Since we announced the two and a half week closure of the BCTV television studio, we have received a lot of curious questions – like, “What the heck are you doing in there?”
The short answer? Brushing up our game.
This just in – cable access television is not flashy, and has been occasionally described as ‘outdated’. (*shudder*) I am being sarcastic, but really…let me be the one to tell you that it is anything but outdated, and what it lacks in sexiness, it makes up in smarts.
To keep what could be a very long description very, very short: Cable is kind of analog. And digital media is kind of, well…digital. And there are a whole lot of conversions and compression and super-tech-y ways that those two pieces (analog and digital) have to interface in order for us to do what we do. So while some of the things you see used in our studio control room might look like ‘oldies’, we assure you they are ‘goodies’.
One of the core values that our organization embraces is the stalwart ‘taking care of our stuff’. (For example, the first time I ever wrapped up a cord here by doing that move where you wrap it around your elbow, I received looks that could have killed…it is really ‘bad’ for the cord. I didn’t know, but I have never done it again.) There is a ‘right’ way to care for equipment, and we are dedicated to that way. Yes, we have pieces of tech in our control room racks that have been employed since 1979. But it still does what it needs to do, and we haven’t needed to ask any of you for money to replace it. We take really good care of our stuff.
But, in every industry, there comes a point where even the best care can’t bring something back from the dead. Some of our legacy equipment is slowly fading and most of it is no longer supported, or even manufactured. So. What do we do? Brush up our game. Take it to the next level.
In 2016 we entered a matching funds challenge with the Berks County Commissioners to support an upgrade of our control room and technology as an investment in information access for the citizens of Berks County. An opportunity to incorporate new ‘things’ with the old stand bys.
We did it, and we are doing it!
Through private and corporate donations, and a grant from the PA Department of Education we matched the funds. And the buying spree began…not really…that sounds so exciting though.
*Side note: Why the Department of Education? Easy. We have a plethora of student volunteers, interns, and producers that are using our technology regularly…so we are striving to get them hands on with some more modern equipment in addition to the cable standards. Community media is a place to learn. We embrace that.
We started with items that needed to be replaced, like, yesterday. Wireless microphones, a new server to support our storage demands, iPod Touch set ups to send out in the field with producers, and an exhaustive list of things to keep us moving forward and build capacity.
Now, starting today the studio is closed so that the heavy lifting can happen. (Literally…some of that stuff is HEAVY). An overhaul of the workflow that makes community media happen, including the incorporation of new graphics capability, new digital storage ability, and even (yes) the opportunity for ‘green screen’.
This is the largest investment in your community media center technology in quite some time. And it is going to require a lot of work and training to get everyone up to speed, but we are up for the challenge.
While it is not exactly ‘out with the old’, please stand behind us (and beside us!) as we come ‘in with the new’.
We will probably always rely on some legacy technology and connectivity. It is part of where we came from and what we do…and we are ok with that…it keeps us humble, efficient, and reliable in a lot of cases.
But if you think we are outdated…look again.
Managing the public and government cable access channels is just one of many ways that BCTV ensures that our community has civic engagement platforms, government transparency, access to a forum for the exchange of ideas, and community media. We archive content on our website and YouTube, and we aggregate and distribute community information via bctv.org, an email blast, and multiple social media platforms. We have our own mobile app, So•Lo, that empowers citizens to contribute to the front page of our website. There are more than 110 regular programs that happen in (and out) of our studio, produced and hosted by volunteers from the Berks County community. We offer production services to capture events and information in the community and for organizations and businesses.
Quite honestly, we have a real passion for keeping Berks County informed and involved.