Spotlight: HPTV – A History of HPTV
By Monica Jackson, Station Manager, Highland Park Television
The broadcasting of video recordings of Highland Park, NJ public meetings by HPTV is an accepted fact in the Borough and a well-regarded public service. Yet it may surprise some observers to hear that the development of the channel was by no means simple or amply supported.
The Borough’s Cable TV Advisory Committee established HPTV in 1996, initially offering only a bulletin board scroll. Video telecasts of Borough Council meetings began the following year.
As Borough resident Gary Leslie , long-time HPTV station manager shared, the Mayor and Borough Council were initially hesitant to have their meetings televised. Yet they soon came to see the value of the broadcasts, both to improve transparency and for enhancing accessibility. The Highland Park Board of Education expressed reluctance as well to see their meetings televised, yet they too embraced the option years later.
As the channel grew, HPTV added other forms of programming such as broadcasts of other town meetings and special community events; a talk show led by a local senior citizen; a series of stories from the public library; the airing of public domain films, and more.
When HPTV began adding local content, the limited group of volunteers who ran the channel benefited from a partnership with the public high school that allowed HPTV to work with a video production class and share a TV studio in the school with them. The students helped develop some of the programming and the class teacher served as a member of the Cable TV Advisory Committee. Sadly, budget cuts led to the cancellation of the class and the closing of the TV studio.
HPTV has often operated with a shoestring budget and a skeleton crew of volunteers. The Borough was able to obtain grants from the cable provider during franchise renewal negotiations, and used these funds to purchase new equipment. In the last decade the channel established a presence on YouTube and Facebook, which has enabled it to further extend the reach of the programming. Our next big step will be to stream our borough council meetings live to Highland Park residents beginning with our November meetings.
In 2019, Gary Leslie decided to take a much deserved retirement from his time-intensive involvement in HPTV. He has remained an active cheerleader, and helpful advisor for the station. Gary’s leadership has given us the foundation from which we operate today.
Monica Jackson, communications coordinator of the Borough, assumed responsibility for the channel and has overseen programming ever since. She, like Gary, finds it quite challenging to enlist volunteers to help create content for the channel. We are always looking for new ways to recruit volunteers and we would welcome any suggestions as to how to find and keep new people.
HPTV is currently aired on Verizon Fios channel 44 and on Optimum channel 15. The channel offers recordings of local government meetings (Mayor & Borough Council, Zoning Board, Planning Board, and Board of Education), programs produced by other sources (public access stations, public domain programming, etc.), bulletin board listings of upcoming events, and (when available) locally produced interviews and recordings of public events. We depend on the JAG cloud-based server to supplement the programs we produce locally. These programs help make the channel more interesting to our residents.
For more information on HPTV, please contact Monica Jackson at email@example.com.