Televised Spokane Valley council meetings might not be anything new to cable-TV customers, but the city could reach even more viewers in 2011.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved the purchase of equipment that would allow for the real-time production and broadcast of meetings that could eliminate the nearly one-week delay of when the meetings air on Comcast channel 14 via Community Minded Television. Live TV broadcasts – possibly on a city-owned TV station -- or over the Internet are also both potential options, as well.
“It will cost $55,000 to create the signal,” said Greg Bingaman, the city’s technology specialist. “We just need to send it somewhere.”
Those options could continue an arrangement with Community Minded TV, putting video – either live or recorded – on the city’s Web site, or even the city starting its own television station. Bingaman said the city, depending on how much it wants to spend, has an “a la carte” menu to choose from once it has the capability of producing its own broadcast.
The hardware the city needs can be paid for through PEG funding that is collected from Comcast subscribers – 35 cents a month – and then given back to Spokane Valley. The council had previously authorized $46,000 in the 2011 city budget for the broadcast council meetings.
Right now, the city pays $36,000 annually to Community Minded TV and the council meetings are broadcast at 6 p.m. the following Monday. Live meetings are impossible to produce because footage collected from two cameras must be edited, graphics added and a recording made on a DVD.
“It’s a time-consuming process,” Bingaman said.
It’s also an arrangement that could receive criticism from the city of Spokane. Its customers, too, pay PEG fees to Comcast, but the city also owns and operates channel 5 – and the staff that comes with it -- through tax dollars.
Bingaman said that, under the current arrangement, problems arise when meetings run over three hours and other programming must be “bumped” on channel 14.
If the city decided to create its own TV station in the future, it would essentially replace the existing channel 5 for Spokane Valley customers with a new one. The city could air the meetings live on Tuesday nights – county commissioner meetings, which often are at the same time, could be recorded and played later – and would have to fill airtime with additional programming. Council Member Dean Grafos suggested using whatever Spokane is airing.
“I’m for purchasing the equipment,” he said, adding that further costs – like paying $7,700 a year for storing “video on demand” serving over the Internet or the estimated $650 contract labor costs to run the cameras and editing equipment – could be dealt with later.
“We don’t have to pin down now how we’re going to go through with the broadcast,” agreed City Manager Mike Jackson.
A motion to officially authorize the purchase will come before the council at a future meeting.
While the City Council will meet on Nov. 9 and 16, meetings the week of Nov. 23 (Thanksgiving) and 30 have been cancelled. Council members will attend a National League of Cities conference in Colorado Nov. 30 through Dec. 4.