5 Takeaways from My First Eastern Video Expo

By Dana Healy, VP Cablecast Community Media

The Jersey Access Group hosted the Eastern Video Expo LIVE for the first time in a couple of years. Hello! My name is Dana Healy, and I’m the VP of Cablecast Community Media. This was my first time attending the Eastern Video Expo! Being the new kid on the block, every attendee I met was a new face. Here are my 5 take-aways from the New Jersey-based event.

1.Passion Runs Deep

From vendors to attendees to trustee members, there was no shortage of passion for the industry.  People swapped stories about increasing access in their communities, assisting cities in media production, and educating the incoming generation.  It reminded me of the culture of Cablecast.  We build the easiest to use broadcast automation software and video servers so that our passionate customers have more time to focus on their mission of serving their communities.

2.Feels Like Family

Attendees greeted each other like old friends with big smiles and hearty hugs.  I asked a few attendees like Doug Seidel and Bob Duthaler the last time they saw their colleagues in person. Years! Gathering in person for this event felt more like a homecoming than a conference.  I had a chance to chat with Monica Jackson of Highland Park, and Ken Morgan, a long-time community media volunteer, about their work, and passion for the JAG mission.  The atmosphere was relaxed and made it easy to connect with people over a lunch meal or drinks.

3.Reconnecting with Friends

Michael D’Amato, Broadcast Communications Manager for the Township of Edison, and longtime Cablecast customer, stopped by to reconnect.  Bob Smith, Cablecast’s Inside Sales Rep, had a chance to visit the Edison, NJ facility to learn firsthand how the Township of Edison is utilizing its Cablecast equipment and to answer questions.

4.Vendors Show Up

From Varto Technologies to Municipal Captioning to Cablecast Community Media, the vendors constructed impressive displays and executed dynamic demonstrations for attendees.  It was an intense version of show and tell.  Varto and Yervant of Varto Technologies displayed three tables of hardware to show the attendees!  Daniell Krawczyk and Rob Gelber of Municipal Captioning hosted coloring contests at their technicolored booth.  Bob Smith at Cablecast showered attendees with swag and demonstrations!

5.Attendees Lead the Conversation

The JAG attendees have spoken!  The Cablecast booth was hopping with inquisitive people.  The Cablecast team guided their questions through the Cablecast VIO Stream to the Cablecast CG bulletin board.  It was evident that the Cablecast CG Bulletin Board was the product of interest. As the newbie attending the conference, I felt quite at home chatting with trustees and attendees.  If I didn’t meet you, connect with me on LinkedIn!  I’d love to hear your takeaways from the event.

Spotlight Clark: New Facility is a Very Busy Place in Clark

By Don Smith, Staff, Clark TV

Clark TV-36 is owned and operated by the Township of Clark as OurClark Media TV36 which is part of the Communications and Business Development Department under the Direction of Elizabeth Clee.  The TV-36 Staff includes Phil Scardilli, TV/Multimedia Teacher at ALJ High School who has been with the station for 20 years and Don Smith who brings over 25 years of experience in local television.

TV-36 covers Council Meetings, Board of Ed Meetings, Zoning Board Meetings, Planning Board Meetings and any other governmental meetings that need coverage.  The studio is also used to do emergent news reporting to the community about various situations that may arise in the township.

Our mayor and council believe TV-36 should be an extension of the services the Township provides and a reflection of life in the community.  As such, the staff attends all Township events and numerous recreational ones to provide coverage via TV36, YouTube and other social media platforms to all residents.  Some of those events include: the Little League/Softball Parade, Memorial Day Parade, 9-11 Ceremony, Annual UNICO Festival in October, Recreation’s Trunk or Treat, Veteran’s Day ceremony and the much-loved Winter Wonderland/Tree Lighting.

Additionally, the TV-36 staff broadcasts school and library events of interest such as concerts, talent shows, graduations, sporting events, guest speakers, special programming and much more.  In 2021 the studio staff began interviewing local experts and professionals to create short videos on various topics of interest to our viewers.  We even created a set of commercials reminding locals to “Shop Clark for the Holidays.”

In the next year, we are planning to invite residents with special interests, talents and a willingness to share, to slide in front of our cameras and do what they do best for our audience.

Our facility has just finished a multi-year remodel and upgrade to state-of-the-art equipment.

The studio is run with a TriCaster TC1 unit which is fed by

3 Sony Studio Cameras HXC-FB80SN with HDVFL750 VF/20X Lens and Viewfinder controlled by 3 Camera Control Units (Sony HXCU-FB80N) for Full 1080p Resolution

Our Bulletin Board is powered by the Infovue system Player and 1 Remote stick, and Show Management is controlled by a Leightronix Ultra HD Server running through a Blackmagic Smart Video Hub.

The biggest upgrade was to our council chambers infrastructure with 5 Sony PTZ Cameras controlled remotely from our control room to the brand new Court/Council Chambers and Police HQ across the street all brought in with bi-Directional Fiber.  In addition to the cameras, we are able to control 4-65 inch Sony monitors on the walls in the courtroom with full control of audio and video to the room with a Crestron Control Unit.

We also have Fiber lines to the high school football field for live games as well as a fiber line to the high school auditorium.

In addition to the fiber feeds, we have a LiveU Solo Unit that enables us to go live anywhere throughout the town. TV-36 is set for the future needs of the community and will continue to grow its programming for years to come.

An Exciting Night at the JAG Awards

By George Fairfield, JAG Awards Committee, Chair

The curtain has come down on another JAG Awards season.  On behalf of JAG and the Awards Committee, I congratulate everyone; not only all the Award of Excellence, Distinction, & Recognition winners, but also ALL those who entered even just one program into the JAG Awards.  These days it is not easy for a PEG station, a Non-profit, or an Independent Producer to create a program.  We all have budgets to navigate through; we all have to maneuver through the different agendas along our paths; and let us not forget how we all must constantly pilot through the obstacles the pandemic keeps throwing into our way.  Nevertheless, with all this and more swirling around, our PEG community produced and entered into the JAG Awards Competition some of the most diverse programs ever.  AND we had some of the most diversity among the winners than I can recall.

Asbury Park

We had small PEG stations with volunteer crews winning Award of Excellence!  We had Non-profit organizations winning Award of Excellence!  And we had Independent Producers winning Award of Excellence!  There were twelve different JAG members who won an Award of Excellence award.  That is 12 different members of JAG winning at least one of the possible 16 Award of Excellence awards which were presented during the awards ceremony.  Also during the awards ceremony, there were eight different JAG members winning an Award of Distinction certificate and seven different members winning an Award of Recognition certificate.     

NJ Advocates for Aging Well

On top of all these winners, the JAG Awards Committee handed out 29 gold certificates and 24 silver certificates.  Literally, every entry was awarded an adjudicated certificate.  This is more individual members receiving more recognition for their hard work than have ever been awarded before. 

Here is a link https://jagonline.org/jag-award-winners/ to the complete list of winners for each category.

Piscataway

Along with all of these new adjudicated certificates and awards, a whole new method of tracking each entry as it moved through the competition needed to be developed and implemented.  Thank goodness for TelVue & Google because everything was now to be handled online.  The committee’s greatest worry was to accidentally award an entry the wrong award or completely lose an entry, but thankfully, the hard work and dedication of the JAG Awards Committee paid off.  There were no wrong awards handed out; no entry left out during its journey to the TelVue Connect then out to the judges; no score sheet lost during its journey from Google forms to the judges and back; and finally no foul ups at the awards ceremony.  I would like to take this moment and thank the committee members; Dave Garb, Valerie Stevens, and Ronni Garrett.  Without you I would have completely lost my mind and something somewhere certainly would have been missed or forgotten.  I also want to give an extra thank you to Ronni Garrett for running master control during the awards ceremony at the banquet, you kept us on track and on time; and to Samantha Urash, you are always a pleasure and a professional to work with on stage; and I cannot forget to thank J Robertson for flying all the way from Hawaii to MC the Jag Awards.  Ok, he didn’t come just to MC the JAG Awards, but my gratitude is no less.  Thanks to all of you for making this year’s JAG Awards Ceremony a wonderful event.

J Robertson

The JAG Awards Committee would also like to thank Planet Networks for your sponsorship of the JAG Awards.  We could not have given out so many awards in person if it was not for your support. 

We all know the first rule to having a successful production is to feed your crew (or guest) well and adding happy hour with spirits is a great bonus.  In recognition of this, the awards committee thanks Municipal Captioning for your sponsorship of the cocktail hour and Varto Technologies for your sponsorship of the banquet.  Without these sponsors, setting the tone for the evening, the awards ceremony would not have been as much of a success as it was.  But the greatest thanks goes to all the JAG Awards participants.  Without you, for starters, all of our stations would have far less programming to air and let’s face it, the judges would just be looking at static on a monitor. On behalf of the awards committee, we look forward to seeing what you produce this year and enter into next year’s JAG Awards.

An Exceptional Event For Operational and Technology Training at the Eastern Video Expo

By Bob Duthaler, Executive Board, Chair

I said this throughout the Eastern Video Expo and even in another article in this newsletter (Challenge – figure out what article and email me your answer), it was great to have an in-person portion of this year’s event, something we have not been able to do since 2019.  But what helped separate this year’s event was our hybrid approach.  Our in-person Trade Show as bookended by two virtual conference session days.  Once again, we were able to pull in tremendous speakers throughout the country as they shared their knowledge and learning experience throughout their career.

For those of you who were able to attend all the sessions and came to the in-person events, I thank you very much.  The support you showed to the organization is greatly appreciated.  Additionally, I hope you got a lot out of our conference, and you walked away with a greater appreciation for what we do, a deeper knowledge of our industry and an excitement for what the future of our industry brings.  This is what our conference provided all those who attended.

For those who attended this year’s conference, our sessions will be available shortly for you to go back and watch again.  If you did not register for the conference, we will provide you with an opportunity to register, pay and gain access to all the sessions along with the JAG Awards.  If you missed this year’s event, send me an email at bduthaler@jagonline.org and I will help you “post-conference” register, so you gain access to all our material.

Here is a rundown of some of the Operational and Technology Session you will want to watch again or even for the first time for others:

Documentary Storytelling and Short Marketing Videos

Daniel Glick, a seasoned documentary filmmaker, will talk about his process of making and developing projects – both short form and feature length – and the many challenges and rewards that come with the process. He will also talk about the value of using the documentary form in marketing for businesses, an approach that can be useful for townships and nonprofits too.

Franchise Renewal- What should you expect?

What is the status of cable subscribers? Can I get an HD Channel? How is the FCC order effecting your current franchise agreement? What kind of legislation is out there trying to protect PEG? These topics along with results of stations resent franchise negotiations will be discussed. Panelists J Robertson and Mike Wassenaar

Ask the Lawyers

There is a lot of interesting things happening in community media. Broadband, the 6th Circuit Court cable franchise decision, closed captioning, rights of way as well as FAA new rules on drones. Join, ask, or just listen to the lawyers, as they relate to you what is exactly going on and how it may affect your world in the very near future.  Panelist Nancy Werner and Brandon Dittmar

Station Manager’s Round Table – Ask The Tech

We continued our popular Manager’s Round Table Discussions. Now is the chance for you to ask engineering and technical questions and have them answered by experts in the industry. Join us as we discuss our operational needs, problems, questions, and solutions. Panelists Nick Besink and John Micewicz.

In addition to those sessions listed above I urge to you take another look at these sessions as well:

Social Media Marketing Beyond Facebook

Facebook isn’t the only social media platform out there, in fact your audience might be waiting for you in a different platform. Join our panel of social media experts to discuss Twitter, Instagram, TicTok and more. In other words, find the social media that is waiting for your content. Panelists Cyd Katz and Leontyne Anglin

Lighting isn’t for exposure – it’s for communication

Award Winning cinematographer David Landau will give a workshop on how to use lighting as a storytelling element. Different interviews can call for different lighting, based on how we want the viewer to perceive what is being said. A better understanding of light and how lighting affects the perceptions of the viewer will help you create better images that communicate what you want the viewer to feel and think about what they are watching. All of this can be accomplished without large amounts of lighting units as David will demonstrate.

How to Make An Award Winning Video

With the tools to create video available to anyone with a cellphone, it’s never been more challenging to produce award winning productions. Mike Kostel, the Executive Director of the New York office of the National Academy of Arts and Sciences and an Emmy award winning producer will share with us his thoughts on what makes an award-winning television production. We’ll discuss things like choosing a compelling subject; how to  structure a show for maximum impact; what storytelling techniques you can use to entertain and inform: and how to work with a production team post Covid.

Interview Tips and Tricks

Barry Farber is a best-selling author of 14 business and inspirational books in over 30 languages, an award winning radio and television host as well as an agent and marketing consultant for corporations, professional athletes, and entertainers. He’s also the creator and marketer of the FoldzFlat® Pens. His latest release is a children’s book and animated TV Series: The Adventures of Little Billy “IN SEARCH OF THE MAGIC TREE.” The life lessons contained in The Adventures of Little Billy are the basis of Farber’s new podcast aimed at parents of young children. In the podcast, also titled “IN SEARCH OF THE MAGIC TREE,” Farber interviews, celebrities, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, educators, brain surgeons and more about building with children at an early age a foundation for success throughout life. Learn more about Barry Farber at www.barryfarber.com.

Thank to our sponsors: Diamond-TelVue, Titanium-Varto Technologies, Gold- Municipal Captioning, Silver- Planet Network, Bronze- RUSHWORKS, Copper- Cablecast Community Media Thanks to the Conference Committee: Bob Duthaler & Geoffery Belinfante, Co-Chairs, George Fairfield, Vice Chair, Doug Seidel, Secretary, Linda Besink, Treasurer, Rick Gearhart, Anthony Pagliuco, Dave Garb, and J Robertson.

Straight from Ask the Lawyers Session at the Eastern Video Expo

By Dave Garb, Legislative Committee Chair

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

The Borough of Longport and Township of Irvington had filed a class action complaint against v. Netflix, Inc. and Hulu, LLC, alleging they had violated New Jersey’s Cable Television Act by not paying franchise fees to municipalities in exchange for their use of the public rights-of-way.

Nancy Werner

Coming straight from the “Ask the Lawyers” session at our Eastern Video Expo, Nancy Werner, General Counselor for NATOA gave us an update on where this situation stands.  “On May 19th, the federal district court where this case was pending, issued a decision dismissing the case.  So they agreed with the defendants, the streaming companies, that the city’s municipalities couldn’t bring these cases.  And in a way, maybe it doesn’t resonate with everybody, but the court didn’t decide on the merits.  They didn’t say these companies don’t fall under the New Jersey statute.  The court said that the borough and the township who sued did not have the authority to sue.  There’s no private right of action under the statute.  So basically the implication is the BPU could decide that they think that these over the top providers are subject to your law.  But the local governments can’t be the ones to try to enforce that through the courts.”

Nancy further went on to say  “There’s actually at least 12 other state litigations similar to New Jersey’s, although most of those states have similar statutes, they are different from New Jersey.  So you guys are still you’re still special.  So I make that distinction because in these other states where this is happening and a decision has been reached by the courts, they have said, no, that these streaming services are not video service providers.  I think maybe all of them have defined a term called video service provider in the same way.  That’s defined in a different way than New Jersey law is.  So they’re not directly applicable.  But I think the arguments are going to be exactly the same in New Jersey if it ever got to that.  But I do think it’s good for the local government side that the court didn’t go into that substantive decision, because in other courts, as I said, the court said you don’t have standing to sue and these aren’t video service providers and they don’t provide video service.  And you’re wrong in every single conceivable way we can think of.  You didn’t get that decision in New Jersey.  They just said, no, no, no.  We think the BPU has to bring this case.”

JAG now has a possible avenue to help our municipalities in this interesting situation.  It will be discussed and debated in our future board meetings.

On a different subject that was also brought up at the “Ask the Lawyers” session, there is a whole bunch of grant funding going to states from the federal government for broadband deployment, over $40 billion.  President Biden announced a couple of weeks ago a voluntary initiative of around 20 broadband providers who have agreed to provide 100 megabit service for $30.  And the $30 number comes from a plan called the Affordable Connectivity Program, or ACP which Congress adopted to provide this $30 subsidy for low income households to afford broadband.  And so what the President did was to get some Internet providers together and make sure you have an ACP.  But it’s really just to make sure that the people who qualify for this low income broadband subsidy will have a high, a truly high speed plan that they can tap into through this subsidy.

Brandon Dittman

Lastly also coming from the “Ask the Lawyers” Session, Brandon Dittman from the law firm of Kissinger & Fellman, P.C. added his thoughts to a question on Drone usage.  “The federal government and specifically the FAA is the only one that can really regulate the technical requirements of how a drone works and how you can use it.  You know, the flight aspects of a drone, all the local government or state can do is really regulate where it can be used more or less.  And this is where it gets a lot more complicated

Before the FAA stepped in and promulgated what is now very extensive regulations on the commercial and recreational use of drones, states tried to step in and do some of this work.  Several boroughs and townships and New Jersey tried to implement local rules and at this point in time, you know what the case law on this is, most of those have been overruled or preempted by federal law to the extent that they reach into really the flight aspects of drones or aircraft pursuant to case law.

And therefore, the FAA really has exclusive jurisdiction over their operation.  And so from a practical perspective, there’s not really any state laws because really the FAA is occupied the field in its entirety with regard to at least the operational aspects of drones.  Now, if you, pass a state law or more likely a local law that you can only take off or land it in a particular area, that may be worth looking at.  But otherwise, with regards in terms of how you can operate your aircraft, you really got to look at the FAA rules. That’s the only thing that matters at this point.”

Legislator of the Year Award Recipient

Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman

At the 2022 JAG Awards, held on May 25th, the Jersey Access Group proudly honored Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman of the 12th Legislative District with the “2022 Legislator of the Year Award”.

This award was given in recognition of her efforts in preserving the mission of local media here in New Jersey and throughout our nation. 

Through her support to protect the local PEG channels and her willingness to be a co-sponsor of the Protecting Community Television Act, and by sending a letter to the FCC Chair along with Congressman Donald Payne, to rescind the FCC’s August 1, 2019 Third Report and Order (621) she has demonstrated to our members her understanding of issues facing municipalities in NJ and around the country.

She has truly shown her understanding of the importance of local access television and the role these stations play in getting information to the communities they serve

Though she could not attend in person, Congresswomen Watson Coleman did send us this message of gratitude:

May 25, 2022

Dear Friends:

I want to thank the Jersey Access Group for honoring me with the 2022 Legislator of the Year Award. I’m sorry I am unable to attend this evening, but I want to take this opportunity to express how I view the importance of your work.

In a time when the volume of commercial media to which we are constantly exposed can seem overwhelming, your work in protecting and in expanding access to PEG channels is so important. We’re seeing more and more that most people are getting their news from national sources that often don’t have an interest in covering the local news that most directly impacts people.

These are crucial access points for community members and are valuable resources that require our commitment and protection. Local media is struggling right now but the work of The Jersey Access Group and other organizations like it will ensure that everyday people get the information they need to fully participate in their communities.  

My sincere appreciation once again for this recognition.

Thank you,

JAG Sharing Programs & Knowledge

by Jesse Lerman, President/CEO, TelVue

It was a welcome change to finally be back in person at the Eastern Video Expo 2022.  One of the big benefits of in-person events is how much easier it is to engage when it comes to feedback and collaborative-based discussions such as User Groups.  So we were excited to be hosting the JAG Shared Server User Group to kick off the in-person conference day.  The JAG Shared Server is one of the many great perks of being a JAG Member Station, making it easy to share programming within the JAG community and find relevant local programming for your station.  Here are some interesting statistics from JAG Shared Server:

  • There are approximately 1,000 active programs shared, most relevant locally to NJ communities.
  • Nearly 3,000 programs have been shared historically.
  • Affiliates have downloaded shared programs nearly 20,000 times historically.  This means many programs are downloaded by multiple affiliates.
  • Over 40 Series have been Syndicated.  Series are great for Episodic programs allowing Affiliates to subscribe to the Series to automatically receive each new episode without having to License each show individually.   
TelVue User Group

We were unsure what the turnout would be like for an 8:30am User Group, after a two-year gap from anything in-person.  We were thrilled to see so many JAG members (and J! perhaps thinking about a Hawaii Media Exchange?) present bright and early, ready to learn all of the tips and tricks to get the most out of the JAG Shared Server!

We kicked things off with a high level overview to make sure everyone knew the basics both from a Syndicator’s (uploader) and Affiliate’s (downloader) standpoint.  This included basic uploading, metadata tagging and downloading.  After that, we dove into advanced topics that garnered a lot more discussion, including tips and tricks and time-saving workflows.  Key topics were:

TelVue Connect Service
  • Getting the most out of Series to make it easier to share Episodic programming.  Multiple attendees shared that they would like Syndicators to organize their programs as Series to make it easier and more automatic to get each episode.
  • How to turn on Email Notifications to receive a nightly email summary of new programs available.
  • The various Reports that are available to both Syndicators and Affiliates, plus JAG Media Exchange Group Reports.
  • How to customize your End User License Agreement (EULA) that Affiliates digitally agree to the first time they download any of your programming.
  • Tips on how to manage storage usage, including setting up deletion rules to automatically free up space.
  • How programming without captioning can be automatically captioned so Affiliates receive ready-to-go programs with captioning.
  • HyperCaster integration to save time and fully automate:
    • Downloading shared programs with metadata via Distributions.
    • Scheduling of downloaded programs using TBDs and Series Scheduling. Attendees were interested in how to automate this both for local NJ-based JAG programming, as well as Democracy Now! shared on the global media exchange.
    • Sharing programming including as Series with HyperCaster Content Workflow Rules.
    • Searching for programs downloaded from the JAG Shared Server on the HyperCaster.  Many attendees were not aware of the HyperCaster Advanced Search feature and ability to filter by JAG Organizations.

The JAG Shared Server User Group was highly engaging and was a big success.  Attendees shared best practices from a member station’s perspective, and often explained things better than we could!  We also received feedback that additional “getting started” documentation would be helpful for new members who are on-boarding.  Stay tuned;  we’ll be back in touch with that and more!  Thanks to all who attended the JAG Shared Server User Group, and on behalf of the TelVue team and your JAG Shared Server technology partner, it was fantastic to collaborate in-person again!

President’s Message June, 2022

by Bob Duthaler

JAG Honors One of Its Own and Another Who Promotes JAG

One of my favorite times during the year is our annual JAG/Eastern Video Expo and Conference.  This year was no exception.  In fact, there was something even a little more special about this year, as it was the first time we have gathered in person since 2019.  This year we gathered for our Trade Show, Banquet and JAG Awards on Wednesday, May 25th at the Crowne Plaza in Edison, NJ.

As part of our annual conference, we get to give out the following awards:  JAG Legislator of the Year, JAG Municipal Excellence and JAG Recognition Award.  These are based on nominations from the membership, brought forward to the Leadership Committee and final vote by the Executive Board.  Everyone who was nominated, and all those who were voted to receive the awards, all demonstrated their commitment to PEG and the JAG organization.  I urge you to read the article from the Legislation Committee on our Legislator of the Year Award recipient.  I have the privilege to tell you about our other two awards recipients.

Dave Ambrosy

There are so many of our JAG Members that do so much for the organization.  They go out of their way to promote the organization, participate in membership activities and meetings, or serve on committees.  To single out a member to receive this award out of all the active members is no easy task.  However, this year it seemed to be a rather simple choice.  The person selected as our JAG Recognition Award winner has been an integral part of this organization from the very beginning.  His station was one of the very first JAG Member Stations and where our very first President came from.  He took on an active role in JAG from the beginning, from membership meetings, production support over the years, working on the conference committee and even playing at one of our Banquet Dinners with his band and eventually was an executive board member for many years.  Although he stepped down from the board this year, he continued to participate in JAG events, meetings, and committees.  If you haven’t guessed it already, I am talking about Dave Ambrosy.  The plaque reads:  For your years of dedication to JAG as a committee and board member. Your insights have helped pave a strong foundation for future leaders.  JAG is what we are today due to your hard work and commitment.

Jean-Guy Lauture

As an organization, it is always a special thing when we can recognize and award a person who is not necessarily part of our organization, but who fully understands what we do and stand for and then go out of their way to help not only to support our organization, but also promote it as well.  This year we were lucky to have that in this year’s Municipal Excellence Award.  This individual not only supported their local access channel in the township they worked for, but in their role as a NJGMIS-Government Management Information Sciences- President Elect, took it upon himself to alert other IT professionals in other municipalities about all the things his PEG Station was doing in Bloomfield, along with what the JAG organization does as well.  Jean-Guy Lauture, who serves as the Director of Information Technology and Assistant Township Administrator for Bloomfield New Jersey was our selection for Municipal Excellence Award.  The plaque reads: In recognition of your efforts in demonstrating the value of community media as a communication tool for townships.  We are grateful for your continued support. Both winners were present at our Awards Banquet at the Crowne Plaza in Edison and received their award.  Past JAG President Lee Beckerman had the privilege to give the JAG Recognition Award to Dave Ambrosy and I was lucky enough to give the Municipal Excellence Award to Jean-Guy Lauture.  Both award recipients were recorded during our event and will be available shortly for our members to re-watch or watch for the first time.  Congratulations to all our award winners and a special thanks for what they did to help promote JAG.

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!