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Westfield, Mountainside, Berkeley Heights, Scotch Plains, Fanwood, Union County, NJ News July 16, 1999
Media Advisory Board Works on Plan Details
For Revamped Westfield TV-36 Cable Station
- "Serve, Educate and Entertain" Charter & Survey

By LILLIAN DUGGAN Specially Written for The Westfield Leader

The Westfield Community TV (WCTV) Media Advisory Board is working out details for the new and improved version of Westfield’s cable channel, TV-36. At a meeting held on July 8, the WCTV board met to discuss a draft plan by the board’s Business Unit Subcommittee. The draft is a detailed effort to outline the nature, content, funding and operation of the station.

The Westfield Community TV Media Advisory Board was formed in April by Mayor Thomas C. Jardim to revamp community programming and operations on TV-36. The group’s Business Unit Subcommittee was formed in late spring and charged with developing a nuts and bolts organizational plan for the station. The draft plan is now being reviewed by the entire advisory board and may be discussed and considered for final approval at the group’s next meeting. Once finalized, the proposal will be presented to the Town Council for approval.

When approval is granted, responsibility for operation of the station will likely shift from the Westfield Board of Education to a local board of directors. The station is currently housed in Westfield High School. According to the draft plan, "WCTV shall be an independent non-profit organization" that "shall manage and administer all Westfield TV activities." Further, the plan states that "WCTV shall operate in a business enterprise fashion and will not function as a government agency."

In the plan, the Business Unit Subcommittee describes its vision for station programming as "content produced by the public or for the public." Called for in the plan is a station- produced portion of programming that will consist of "education, government and public service announcements," including emergency response information and Westfield High School and Board of Education productions.

Board members in attendance at the meeting also discussed their interest in broadcasting various town meetings from the Westfield Town Council chambers. Some impediments to airing town meetings are poor lighting and a lack of available space in nearby rooms.

Other station content is to be produced externally and submitted to WCTV. As cited in the draft plan, such programs "will embody the diverse culture and activities of Westfield and the surrounding area." Specifically, the subcommittee plans to "promote the production of creative content of others for airing to include talk shows, community events, arts, music, history, cultural, sports, general interest and like material." A sports wrap-up show, programs on the history of Westfield and aired house tours were examples mentioned by board members at the meeting.

As a means to create new content to air on TV-36, the Advisory Board is seeking programming partnerships with local non-profit organizations. In an effort to determine these groups’ capacity for and interest in television programming, it has is- sued surveys to 125 community organizations.

The board also plans to disseminate viewer surveys, which it will make available at the Westfield Memorial Library, the town Web site and the train station, among other places. The board plans to announce the availability of the surveys in The Westfield Leader and on TV-36.

Funding sources called for in the plan include $50,000 of capital input from the Town of Westfield; an annual operating stipend given to Westfield by Comcast based on the percentage of local cable company revenues, and "other revenues as may be agreed to with other agencies, public and non profit organizations." The $50,000 capital investment is money received from Comcast last year as part of the refranchising agreement between the town and Comcast. The 15-year agreement stipulated that the money be spent on public television. The town currently receives $40,000 per year from Comcast in franchise fees, the plan points out.

The plan also provides that "WCTV may solicit and receive gifts and donations from all sectors of society and business as permitted by law" and "may collect fees for services." The Advisory Board hopes that operating space for the station will be donated, but plans to set aside funds to rent or purchase a facility in the event that such an offer is not made. Darielle Walsh, a member of the WCTV Board and Board of Education President, suggested the Board of Education’s Administration Building on Elm Street as a potential home for the station. However, the issue of limited access to the building would have to be resolved.

The station’s Board of Directors will be chosen by the Town Council. The plan calls for seven directors who will serve initial terms ranging from one to three years. Subsequent members will be appointed by a nominating committee and serve terms of two years. The nominating committee will consist of the Mayor, a representative of the public school system and three at-large members selected by the WCTV Board. Neil F. Sullivan, Jr., Third Ward Councilman and Town Council Liaison to the WCTV Board, envisions TV- 36 as a "separate entity" from the council. However, he likened the manner in which spending decisions will be made to the cooperation that exists between the Westfield Library and the Town Council.

A component of the plan that garnered mixed comment from WCTV Board Members was the proposal that the WCTV Board of Directors serve as an advocate for the cable subscriber in matters that come up between Westfield and media providers, such as Comcast. Some at the meeting felt that the language in the plan translated into too great a responsibility for the board. According to Councilman Sullivan, the board would not have decision- making power over such contracts. He did suggest that the language in the plan be changed to stipulate that the Board of Directors only "give advice" in these matters.

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.The Westfield Leader - PO Box 250, 50 Elm St., Westfield, NJ 07091, 908 232-4407; fax 908 232-0473
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Copyright 1999 - - Revised: July 17, 1999.