Thursday, January 06, 2000

Access channel adds weather info

Another service of Middletown access channel

Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — TV Middletown is preparing to offer its viewers something generally available only from local TV meteorologists and the Weather Channel: storm-tracking radar.

        The community access TV channel plans to launch the StormSentry NEXRAD radar and storm-tracking service later this month.

        StormSentry NEXRAD will provide residents in TV Middletown's viewing area detailed, local severe-weather tracking information. Final arrangements for the service are being made with the city of Middletown and Time Warner Cable.

        “TV Middletown is designed to create, produce and cablecast professional quality programming of community events,” said director Merrell Wood. He said the channel's quality is winning it an audience.

        TV Middletown has won three Alliance for Community Media Philo T. Farnsworth awards in 1999 — community television's version of the Emmys.

        Not bad for a station with only two paid employees.

        During TV Middletown's first year of operation, Mr. Wood was its only full-time staffer. In March 1999, the position of part-time assistant Barbara LaPierre was made full time. The two produced more than 130 programs last year.

        “It's amazing what they do,” said Rod Nimtz, assistant to the executive director of Miami University Middletown and coordinator of the campus's Artist and Lecture Series.

        Mr. Nimtz has arranged for TV Middletown to videotape many performances at Miami Middletown's Dave Finkelman Auditorium.

        “It's a way for us to reach additional audiences,” Mr. Nimtz said.

        The station broadcasts 24 hours a day beginning with a community bulletin board at 5 a.m.

        Daytime programming consists of live broadcasts from the Ohio News Network and a scroll of local announcements. At 3 p.m. the previous evening's local programming is repeated.

        Daily local programs begin at 7 p.m., with a different focus each day. Topics include education, government, community programs and issues, arts events and entertainment.

        “With 80 percent of the community getting cable, we're bringing the community into people's homes,” Mr. Wood said.

        “TV Middletown has been a very valuable addition to our community,” said City Manager Ron Olson. “We're able to target programming that informs citizens about things going on.” Mr. Olson cited broadcasts such as a candidates' forum aired before the November election, and features showing a day in the lives of a policeman and a paramedic, as well as a ride with city employee Robin Shope as he plowed streets during a snowstorm.

        Mr. Olson said that while the city and the Middletown/Monroe City Schools provide the majority of operational funding for the station, local businesses and organizations have supplied funds for equipment.

        Mr. Wood hopes to add another staff member and increase the number of programs TV Middletown produces.

        “The product has proven itself,” he said. “We get to show off all the wonderful stuff that goes on in this town.”

        TV Middletown (Channel 17) is a Public-Education-Government community access cable channel that operates in partnership with the city, its schools and local citizens. The station reaches 11 communities with a potential viewing audience of 80,000. The station's 1999 operations budget was $148,000.


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