Spotlight on Old Bridge TV Addressing New Issues During the Pandemic

by Mary Granahan, Station Manager OBTV

Old Bridge Township has over 65,000 residents and our municipal access station, OBTV, is working to keep them informed and engaged through our programming and social media content. While our local channels OBTV15 (Optimum) and FIOS 22 are only available in Old Bridge, our content is
accessible to everyone on the township’s YouTube channel. Over the years, OBTV’s staff has expanded from a small group of volunteers to a full-time station manager, and through my efforts, a part-time media production tech and a successful internship program. I am eager to continue our growth through reinstating our JAG membership and becoming more involved with the organization.

I was hired as station manager in January 2016, after almost 10 years of working in the industry on a freelance basis. My vision for the station was to improve the quality and overall look of the channel. Although we broadcast in SD, I upgraded our recordings to HD and created new motion graphics packages and intros for each series. I secured capital funding to build new, versatile studio sets and upgraded the lighting to LED. We now have three stand-alone sets with multiple options that enables us to change the look for each show.

As a municipal access station, we have a responsibility to keep the public informed. Part of that includes covering the township’s three most important board meetings: Township Council, Township Planning Board and Township Zoning Board. While our buildings remain closed to the public, we’ve made adjustments by holding virtual and hybrid meetings with call-in sessions for public comment. All of our meetings air live on OBTV and YouTube. We also have a large social media presence on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram which is a great tool to instantly reach residents for emergency and non-emergency updates and information.

Other programs we produce include Old Bridge Outlook, You and Your Health, and our very popular Pet of the Month series where we feature an adoptable pet from the Old Bridge Animal Shelter. We’ve worked with the animal shelter and township council to eliminate adoption fees for featured pets as an extra incentive for adopting – especially senior and long-term shelter pets. This program has been so successful, that we often need to feature more than one animal because they’re adopted so quickly!

While some of our regular programming has halted during the pandemic, we have created new, dynamic content to keep our residents informed and entertained. Old Bridge Update is a weekly PSA-style program where our Mayor delivers a brief address on COVID-19 and its impact on the community. Department Update is a 10-15 minute interview program that brings focus to the projects, programs and services offered to residents and the adjustments made during the pandemic.

For our younger residents, we’ve worked with our Parks & Recreation Department to record Story Time! and Virtual Recreation.

And, for our older residents, we’ve collaborated with Silver Linings at Old Bridge, our senior center here in Old Bridge, to produce Silver Strength: Mind & Body. This is a 35-45 minute wellness program featuring classes originally taught live at the center, now virtually. Each week will feature Chair Yoga, Gentle Strength Training or Move 2 the Groove – a more advanced exercise dance class. The feedback on the new programming has been very positive and we’re planning to continue production on these programs post-pandemic. Looking ahead to the future, our goals are to continue to expand programming, to create a stable revenue stream, and to procure funding for projects to upgrade and sustain the growth of our station. This summer, the Old Bridge Township courtroom/council chamber will undergo a complete renovation from a new dais and public seating to improved lighting and an upgraded sound system. I’m working with a vendor to incorporate technology that will give the board president the option to control all microphones, presentations and lighting.

We are going to be installing telephone conferencing technology, which will make it easier for consultants and residents to participate in public meetings during the pandemic. Another current project is the upgrade to our broadcast and community bulletin board server. The new server will have enhanced bulletin board features and increase our audience reach through closed captioning and live streaming for non-cable customers who use Apple TV or similar devices. My plan is to create a steady revenue stream through local sponsorships of our community bulletin board. We have a thriving business community here in Old Bridge who has generously contributed to past township events. This anticipated revenue will not only offset current operation costs, it will help fund future upgrades, projects and equipment.

Old Bridge Television has undergone many upgrades over the past five years and I’m excited to continue the station’s expansion and bring new programming to our residents.