Mayor James Roberson has expressed interest in Knightdale branching away from East Wake Television and having its own, 24-hour PEG Media Partners channel, like Clayton and Garner.
“I would like to see us get back to doing our own programming,” Roberson said during a Dec. 3 meeting where the Town Council’s finance committee reviewed several contracts, including that with PEG Media Partners. “I think it’s only fitting, if (East Wake channel) 22 belonged to us in the beginning, we should try to make every effort possible.”
Knightdale shares East Wake TV channel 22 with Archer Lodge, Rolesville, Wendell and Zebulon. PEG Media Partners, a nonprofit the towns pay with state funding, produces content for East Wake TV and for the cable channel 11 programming for Garner and Clayton.
While Knightdale content currently fills about a third of the airtime on East Wake TV, Roberson said he doesn’t think the town would have any issues coming up with 24 hours of content.
“With this growing community, and we’re talking about improving the quality of lives here in the Town of Knightdale, we have faith-based partners, we have other community partners, educational partners, I am sure they would take advantage of the programming opportunity to disseminate their success and what they’re doing,” Roberson said.
But Gary McConkey, PEG Media’s studio director, said producing 24 hours of content would be a challenge for Knightdale, like it has been for Clayton and Garner.
McConkey was town manager in Knightdale in the late ’90s, when the Knightdale Town Council decided it wanted its meetings broadcast.
He realized before East Wake TV’s first broadcast, in 2000, that Knightdale would have a tough time producing enough content on its own, and that triggered the inclusion of Wendell and Zebulon by the time the channel launched.
“They don’t have enough content,” McConkey said of Knightdale. “It would be a very, very boring channel – it would be the same thing playing over and over and over. That’s why we didn’t do it initially. They have to play something 24 hours a day. What are they going to show? That’s one of the problems with Garner and Clayton, they don’t have enough content.”
‘It’s 24 hours a day’
Clayton and Garner – like Knightdale – both have public information officers, and PEG staffs extra help to produce content for those channels.
But even with the PEG staff and PIOs working together, content has to be recycled to keep the channel filled around the clock. Garner, for example, plays its latest council meetings twice a day, every day.
“The reality is, council meetings are boring,” McConkey said. “There’s nothing you can do to make it not boring. Most people don’t want to watch it and won’t, probably. So we try to do other things that aren’t boring and make it interesting. The purpose of the government channel is to show what the government is doing – that’s mostly board meetings. But you’ve got to do more than that.”
Garner already had a 24-hour public access channel before its relationship with PEG began in earnest in 2012.
Rick Mercier, Garner’s PIO, said when he was hired in 2010, the town was running a mix of canned content and some produced by the town – enough to meet the percentage required for a public access channel.
The added production help from PEG Media Partners made it easier for Garner to stock its video supply.
“When I came on board and we were budgeting my time, I don’t think we thought I’d be spending 8-to-10 hours per week on video,” Mercier said. “And there’s certainly more we could do. Our departments have really woken up to the value of video.”
Both Mercier and McConkey said Knightdale PIO Jonas Silver would have to budget more time toward video for the mayor’s wish to come true. Even if it does, Mercier says Knightdale can expect to have to recycle content.
“It’s a great asset, and I’m certainly glad we have our own channel,” Mercier said. “But it is 24 hours a day. We re-run a lot of stuff.”
More to talk about
Knightdale finance committee members noted they have until September, when the town’s current contract with PEG expires, to mull over Roberson’s idea.
“I think as we approach that time and begin the thought of re-entering the contract, that we need to make sure that it meets our expectations as an organization and certainly, with Jonas’ talents, make sure we maximize our exposure across that platform,” said Chris Hills, Knightdale’s developmental services director.
Silver told the group his intention is to discuss with PEG Media Partners what all parties are getting out of the partnership and make sure Knightdale is leveraging the state funding as much as possible.
“As soon as we start to see September on the horizon, we’re going to have to sit down and have some serious discussions with East Wake TV and see what their abilities are with their current infrastructure, as well as what our abilities are as a PIO and communications office to provide them and to work with them to create 24 hours worth of television,” Silver said.
Both the Knightdale Town Council and PEG Media Partners’ board of directors would have to approve any new arrangement.
McConkey said PEG could probably fill East Wake TV without too much troubles in the absence of Knightdale programming.