By Bob Dutton
The Bedford Selectmen will hold a public hearing to solicit resident input on a proposed change to the Bylaw establishing the Charter of the Town’s Cable Television Committee, which currently advises the Selectmen on cable-related matters. The hearing will be held next Monday, October 1, at 8:15 pm in the Selectmen’s meeting room at Town Hall. Click this link to read the official hearing notice, including the text of the proposed change, as found on the Town website.
The Cable Committee charter, as currently written, is focused on delivery of programming to cable subscribers via the Comcast and Verizon cable channels and including local programming produced by Bedford Community Access Television (Bedford TV) under contract to the Town. Bedford TV’s local PEG programming includes “Public” content, often developed by residents; “Educational” content such as “BHS Live” originating in the schools; and “Government” content, including meetings of Town Boards and Committees. While delivery of local programming solely via cable made sense when it was “the only game in town”, changes in technologies and the advent of social media have created an opportunity, if not a mandate, for broader focus.
The number of cable subscribers in Bedford peaked at 4,771 in 2013 and has decreased each year since. At the same time, the number of subscribers to Bedford TV’s YouTube site alone has skyrocketed over the same period, from 203 in 2014 to over 5,600 in 2018. Clearly, there is a major shift afoot.
Key questions addressed by the proposed change include:
- Who is the target audience for PEG (Public, Education, and Governmental) programming? Cable subscribers only, or all Bedford residents and organizations?
- Should the Committee’s focus address social media and other emerging technologies?
- Should the Committee consider, and advise the Selectmen on, other sources of funding as the revenues from Verizon and Comcast decrease with the subscriber counts?
The change also proposes a name change, from the “Cable Television Committee” to the “Community Media Committee” should the decision be made to broaden the perspective of the Committee.
I urge everyone with an interest in the future of Community Media in Bedford to attend this hearing and express to the Selectmen your opinion on these questions and the proposed changes to the Bylaw. As a reminder, it’s next Monday, October 1st at 8:15 pm in the Selectmen’s meeting room in the Town Hall.