201-261-0786 jaginfo@jagonline.org P.O. Box 164, Metuchen, NJ 08840

North Brunswick TV rises to the challenge of the COVID-19 pandemic

 By Craig Yetsko Station Manager, North Brunswick

There was plenty of excitement at North Brunswick TV as 2020 began.

The station upgraded its facility’s video production and broadcast automation systems and cameras in late December 2019.  Varto Technologies installed a TriCaster TC1, a new mixer, six new PTZ cameras in the Municipal Building and Cablecast servers with video on demand and live streaming capabilities.

The project could not have come at a better time as the upgrades prepared the station for the challenges of COVID-19.

To keep residents informed during the pandemic, North Brunswick TV has aired daily briefings since March 11, 2020. Each program is recorded around 8:30 a.m. and broadcast throughout the day at the top of the hour.

The briefings have been well received by the community and have underscored the importance of PEG in providing vital information to residents.  During the first month, there were over 17,000 total video on demand views on the Cablecast page. The videos were also posted on the Township and Mayor’s Office Facebook pages which garnered tens of thousands of total views during that period.

The briefing team includes Mayor Francis ‘Mac’ Womack, Councilwoman Amanda Guadagnino, Parks, Recreation & Community Services Director Lou Ann Benson, Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Cafferty and Schools Superintendent Dr. Brian Zychowski.  Each program features updates on COVID-19 cases and deaths, Township and school news, a little history and some levity with a joke or two.

There have been a multitude of guests, including State, County and Local officials, members of the Township Police and Fire Departments and First Aid & Rescue Squad, North Brunswick Township School administrators, teachers, coaches and students, local clergy and even a guest from Canada, Sebastian Major.  He produces and hosts a podcast, Our Fake History, in Toronto.

During the first month, taping was done at the Municipal Building then transitioned virtually through the Go To Meeting platform.  A laptop was hooked into a TriCaster input which allowed for briefings to be recorded with a lower third graphic for the date and a daily COVID-19 case graphic as the numbers are read.  You may view the briefings at http://cablecast.northbrunswicknj.gov/CablecastPublicSite/gallery/11?channel=1 . Using the TriCaster with Go To Meeting for virtual COVID-19 briefings allowed the station to address the challenges of remote Township meetings.  Township Council, Planning and Zoning Board meetings were

aired live pre-COVID so the transition went smoothly as the station used the Cablecast system to schedule the meetings to go live via the TriCaster feed.

Over the past year, the station has broadcast virtual productions of the Township’s Memorial Day and September 11th Remembrances, Heritage Day, Christmas Tree Lighting and Menorah Lighting ceremony.  To assist in keeping Township seniors connected and physically fit, two of the Senior Center instructors sent yoga and exercise videos which air during the morning.  Residents have sent e-mails thanking the station for broadcasting the videos.

The station has also worked collaboratively with the Township schools in airing Board of Education meetings, North Brunswick Township High School virtual graduation, a virtual tour of the new North Brunswick Township Middle School, Memorial Day projects and posting information on the Community Bulletin Board.  Over the winter, a couple high school boys and girls basketball games were aired live using the high school athletics’ YouTube Live feed. With future ready technology in place, North Brunswick TV is looking ahead to opportunities which will further broaden its programming and provide new ways to inform Township residents.