David Chilson, an associate director with CBS Broadcasting, addressed the Orangetown Town Board Tuesday regarding a plan to upgrade the town's television broadcasting capabilities.
"The government channel represents an opportunity for the town government to provide a conduit people can turn to for information about the community," Chilson said.
The first step could be approved at tonight's regular town board meeting. There is a resolution on the agenda that would approve the use of up to $100,000 of PEG funds to "develop the town's capacity to broadcast public meetings and pre-recorded programming, contingent on approval of contracts with equipment sales and installation vendors."
"We can put a nice system together," Chilson said. "The price of equipment has come down quite a bit with new technology."
The town currently has $240,000 in PEG (Public, Educational and Government) funds, a number that could soon reach $300,000. That money has limited uses, one of which would be the upgrade the town board is discussing.
"We can't use this money for a truck or anything else," Supervisor Andy Stewart said.
The expenditures would still have to be approved as the town buys equipment.
Some of the $300,000 could go to help Tappan Zee High School create a television production room. The idea is that the school would provide content to the town, though the specifics still need to be determined.
"Tappan Zee wanted $170,000 for a TV production room," Councilman Denis Troy said. "We went back and forth. We wanted to see what they would buy and we would match half.
"For me, in terms of the $300,000, to put $100,000 into the town is long overdue. This is our vehicle out to the public. We have two people knowledgeable in the industry (volunteering to help. Chilson and John Howard). I support it 100 percent. We can still figure out what to do with TZ. Whatever we do with TZ, we may have to do at Pearl River."
Orangetown currently has a 24-hour channel available on Cablevision and FIOS, but only uses them for town board meetings. Even those are broadcast from one camera.
One goal of the project would be to improve the quality of live projects.
"We are proposing three cameras on the walls," Chilson said. "Control would be in a switching system in a room off to the side. We can put together a fairly professional-looking presentation."
Two other focal points of the project as listed in a description distributed by Stewart last week are:
- Add capacity to store and broadcast pre-taped material on an automated weekly schedule: PSAs, announcements, videos about local events, bulletins, etc.
- Create procedures for accepting/denying pre-taped material donated by local schools, clubs, individuals, etc.
The goal would be to have some form of programming on the town's cable channels 24 hours a day. That would include meetings, possibly committees such as the planning board and zoning board of appeals as well as the town council. There is also other programming available, much of which is available free of charge.
Possible equipment could also include televisions or projectors in the lobby and in the old courtroom, which could display useful information and could be used as part of presentations at town board meetings. These could also be tied into the Internet.
Among the other potential benefits of the upgrades suggested by the town are:
- Increase government transparency and public access.
- Provide an opportunity to view town meetings to residents unable to attend
- Provide opportunities for volunteers interested in being part of the process.
- Attract the interest of younger, tech-savvy residents to town government.
For more on tonight's town board meeting, click here. The agenda and supporting materials are attached to this report.