Can government TV be entertaining?
EAGLE COUNTY- When commercials interrupt your TV shows, forcing you to channel surf, the men responsible for cable’s newest station are hoping you will land on their channel and stick around to learn something.On the plus side, it is illegal for this channel to run commercials.
After two months on the air, ECO TV-18 is settled in and looking to the future, Video Production Manager Scott Fifield said.”It took a lot of doing to get us up and running, but now we are happy to be in a place where we can focus on programming and production,” Fifield said. “It can be pretty hectic doing it all with just the two of us, but I think we are doing a pretty good job.”Government access channels are not tracked by ratings companies, but activity on the station’s Web site indicates viewers are tuning in, said Justin Finestone, Eagle County communications director.There were 401 visits to http://www.ecotv18.com over an eight-week span, and 350 of the visitors either went directly to the site or through the county’s home page, Finestone said.The channel runs through Comcast and CenturyTel cable companies, but is unavailable on satellite TV, Finestone said. Not being available to all citizens may be having an effect on viewership.
“I use to watch the local government channels all the time, but now I have satellite and I can’t watch them anymore,” Cordillera resident Barbara Benson said. “It’s such a shame that not everybody can watch, especially the new county station, because it’s such a great source for local news.”But word-of-mouth and letters to the station are good indications people are watching – and those instances are increasing, Fifield said.”More and more people are telling us, either in person or in letters, what they like and don’t like,” Fifield said. “We already changed the weather and news format after people wrote in and told us they couldn’t read the weather because it was too small.”The county commissioners have also given their two cents worth, telling the crew stories about citizens who told them they watched the meetings on TV, Finestone said. The commissioners meet on Tuesday mornings when most people are working, but the station airs the full meeting at different times throughout the week.”We run the meetings unedited, which may not be the most exciting thing on TV, but it gives residents a chance to see and hear for themselves what led the commissioners to make the choices they did,” Finestone said. “Just because it’s government TV doesn’t mean it has to be droll and boring. We want to inform, but we also want to entertain.”To meet that goal of being more entertaining, the crew is currently developing new programs, but with just two full-time employees responsible for the taping, editing and broadcasting of shows, there is very little time to develop new programs, Fifield said.
Having little time to plan for the future hasn’t stopped Video Production Specialist Josh Stowell from dreaming.”I have this idea to do a news magazine show that looks at the different areas in the county, like a rancher and maybe someone in Vail, and show how their lives are so different,” Stowell said. “We could call it ‘Faces of Eagle County.'”In the spirit of keeping residents informed about what their governments are doing, the station is planning to air political debates and public forums, Finestone said. There also is a plan to work with high schools, Finestone said. Students who take audio-visual classes would receive tips from the station’s crew, then would produce their own county-related shows to air on the channel.”Between us we have about 50 years of experience in television,” Finestone said, “and I think it would be great to teach the kids how to create something they could then sit at home with their friends and family and watch on TV.”Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or firstname.lastname@example.org.