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Northern Kentucky PEG Channels Fill Hole Left by Ohio Broadcasters

Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky pursues ‘good, positive, local coverage’

A TBNK staffer leads a directors’ workshop for public access producers.
The Ohio River separating Northern Kentucky from Cincinnati can seem as vast as “an ocean” when it comes to the Cincinnati media’s lack of coverage of Kenton County, Ky., said the director of the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky, that area’s public, education and government access center.

Despite Kenton County being considered as part of Cincinnati’s broadcast market, the Ohio broadcasters “tend to give barely any lip service to this area,” said Timothy Broering, the executive director of the TBNK, which is based in Covington, Ky. The PEG access center serves unincorporated areas of Kenton County and 14 regional cities. “They really cover the larger area of Cincinnati, so northern Kentucky has always felt it’s been a stepchild to the local media,” he said. “It feels like that river’s an ocean sometimes.”

Public Service

Patsy Carter, a TBNK videographer, conducts live coverage of a Covington (Ky.) City Commission meeting.
Broering says TBNK sees its role—providing “public service programming to northern Kentucky”—as especially important to the local subscribers because of the lack of coverage from other broadcasters.

As part of their goal to provide as much “good, positive, local coverage” of the area as possible, TBNK operates seven local PEG channels, one of which is focused on 24/7 government programming while the others cover the government and school systems.

Much of their airtime is devoted to live broadcasting about 25 meetings per month held by cities, the county and some regional boards.

“Government meeting coverage might not be highly entertaining on a regular basis, but it’s a real service that keeps people informed about what’s going on in their community,” Broering explained.

Despite the lack of entertainment value, viewers have demonstrated a continuing reliance on this coverage, especially through TBNK’s online services, which have been available since 2006.

“We’ve definitely seen a real interest in the Web streaming,” Broering said. “If there’s a particularly hot meeting going on, people will be calling the next day, wanting to know when that’s going to be available on the Web streaming, so they can look at it as a video on-demand clip.”

Election Coverage

Josh Boedecker directs TBNK’s Live Northern Kentucky Election Night Results Show.
TBNK also devotes a lot of time, energy and resources to every election season.

“There’s always quite a number of local election forums and debates around northern Kentucky, and our crews go out and cover as many of those as we can so that we can help educate the public about who’s running and what their platforms are,” Broering said, emphasizing that this information about the candidates will not be available from Cincinnati news broadcasts.

He also said their election night programming is “the only place in the area where you will see a program focusing just on the northern Kentucky elections. If you tune into the broadcasters across the river in Cincinnati, you’re waiting and waiting for all the Cincinnati results before you hear anything about northern Kentucky, and you usually only hear about a couple of the larger cities.”

In contrast, TBNK covers all of the local races in a live broadcast throughout the night. The PEG channel has also covered more prominent elections, including gubernatorial debates, which C-SPAN aired.

Technology Helps

From left, Dick Murgatroyd and JT Spence host TBNK’s Live Northern Kentucky Election Night Results Show.
Broering joined the board in late 2000. At that time, TBNK “had VCRs that we had to cue up and tape every time a program had to change, and we could only do so many programs at a time on that,” he said. TBNK’s capabilities changed significantly with DVD playback and computer server storage.

“We have server-based playback, so once the program is ripped into the server, it’s there and doesn’t have to be re-cued every time we want to play it. So we’ve been able to expand the hours of programming we have for later at night, as well as the weekends, and it’s much more efficient for our manpower needs to be able to accomplish the programming. This new system also allows us to more efficiently accomplish our Web streaming goal.”

Efficient use of manpower and resources is of particular concern at TBNK. Through budget constraints and attrition, the staff has been reduced from eight full-time employees to three, augmented by part-timers and interns from local colleges, including Northern Kentucky University and Thomas More College, in addition to community volunteers.

“The trade-off with using more part-timers and/ or interns is you lose some continuity,” Broering said. “On the positive side, we’ve had quite a number of very enthusiastic interns that really are happy to get experience and have this opportunity to learn and take on the challenges.

In addition to working with a reduced staff, Broering says much of the equipment currently in use has passed its normal lifespan. TBNK utilizes a Broadcast Pix Slate studio switcher and edits on Avid Media Composer and Avid Express Pro non- linear edit systems. Its three studio cameras are Sony DXC-D55s, and TBNK uses the Sony DSR-PD150 for its public access programming, in addition to Sony DSR-250 cameras for government meeting coverage. Its remote studio switcher kits are built around the NewTek Tricaster, and the production van has an additional Broadcast Pix Slate switcher.