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Paynesville Press - February 11, 2004

Improvements being made to Channel 8 in Paynesville

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

For years, cable subscribers have been able to watch city council meetings and city committee meetings from the comfort of home.

Starting in February, cable subscribers will be able to watch school board meetings from home, too. Broadcasting school board meetings is one of a number of improvements being made to the local cable access channel.

Channel 8 - the local cable access channel for Mediacom customers in the city of Paynesville and Paynesville Township - will also broadcast school concerts, plays, programs, and sporting events, services from Nordland Lutheran Church (in addition to services from Paynesville Lutheran Church), and any other community event, if a tape is submitted.

The first school board meeting was scheduled to be taped on Tuesday, Feb. 10. Since no direct feed exists at the school, the school board meetings will be rebroadcast at a later time, normally the following Thursday evening at 7 p.m. The first broadcast of a school board meeting will be on Thursday, Feb. 12, at 7 p.m.

Cable coordinator Alice Nyhlen would also like to tape Paynesville Township board meetings, but the logistics of this might be difficult since the board meets in a small room, she said. Until live feeds are installed at the township hall and at school, these meetings would have to be taped and then broadcast later.

Nyhlen also would like to broadcast PAHS sporting events, and other community events, such as activities at the Paynesville Area Center.

The city has begun publishing a weekly schedule of the local events being broadcast on Channel 8 in the Paynesville Press. (This week, the schedule can be found on page 7 of the Paynesville Press.)

Hiring Nyhlen as the cable access coordinator in the spring of 2003 was the first step in improving Channel 8, said Don Torbenson, a member of the cable television committee.

Local cable access dates back to the early 1970s, said Torbenson. Back then, local cable access was broadcast from Paynesville High School. Students ran the local cable station and programming included news broadcasts by students, broadcasts of school and community events, and public announcements.

Sometime during the last 30 years - during which the station was moved twice, eventually to city hall, where it is now located - the quality of local programming diminished, said Torbenson. He hopes that the offerings on the local cable access channel can continue to improve.

According to city administrator Steve Helget, the city is working with Mediacom to improve the picture quality and the sound quality of live programs on Channel 8.

Currently, the city spends about $11,000 - primarily for Nhylen's salary and for subscriptions, like headline news - to run Channel 8 each year. Mediacom paid the city a $15,000 franchise fee that, along with cable access fees paid by cable suscribers, is used to upgrade and buy new equipment, said Helget.

Nyhlen is excited about the changes to Channel 8, and she hopes to make even more. One of the city's long-range goals is to add some original local programing featuring local residents.

In fact, according to city employee Chris Lundgren, the room that houses the Channel 8 computer equipment (a room that also doubles as the break-room for city hall employees) will soon be re-decorated to allow an area to tape interviews.

Video submissions from the public are welcome, said Nyhlen. To be accepted, recordings of a community event must not involve any copyright protections (a factor that prevents the rebroadcast of some plays), and they must be labeled with the exact running time.

Recorded submissions will not be broadcast until they have been posted in the weekly schedule, said Nyhlen.

The city also accepts submissions from the public of announcements for nonprofit events. To be broadcast, submissions must be written.

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