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:  

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.