Tech Upgrades, Automated Broadcast Plan Put Dover, Del., City Council TV Appearances on Hold

The work also will allow installation of an automated camera setup to broadcast council meetings. The system should be so user-friendly that a city staffer can control all aspects of the broadcast from a touchpad or tablet

by Jeff Brown, Dover Post (Dover, Del.) / December 20, 2016

(TNS) -- Fans of the biweekly broadcasts of Dover city council meetings will have to wait at least until February to again watch city government at work.

Both the Comcast and Verizon cable networks transmit the meetings, held the second and fourth Monday of each month. The council also holds Committee of the Whole meetings the second and fourth Tuesdays, but those meetings are not broadcast.

A change in the city's franchise agreement with Comcast and a decision to entirely automate the broadcasts mean Monday night's session was the last to be shown on television for several weeks, city spokeswoman Kay Sass said.

The Dec. 12 meeting also was the final one for 2016 as council already has cancelled the Dec. 27 council session and Dec. 28 Council Committee of the Whole meeting.

Sass said that as the city has been renegotiating its franchise agreement with the cable service, Comcast officials said they wanted to scale back the council broadcasts.

Comcast had provided the equipment and technicians to show the meetings; a Comcast control truck has been parked in back of city hall for more than a year to facilitate the broadcasts.

The sessions are shown live on Comcast cable and also are available for Dover's Verizon subscribers. A recording of each meeting is provided online through the city's website.

Television coverage through Verizon is provided through a grant the cable franchise awarded the city, Sass said.

The city has had a franchise agreement with Comcast for decades, but when Verizon entered the Dover market there were concerns city residents using the new service would not get the council broadcasts.

"When we allowed Verizon to come in, we didn't want one cable provider monopolizing the community," she said. "We had it so that Comcast would allow Verizon to tap into the feed so we could show the meetings live to our Verizon constituents as well."

City procurement and budget officials will be looking at recent bids that will permit the installation of a completely new sound and video system in the council's meeting chamber.

These include new microphones, wiring and speakers.

"All of this equipment dates back to the 1970s," Sass said. "This definitely is a necessary upgrade."

The work also will allow installation of an automated camera setup to broadcast council meetings. The system should be so user-friendly that a city staffer can control all aspects of the broadcast from a touchpad or tablet, she said.

No taxpayer funding will be needed for the system, Sass added. Although she didn't have immediate figures on its cost, she said the grant money from Verizon should cover the purchase price. Council members will have to approve the purchase, she added.

If all goes according to plan, broadcasts of council sessions should be back on the air in February and viewers probably will notice an improvement in picture and sound quality because of the new equipment, Sass said.

It's also the city's intention to start transmitting the Tuesday Council Committee of the Whole sessions, she said.

Although the city doesn't have numbers to show how many households watch the council sessions, it seems they do have a large viewing audience.

"Whenever we have issues with the council sessions not airing, we get 10 to 30 calls the day after," she said.

©2016 Dover Post, Del. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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