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BCTV upgrades easy on the eyes; A resolution for resolution

By Heather Adams, Executive Director, BCTV

Oct 16, 2020

BCTV and HD. Two acronyms that rarely grace the same sentence. UNTIL NOW.

After a thousand false starts on this blog, it seems there is no clever intro that can tee up the exciting news that your Berks Community Media organization is entering into the world of high definition. And it’s only ‘mostly’ HD…but still, wonderful news none the less.

Back in April, in the throes of acclimating to the needs and challenges of the pandemic, we suffered a major equipment failure that hurled our organization into taking a step we had only talked about in terms of long term hopes and strategic dreams. The breakdown of our existing video server system forced us to quickly shop and commit to an upgrade system and essentially a whole new way of life behind the scenes and in our control room.

The timing? It was awful…while the demands on our services and resources were the highest they may have ever been, serving our neighbors the resources and information they needed to navigate a global health crisis – we were limping along with some cumbersome work-arounds, and temporary ‘duct tape’ fixes to make sure that the show(s) went on, as the saying goes. (Here I must point out here that the BCTV staff kept their cool, kept pushing forward, and rose to the occasion.)

Essentially, the video server (this is what failed) is what allows us to save, program, and schedule all programs and content across our channels. The one we were using for almost 20 years only accepted Standard Definition, lower resolution files.

Again, I began writing a lengthy description of how and why this equipment effects our capabilities – and it got REALLY long…back to basics:

Here are the high points of this monumental occasion in Berks community media history:

  1. BCTV’s 24 hour streaming via our website is now in high definition. (Keep in mind, we are still populating and producing new HD programs, so a lot of SD content is still being aired, but over time will continue to transition to high def)
  2. The City of Reading MAC Channel now has live streaming, too! 24 hours a day, just like BCTV – select which channel you would like to watch in the player at bctv.org (just click ‘watch now’ at the top of the page).
  3. Videos available on our YouTube Channel and website story feed are now all being uploaded and curated in HD.
  4. The ‘bulletin board’ that airs and streams in off times and briefly between programs now features dynamic content like weather, social media feeds, and other fresh content.

We have long wrestled with ‘Quality’ as an issue. While digital capability and expectations skyrocketed around us, BCTV was stuck in a holding pattern of Standard Definition, at the mercy of SD cable channels, and the legacy equipment that we invested in to produce for those channels. And this stuff is EXPENSIVE, it isn’t something you buy on a whim, and it effects so many aspects of workflow that it is usually a significantly long-term commitment.

We are currently, with the guidance of our Board of Directors, executing across five pillars of strategy to take BCTV to the next level. Content Quality is one of those focused pillars, and this development is a huge piece of that goal.

Our cable channels will likely never be offered in high definition – it is not something typically afforded to cable access channels, and simply may never come to fruition. BUT – now that isn’t stopping us from producing everything else in high quality, crisp HD.

As Berks County continually increases use of our resources, we are confidently sustaining access to local content with the elevated levels of clarity and professionalism that you have come to expect, and deserve.

As we celebrate Community Media Day on October 20th, in the same week as our Octoberfest Fundraiser Auction and Pledge Drive, please make a donation to support the future of your accessible community media resource for Berks County. We need your help to continue to advance our quality and mission. An investment in community media is an investment in community development.

 

In the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic, communities across the U.S. came to depend on public, educational and governmental (PEG) access operations, which are anchored to their cable service, for crucial local information. Not only in providing community news, but also technical operations support for local governments and schools, and a platform for community events. 

To read more about how community media organizations across the country served our communities during the pandemic, visit this report from The Center for Media and Social Impact.

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