get together and share programming and other experiences," said Michael Williams, Raleigh's cable administrator, especially when the programming targets particular issues, such as downtown redevelopment efforts.

"The clutter is generic overload of information," Williams continued. "In this case, it's going to be specific information that deals with specific things. It will help clarify and identify things that could be of assistance to other cities."

Raleigh is building a new convention center, he said, and the city's cable programming division compiles regular updates on what's happening with the convention center.

"Other municipalities may be considering, or are somewhere in that process also, so sharing information along that line or additional programming along that line provides a good, rich source of information," he said. "This works at a couple of different levels. For government employees or elected officials who are considering certain things, this could be a good source for them to get additional information to help in the planning process."

Best of Both Worlds

NCN TV's video content will be broadcast both on its Web site and participating cities' government access channels. NCN Director Goodman said he's devising an editorial calendar, which will define the programming schedules and overall context for the network.

"TV programming is one component, but there are also Web seminars we're hosting," he said. "We're aggregating policy analysis and examples of good city programs that we'll make available on our Web site. We want to feature a set of each of these on a monthly basis, corresponding to a given theme -- citizen engagement in the democratic process, for example."

For that particular theme, Goodman said he envisions a TV program consisting of five- to 10-minute clips featuring what several cities have done to promote citizen engagement. Those clips could be highlights from a town hall meeting or profile a citizen group that lobbied for a particular change to public policy.

In a different month, perhaps the theme could be city government at work, and in that case, programming could feature city council meetings.

"We might work toward an archive of city council meetings that people could search through," Goodman said. "California is on the leading edge of archiving city council meetings by using closed-captioned text that's then searchable."

This would allow a viewer to search and unearth any city council meetings that discussed municipal broadband or other topic.

Data Exchange

The NCN is suited to help cities exchange information, rather than produce original content for those cities, Goodman said.

"A lot of cities, including small cities, are very proud of what they've done, and are looking for an outlet to get the word out about what they're doing, whether it's for economic development purposes or attracting people to move to their cities," he said, adding that these cities primarily produce their own programs for government access channels.

NCN TV could become a way for citizen groups working with a municipal government to show homemade videos of success stories in their neighborhoods or communities.

That presents a couple of problems, however.

"We need to be able to scale a business model to accept all that content, to review it and to make it available," he said. "The model that's out there, video blogs, is something we want to look at. The second hurdle we need to clear is that, to the extent that we're serving different audiences, sometimes those audiences want to communicate between themselves."

Goodman said he'd like to see the NCN devise a way for mayors to communicate directly with each other, or neighborhood groups to directly talk among themselves and perhaps share documents and files. Currently the NCN offers a general chat function that isn't organized by groups.

Eventually Goodman said he wants the NCN to create social networking opportunities for municipal governments -- similar to LinkedIn, which bills itself as a way for people to manage their professional relationships.

"Some are really serving a great purpose in the business community, and I'd like to do something like that for city government and people who are working at the local government level," he said. "Politicians are by nature networkers, but city administrators may be less so. And citizens working in a neighborhood who may be interested in banding together with similar groups across the country, they're even less so."

Shane Peterson  |  Associate Editor