, extending the reach of the JAG brand.  This will also help show towns without a franchise agreement how they can reach their residents, with a real life local example.

Last month we launched our new newsletter focusing on JAG’s shift in focus to be more inclusive of content development and distribution.  With this change we have circulated our newsletter beyond JAG’s membership to equipment manufacturers and video producers.  The addition of a streaming channel provides further opportunities to market JAG.

JAG has already installed the Streamster and is evaluating its operation.  Keeping labor to a minimum is important for this to work for JAG. It has a simple and clean interface to work with.  Just drag content, including clips, graphics and lower-thirds from the File Browser into the playlist.  Some specific features include branding with our logo, text crawls and the ability to click the AUTO-LOOP button to play continually looping content from folders and sub-folders.  We have already found that it is simple to schedule and can be operated remotely. 

JAG is exploring posting much of JAG’s video library into the schedule, promoting events and evaluating inclusion for our members.  We are also evaluating the streaming platforms that are available and the procedures and costs related to distributing the JAG Channel. JAG is excited to partner with RUSHWORKS in our new marketing opportunities.

President’s Message May, 2022

by Bob Duthaler

You Don’t Want to Miss This One, and JAG Can’t Afford You To!

Have you even driven down a block, come to the street you were looking for, only to find out it is a one-way and the place you were looking for is in the other direction?  This caused you to have to circle back to find another route.  Other times you might have been using a GPS system only to find out it has taken you down a street with no outlet, and the place you want is just on the other side of the dead end.  So, what does this have to do with JAG?  Ultimately nothing, other than to say that the JAG Membership and Organization relationship is like a two-way street.  Sometimes to get the most out of something you need to give something back.

There are several ways this two-way street works.  One that you can probably think of right away is that you pay for your membership and you get something back.  Well, to be honest, you get a lot of things back.  You can participate in monthly meetings, access the members only section of the JAG website, use the email list serve to ask members questions or even gain access to programs through the JAG Connect Sever.  You can even take it to the next level and get involved with the many committees and sub-committees JAG has to offer.  These are just some of the many benefits your membership gets you.  I urge you, if you not already doing it, please take advantage of each one.

Then there are times when something great comes along — that asks you to minimally get involved — that ultimately will pay great dividends both to you and the organization as a whole.  Well, that time is now, and that “thing” is our annual conference.  If you are not familiar, it’s better known as the Eastern Video Expo and Conference.  This year our conference is going to be a hybrid experience, offering both an in-person trade show along with two days of virtual conference sessions. Visit the special website for this conference at: www.easternvideoexpo.com  

So, what is the ask?  What do I get in return?  How does this benefit me?  How does it benefit the organization?  I will tackle these questions during the next few paragraphs.  My goal is to get you to register for the conference after you are done reading all this.  I will give you a chance right now to stop reading this article and just go directly to the goal — conference registration.  Are you ready to do that?  Then click this link now:  https://easternvideoexpo.com/

Still need convincing?  Read on. Let’s break it down.  What is the ask?  It’s the cost of your registration fee.  You have paid between $250-350 in the past for our three-day conference.  This included trade show, conference sessions, meals, awards show and more.  Throw in the cost of perhaps staying at the hotel for two or three days at $185 a night.  We all did it, because we understood the value of the conference, what we got out of it and the importance of keeping on top of industry trends.  Now all this is possible again this year, but because of the generous support of our vendors and sponsors, the

registration fee is only $35.  That’s right, I did not leave out a zero, it’s only $35.  Hotel room rates are only $109 per night.  If you are sold already, then click this link now:  https://easternvideoexpo.com/  

What do I get out of this?  This is not a selfish question, but rather an important one.  You should always ask that question.  I am happy to tell you what you do get.  You get the ability to discover the latest technology at our trade show.  Interact with vendors who are there to help you get the most out of your station, through the products available, special presentations and user’s groups.  You have access to two days of conference sessions that tackle operational, production and legislative matters.  These are designed to advance your knowledge in the industry in which we all work. Finally, you can network, interact, and trade knowledge with others in our industry in a more relaxed atmosphere.  Again, if you are sold already, stop reading and click this link now:  https://easternvideoexpo.com/   Still looking for more…

How does this benefit me?  A good portion of that question was answered in the previous paragraph.  But ultimately, the educational experience you get out of our conference is a huge benefit.  Coming off the heels of the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) annual conference, the Eastern Video Expo is one of the first events that continue to show all the latest technology after being introduced at NAB.  Staying on top of the latest technology, especially the items that are geared for PEG stations and independent producers, is important.  The educational experience you get from our trade show and conference sessions are all geared to help you run a more efficient, creative, and expansive station that benefits your municipality.  Final chance to stop reading and register now: click this link now:  https://easternvideoexpo.com/   You always wanted to read this to the end, first I thank you and second, I will conclude with this … How does this benefit the organization?  This might be the most important question of all.  This is the one that ties back to the beginning of this article and the two-way street.  We are giving you everything you need to learn, see, and use to enhance your ability to produce and operate in this industry.  Our vendors have all stepped in to participate and sponsor this event to keep the costs down for you.  All we ask is that you register and attend.  Your appearance shows our vendors and sponsors that their financial contribution to our organization is warranted.  The funds generated from our annual conference is the main source of funding for the operation of our organization.  It allows us to keep membership rates down, engage in legislative issues, train our members throughout the year and much more.  I hope that at this point you are sold and understand the importance of our JAG Member and Organization two-way street, give and take.  Please take the final steps and click the link and register now for our conference: https://easternvideoexpo.com/

President’s Message April, 2022

by Bob Duthaler

Keeping It Social (Media)

*Note: I originally wrote this article a few years back, but thought it was worth revisiting and sharing (Social Media Pun Intended).  I have made a few updates along the way as well.

There is a feature on most smartphones that lets you know how much time you are spending viewing a particular app, or category of apps (i.e.: social media).  On the iPhone it’s called “Screentime”.  I would like to direct your attention to Social Media.  Social Networking is a big part of our lives.  There are many different platforms:  Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok and others.  Most people can’t get through our day without checking social media at least once, although I’m betting it’s a lot more for most.  We are hungry to learn about what our “Friends” are doing and eager to share our notable accomplishments or get lost in the rabbit hole of endless videos or reels.

Social media can be a great tool for networking.  When you share something on social media, tag people you know or get them to “like it”, there is a ripple effect that takes place.  It reminds me of the 1981 Faberge Organics Shampoo TV commercial where the lady proudly announces that she told two friends about it, and they told two friends and so on and so on…. 

Well, that is the same with social media.  Your network has the ability to spread information beyond just your group of friends.  Because when you get your friends to share something or like it, it opens the message up to a whole new group of people as well.

So why all this talk of social media you may ask?  The answer is simple – non-profit groups like JAG need to utilize social media to promote our message and to broaden our outreach.  Here are the top five reasons to use social media:

  • Engage and Connect:  Having a good social media presence is essential.  It allows us to control the content and get the word out on specific events or causes.  JAG currently is doing this with our conference, the Eastern Video Expo.  It is a way for people to keep updated on the event and to attract you to the latest announcements.
  • Drive Traffic:  Most conference supporters will only seldom check the conference website for updates, meaning they likely only think about our event periodically.  Having them like our page on Facebook or follow us on Twitter provides an opportunity to appear on their feeds and give them daily reminders of our event and mission of the organization.
  • Sharable Content = Greater Exposure:  The JAG organization and the Conference Committee is always putting out great “sharable” content on our social media accounts.  The more people see what is going on with the Conference or JAG the more likely they are to get behind the organization.
  • Marketing:  In times of tight budgets and limited time to create a marketing plan and execute it, social media can help deliver that message in record time.  Social media is how we get dynamic and relevant content out about the conference in a frequent but not overloading way.
  • PR Reach:  Each and every one of you who are using social media to help further the cause of JAG and the Eastern Video Expo, becomes our own PR manager.  You help boost our digital presence in the public eye.

A tool that you can use to help out the conference, and which should be part of your PR strategy to help our organization, should include having your friends and partner organizations link back to our site. Backlinking is incredibly important to boost our search engine optimization and demonstrates that we have the wide-ranging support of other organizations as well.

So bottom line, next time you are liking that picture of someone’s food plate from lunch, spend a little time liking Eastern Video Expo posts, sharing them on your public feed and sharing them on the timelines of people you know as well.  Do this on a consistent basis and you will help to expand the presence of JAG as an organization and to help support the conference as well.  Here is a list of all our Social Media Accounts for the Conference:

Links & handles:

Facebook: 

Instagram:

RUSHWORKS: Three major Product Updates

by Rush Beesley, President, RUSHWORKS

Throughout last year RUSHWORKS has focused on significant enhancements in features and functions for its VDESK Integrated PTZ/PTZ Production System.  The VDESK Version 7 software development was driven by the need for a ‘powerfully simple’ interface designed for use by a single operator.

Using the PRODUCER interface, you can cover all the proceedings in any environment with just two cameras and unlimited presets.  Select a dais background and drag pictures of the participants into their respective places, and just touch any picture to automatically frame and TAKE the shot – with an automated lower-third if you wish.

Comprehensive integration of NDI includes the ability to select any NDI source on the network as a video input and/or two NDI DSK inputs (downstream keyers).

The text creation and editing functions were consolidated into a CG creation tool within the application.  A Video Preview window displays in real-time the text and graphics elements you add, with simple arrow keys from positioning text over lower-third graphics.  You can even save the composite as a PNG file for selection and display in the File Browser and in Playlists.

We’ve added sequential, automated playback capability for any Playlist, as well as our AUTO-LOOP folder playback ported into VDESK from our A-LIST BROADCAST and A-LIST Streamster automation systems.  This provides a fast and easy way to play unattended content for as long as the function is active.

Just drag files or folders into the AUTO-LOOP folder from anywhere with a network connection.  Subfolders can be assigned for use by unique groups or departments such as fire, police and city council, and you can select either linear or random playback of the AUTO-LOOP folder content.  This functionality lets you use your VDESK as a channel playback device when it’s not involved in a multi-camera production with simultaneous recording and streaming.

VDESK Version 7 has also added Layout Templates for single, dual and wide-screen monitors.  With the ability to move, resize and place the application windows anywhere on the desktop and save as many Layouts as you wish, you can customize the way you work while others may create and save their own interface preferences.

Configuring VDESK for Zoom, Teams or other remote meeting solutions is easy, and we’ll be happy to provide you with any information you need to optimize your remote integration.

PTX Model 3 PRO pan/tilt head

RUSHWORKS also completed the final design and manufacturing of its third generation pan/tilt head, the PTX Model 3 PRO.  With a payload of 14 pounds, it can handle most any combination of cameras and lenses, including all the models from Blackmagic as well as those from Sony, Canon, Red, Arri and more.  At 35 pounds its a solid foundation for your camera investments, with whisper-quiet operation that’s necessary for houses of worship and performance venues.  It can be controlled from any device or platform that uses VISCA over IP as the communications protocol.

A-LIST Streamster and Streamster PRO Automation Systems

Finally, we’ve crafted a simple and inexpensive solution that lets you store and schedule content for streaming, with an option to simultaneously output to a cable or TV channel.  The A-LIST Streamster is a network appliance that’s about seven inches square, a hardware/software solution that’s the ‘slimmed down’ version of our A-LIST BROADCAST Automation System that’s used by networks, full and low-power TV stations and PEG channels, both domestic and global.

If you’re not streaming at all, or maybe have one camera and a laptop streaming to YouTube, the A-LIST Streamster – or its SDI output configuration, Streamster PRO – this powerful mini-server is your portal not only to your citizens but can also be a global channel visible to anyone, anywhere on computers and portable devices.  Utilizing a one-to-many service such as www.restream.io you can output a single stream and have it distributed for view on virtually every device, anywhere in the world. That’s certainly a lot more effective than just a cable channel connection.

You can schedule events by time of day, or just fill blocks of time using the AUTO-LOOP folder, the same function we’ve now introduced into our VDESK Version 7 software.  You can also create MultiZone layouts with background music, using both scheduled and filler content as desired.


And if you just have a single camera covering your meetings, connect the output to the Streamster and TAKE it as an AV source manually, or schedule it to pass through as your streaming and cable channel source.  If you’re using multiple cameras, just connect the output of your switcher to the Streamster and pass that ‘live’ signal the same way.  The Streamster PRO also has an SDI/HDMI output so you can simultaneously stream and send your output to the cable station through a traditional modulator.

When it comes to content distribution, technology is making things easier, less expensive, and far more impactful at every level.  There is no reason not to adopt a simple platform and increase your viewership exponentially.

Significantly, the A-LIST Streamster can be a valuable marketing tool for nonprofit groups that are producing monthly content.  Here is a screenshot provided by Doug Seidel at PCTV in Piscataway who is exploring how the Streamster could be an asset to JAG’s marketing strategies.  You can see how simple and clean the interface is to work with.  Just drag content, including clips, graphics and lower-thirds from the File Browser into the playlist … or click the AUTO-LOOP button to play continually looping content from folders and sub-folders.

Please join us via remote connection at the JAG meeting on April 27 where we’ll provide an overview of our new features and functions.  For an up-close, hands-on experience with our products be sure to attend the Eastern Video Expo Trade Show on May 25th at the Crowne Plaza in Edison, NJ.  Register now at www.easternvideoexpo.com

State Video Franchising Laws and the Legal Actions Taking Place in New Jersey

by Nancy Werner, General Counsel for NATOA

Legal action has begun to take hold all across the country and even here in New Jersey.  Communities are beginning to fight back against over-the-top service providers and their franchise fee obligations believed owed to them as required by franchising laws and the New Jersey Cable Television Act, N.J. Rev. Stat. § 48:5A-1.  

The information that follows is from Nancy L. Werner, General Counsel for NATOA and explains what is happening and why these actions are taking place.

Justice scales and Gavel

*Litigation is pending in at least a dozen states, brought by local governments arguing that over-the-top (OTT) video service providers like Netflix and Hulu are subject to state video franchising laws. The focus of the litigation is the alleged obligation of these companies to pay to local governments the franchise/video service fee. As discussed below, the obligation generally depends on the definitions of video service” and video service provider” in state law.  These cases are not arguing that OTT providers are cable operators” as that term is defined in the Cable Act.

While the cases have been brought by different attorneys in different states, there is significant overlap in the issues raised. The main issues are:

• Whether OTT providers provide video service” such that they are video service providers” under state law. There are at least two related sub-issues:

  • Is their OTT programing generally considered comparable to video programming delivered to viewers by a television broadcast station?
  • Do OTT services fall within a statutory exception for service provided via the public internet?

• Whether OTT providers use” the rights of way as contemplated in state video franchising laws given that they do not own the facilities over which their services are delivered.

• Whether local governments have the authority to sue OTT providers who have not registered as video service providers, or whether that authority is vested with the appropriate state agency, with local authority limited to enforcing payment of fees by registered providers.

In addition to these common legal issues, several cases filed in state courts have faced procedural issues where OTT providers have used a federal law to remove the cases from state court to federal court. Many of the local government plaintiffs have asked the federal courts to remand the case back to state court based on several theories, including the Tax Injunction Act (which says that state, not federal, courts should hear cases impacting state taxes in certain circumstances) and the doctrine of comity, which similarly is aimed at restraining federal courts from entertaining claims for relief that risk disrupting state tax administration. Several local governments have prevailed on this issue.

It does not appear that local governments are raising the issue of compliance with PEG and other state franchising requirements. In several cases, the provision of PEG channels has been raised by defendants in an effort to show state law does not apply to them because they do not own networks and thus cannot provide capacity” for PEG programming. Other issues OTT providers have raised include whether the local governmentsclaims are preempted by the Cable Act or the Internet Tax Freedom Act, and whether they implicate the First Amendment speech rights of the OTT providers by imposing fees and other prior restraints” on their speech (i.e., their programming).*

We have all speculated for some time that this was something that should be occurring, but it has now become reality as a Class Action Complaint here in New Jersey.

*New Jersey: Borough of Longport along with the Township of Irvington, et al. v. Netflix and Hulu, et al.: Complaint filed in federal court on August 13, 2021. Defendantsmotion to dismiss is pending as of March 2022. Note that New Jersey law tracks more closely with the Cable Act than other state franchising laws, but it defines cable television service” to include video programming, without regard to the technology used to deliver such video programming, including Internet protocol technology,” which is not included in the federal definition of cable service.”*

What is happening right now represents an important issue for all municipalities.  Should these townships prevail, it could potentially mean more income via franchise fees and therefore more support for our municipal members. Whether they win the case or not, it certainly is worth watching the developments and strategies put forth by both the plaintiffs and the OTT providers here in New Jersey and around the country.

NATOA logo

Stepping Up Your Station Operations

by Bob Duthaler, Executive Board, Chair

Part of JAG’s ongoing effort is to educate stations on strategies which can help them operate a better station.  We have been focusing on those efforts through our online Managers Roundtable Discussions and during our monthly meetings with our discussion topics.  These are specifically designed for members to learn from other members, take away some of their success stories and incorporate them into their own station operations.  This collaborative effort is the driving force behind JAG and one of the main reasons why this organization was founded.

Are You Scheduled For A Change?

In our last Manager’s Roundtable discussion, we explored programming your station.  How to incorporate regularly scheduled programs, one-offs, meetings, outside content and more.  I will recap some of the discussion here. I urge you to visit the Members Only section of the JAG Website (https://jagonline.org/recorded-webinars/) where you can go back and re-watch these sessions or see them for the first time.  A great member benefit!

Meeting coverage seems to be at the heart of stations that participated in the conversation.  One of the things that most of them noticed was the change in the way we covered these during the pandemic and how we are covering them now.  You have heard me say this numerous time… these last couple of years have been “The Year of Live”.  What exactly do I mean by that?  Simply stated, we found ways to go live with our meeting coverage.  Perhaps it was live coverage of a meeting in a council chamber with members spread out over six feet apart with no public in attendance.  Others went live with Zoom meeting directly to air.  Some even shared how they incorporated a hybrid method.  However it was done, it was done live.  So herein lies our first challenge, scheduling live meetings.  I know from my experience, we recorded meetings in the past and then aired them at a later day and time.  All that had to change, interrupting our tried-and-true schedule for over 15 years!

Scheduling live programs (meetings, sports, or events) comes with its own challenges.  Everything from getting a signal back to the station broadcast server, equipment involved, and the time dedicated to kicking off a live program, keeping an eye on it during and then helping program off-air.  I am not going to address the technical operation of covering a live event in this article, as this was not part of our programming discussion.  We can save that for a future event.  I would like to focus on scheduling a live event, time constraints and pre-empting programs.  When scheduling a live program, how much time do you allot?  What if it goes over and interferes with other shows already scheduled?  Do I not schedule anything beyond the live event?  These are the challenges of live programming, but there are solutions.  First, you can use history as a guide for setting up a live programming time block.  This will allow you to estimate the programming time that needs to be allotted to cover this event.  Sounds easy enough, but this is live TV.  What do you do when you have programs scheduled beyond the time slot you scheduled for your live program, but there appears to be no end in sight?  Good thing our broadcast server partners have already thought of this as well.  There are features on most servers that allow you to lock in your live event and let it pre-empt regularly scheduled programs.  There are ways to do squeeze backs with messages letting views know that the next scheduled program will be delayed.  There are solutions for live programming and work arounds during programming interruptions.

It’s not all about live programs.  The key to creating a “must tune in” schedule is to offer your audience programs they are interested in watching, providing them new content on a regular basis and as much original content as possible.  I am going to work backwards on this.  Obviously, creating original content is key.  As many of your township’s events and original programming you can air the better.  The key is to now find a time slot in your schedule in which people can tune in and know that they are going to watch a local program.  If you can create a series from a local show (i.e.: Mayor’s Talk Show, Health Department Show, etc.) , then there is another regular time slot for shows.  But there is a limit to how much you can do.  This is where your JAG membership pays off.  There are so many stations and independent producers who are part of JAG that have shared their programs on the JAG Connect Server.  I urge you to go through the content, locate a series and make it part of your schedule…just like that you have filled in another time slot.  Take advantage of exercise shows, cooking shows, children’s programming and so much more.  You will find that these shows can fill in slots in your schedule in which you were just airing bulletin boards.  By creating a regular programming schedule, you invite your audience to come back time and time again.

Not Your Dad’s Bulletin Boards

During our last General Membership Meeting we discussed stepping up your bulletin boards.  This discussion was not recorded, as we never did that in the past, but it does bring about the thought of doing this in the future.  Let me know if this is something you would like to see happen.  But I digress.  I am sure many of you remember the early days of bulletin boards.  Perhaps you were using a character generator, early version of Scala or even creating graphics with clip art and text inside of PowerPoint (dramatic pause) … wait, some of you are still doing this?  Now is as good a time as any to re-examine your bulletin board operation.  I am going to go through a few things to keep in mind and some resources as well.

There are a lot of template designs available out there, take advantage of them.  Most can be adjusted to allow for color changes, logo insertion and more.  Try locating these templates and utilize them for a different look and feel.  Most bulletin board vendors have these available with their system.  Font selection and sizing is another important thing to keep in mind.  You need to realize that these graphics you create are being seen on various sized screens, from cell phones to large flat screen televisions.  Too much text and too small of a font will make it difficult for viewers to read your message.  You need to also keep in mind font color choices.  Since a lot of our stations still broadcast in SD from an analog feed, certain colors like red and bright white can cause bleeding or unwanted “noise” during your broadcast.  Some of this may be trial and error.

There is nothing worse than a bulletin board system without audio.  Nothing will make someone change the channel faster than when there is no audio.  There are several ways to add music to your bulletin board system, from royalty free music sources, cable company music feeds or music streams.  Find a source that works for you, that you feel comfortable about using, and that residents in your service area will find appealing.  Look to your bulletin board vendor for the best ways to introduce music to your system for playout during bulletin board playout.

Why not work on creating zones in your bulletin board playout.  This type of layout is now common and the preferred way to design your bulletin boards.  Think of the different types of sources you can now put in those zones.  Larger zones are ideal for your announcements.  Perhaps you add some side-bar weather graphic next.  Why not create a lower zone area in which you can have your logo, and a time and date stamp along with a news feed.  If you search RSS feeds in your area, you may find some good sources to use.  Why not speak to your local newspaper or online news source for their RSS feed was well?  With a little research, a phone call, or an email, you may find sources to use as a news ticker feed.

Finally, I will leave you with a few other things we discussed.  Think of adding full screen weather graphics with motion.  How about some PSAs?  There are so many, along with specific campaigns available through the Ad-Council.  Create an account for your station and start downloading lots of free PSA videos to run.  Add in your own station promos as well.  All these items help to break up the bulletin board and enhance its look and feel.  You can approach this with a complete overhaul of your bulletin board or slowly add in different updates.  The choice is yours.  For those who really want to take their bulletin boards to the next level, think of exploring paid services that can give you extra content for your bulletin boards.  Items like trivia, top 10 lists, stock updates, additional news feeds and much more. Making changes to your bulletin boards or creating a consistent programming schedule are just a couple of the things you can do to enhance your station.  If you start to incorporate these changes, and promote them across other media sources and social media, you will attract new viewers and help to keep the ones you have engaged and coming back.  I urge you to visit the Members Only section of the JAG Website (https://jagonline.org/recorded-webinars/ ) where you can view any of the Managers Round Table discussions we have held that are designed to help you better operate your station.