Woodstock Town Supervisor Bill McKenna appointed council member Bennet Ratcliff as liaison with the public-access television station after expressing a need for a more efficient and effective studio. Producers have long complained of insufficient and outdated equipment and some have noted that the same old equipment was brought back to the studio when it was refurbished as part of the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center.
Ratcliff would like to attract new people to the station and encourage the production of content that will interest all citizens and perhaps involve the business community. It supports the installation of equipment to allow the station to be broadcast live on a service such as YouTube, a necessity to reach a diverse audience. This is especially true for younger generations, who often don’t subscribe to a TV package, opting for the internet-only service of the cable company.
Ratcliff’s interest in mastering station operations and improving equipment is the latest in a long line of city council members and officials who have tried to do the same, with little or no help. hit. More recently, former Council member Lorin Rose took on this role.
Ratcliff said he felt Spectrum provided $30,000 for the equipment.
Each municipality has a franchise agreement with the local cable company. The latest such agreement with Time Warner, now Spectrum, states that “the franchise will provide capital contributions for video production equipment, for the exclusive use of the city, to be used exclusively for the production of educational/governmental access”.
It states that the value of the equipment “should not exceed thirty thousand dollars”, but it is unclear how much, if any, was actually donated.
“I’ve heard up to $100,000. They do nothing about it. The last time, I think we signed the franchise agreement…they put in some seed money to do some catering there,” McKenna said.
The city collects a franchise fee of 5% of the cable company’s gross receipts for the year, which has averaged about $140,000 in recent years, but that money helps reduce the tax levy, said McKenna.
The TV station receives about $3,000 in the city’s annual budget, which may seem like a meager amount, but it doesn’t seem to be using it. “I think they spent about $300 this year,” McKenna said.
Ratcliff’s interest in revitalizing the station comes at a time when producers have once again complained about technical issues causing viewers problems. “I’m glad you’ve appointed Bennet Ratcliff as liaison with the Public Access Television Committee. I think it’s necessary, and it also needs a good budget,” said producer Felicia Kacsik, who also operates independent radio station Woodstock 104 on 104.1 FM. “I’ve heard complaints that people with new cable boxes can’t hear the public access TV channel. I don’t know exactly what it is. I guess somehow it’s not compatible with whatever the Spectrum owned and operated modulator in the studio is emitting… Whatever they do – let them give people boxes more old ones – some asked for them and got them, then they get sound, or whether to upgrade the modulator, but people with the old boxes should still be able to hear with the new modulator. Whatever they do, they have to be compatible so everyone can hear the sound.
Producer Fanny Prizant echoed Kacsik’s comments. “I think we should get a budget to improve it,” she said.
McKenna said Spectrum was at the studio recently and they were looking into a solution.
New franchise contract in preparation
Spectrum is pushing for a new franchise contract to replace the one that expired in April 2021, but the city is pushing back and citing service reliability complaints as the reason.
“They really want us to sign a deal. I told them not until you fix these issues,” said McKenna, who said he escalates any complaints he receives to his contact at Spectrum.
The proposed agreement would be valid for 15 years, offers the same 5% fee and does not include any contribution for the equipment of television stations.