JOINT CABLE TELEVISION ADVISORY BOARD
WEDNESDAY MARCH 21, 2001
As there was not a quorum present, the following are notes from the meeting of those present.
Members Present: Dr. Joe Ugras, Chairman, James Bowe, Member, Representing Newtown Township, Stuart Myles, Treasurer, representing Newtown Borough, and Scott Harp, Liaison for Newtown Township. Not in attendance is Mark Craig, Liaison for Newtown Borough and Ernie Bancroft, Member, representing the Newtown Borough.
Others Present: Joe Di Julio, President and General Manager of Comcast, Walt Iwaskiw, Resident, David J. Slowik, representing Holy Family College, John Bradley, Representing Bucks County Community College, and Edward J. Meell, Chairman of MMS Education Market Specialist.
CALL TO ORDER: Chairman Joe Ugras called the meeting to order at 7:35 p.m.
1. University Channels
2. Comcast Update3. Approval of the Minutes of February 21, 2001 Meeting - Postponed
4. March 31 Event being sponsored by the Bucks County Advisory Board for Bucks County
5. New Business
MARCH 31, 2001 EVENT: Edward J. Meell, Chairman of MMS Education Market Specialist, came to the meeting to discuss the upcoming March 31, 2001 event being sponsored by the Bucks County Joint Cable/Telecommunications Advisory Board of Bucks County. This board is made up of seven communities. Ralph Douglas is the Chair of this Board. There have been about 10-15 communities that meet the last Tuesday of every month. The meeting rotates between the communities.
The March 31, 2001 event will be held at 9:00 a.m. at the Bucks County Community College, in the Gallagher Room. As of this date, there have been about 75-100 people registered, including some senators, state representatives, county commissioners and representatives from the municipalities, school districts and community organizations and community programs. This session will open with a brief general session and there will be two panels in the morning. There will be three legal eagles, to discuss cable franchises, regulations, ordinances and issues which involve the townships and boroughs. The second session will discuss community programming and public assess channels. This will be made up of a panel of four individuals. Following lunch there will be a wrap up session of where do we go from here.
Registration can be made by phone to Mr. Meell at (215) 579-7866, by leaving your name and the name of the organization and/or the name of the municipality being represented.
UNIVERSITY CHANNELS: Discussions were lead by Dr. Ugras to discuss the changes being made to the channel line-up. Council Rock School District and Bucks County Community College will be sharing a channel. Newtown Township, Newtown Borough and Northampton will be placed on the government channel. The education channels will be made available to several other municipalities in addition to Newtown Township and Newtown Borough.
Dr. Ugras addressed a letter sent to Joe DiJulio from Cornell Hopkins, Township Manager, requesting to have the educational channel and government channel separated.
Issue: What is going to be placed on the educational channel and the process involved in having the universities being able to listen to the university channels. There are three universities in Newtown Township that may have an interest in the university channel: Bucks County Committee College ("BCCC"), LaSalle, and Holy Family.
Joe DiJulio indicated that channel 23 will be the local government access channel. Channel 78 will be an educational access channel (as of March 19, 2001, BCCC should be on this channel) which will consist of the school districts in the municipality of the Council Rock School District.
Dr. Ugras discusses that he would like Newtown have their own broadcast separate from Wrightstown and Upper Makefield. Joe DiJulio indicated that our Franchise Agreement allows for 3 with an option for more.
Mr. Harp indicated that what will soon be channel 78, will probably have plenty of programming with Council Rock and BCCC. With authority from LaSalle and Holy Family, he would like them to take channel 58 so that they may have more opportunities for their use.
Mr. Bowe indicated that BCCC and potentially the other universities might want to use these channels to reach other areas besides Newtown. The university channel should be able to reach other surrounding counties. Mr. DiJulio explained that the local franchising authority controls this issue. Comcast is only involved in the programming.
At present: channel 23 will be the government accesses channel and channels 78 and 58 will be designated as the educational channels.
An issue arose, as was what if St. Andrews wanted to do a program? Scott Harp indicated that they could present it to the Board and the Board would review it and then determine where to air the program.
Mr. Slowik indicated that he believes there is a potential for any one organization to use a full day of events at their school depending on that the Board wants programmed on this channel, i.e. community service things only or a form of business learning and/or guest lecture events. The schools must be advised first on what type of programming is acceptable to be aired prior to determining how best to utilize their time.
Scott Harp asked the school representatives what are the things you had in mind that they would like to see on the public access channels? Mr. Slowik indicated this would depend on how the cable board would allow this channel to be run. It was discussed that sporting events may want to be added or an interesting speaker at a college may be placed on the general access channel. Mr. Harp discussed that he would not want to see an hour show played over an over. He would like to advertise the program and the time it is scheduled to run. Once the program has run, it will not be replayed.
Mr. Slowik indicated that it may be a good idea for the time designations to be made and presenting them to the schools and advising what type of program to run so the schools would be able to utilize their time wisely.
Dr. Ugras discussed that at LaSalle's channel 56, there are shows that are broadcasted at 8 daily used by the communication faculty and students. They tape events and those shows are fed to Comcast, in Philadelphia, and then fed out as live taped shows. LaSalle has a web page that displays what shows are scheduled. Their web page is lasalle.edu channel 56. Between 2:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m. there is a bulletin board like we have now for BCCC. LaSalle does not have distant learning on that channel.
Mr. Harp indicated that he reviewed correspondence from our cable attorney asking if we wanted a contractual arrangement with the universities that we do business with for the peg channel. Upon discussion it was believed that this could be done in a less structured format.
It was also discussed that that any programming should not be commercial in nature. The Cable Act indicates all programming must be non-commercial programming. Commercial programming would be a retailer advertising on the channel. If a company were sponsoring a school event, then it would be appropriate to advise the community that they are sponsoring the event, but may not use their commercial advertising.
Dr. Ugras summarized that Council Rock has their own channel, the township has their own channel and we now have another channel that is available. We have universities that can access these channels, if the Board makes a decision on how that programming can be allowed and/or shared. We have to set policy to decide on how to use this capacity.
It is important to get some guidelines together and solicit the advice of our counsel prior to presenting them to the universities. Once this is complete, the universities may then begin to present their programs that they would like to air to the Board. Stuart Myles indicated that if the Board polices the programs then the Township becomes liable. If the Board does not police them then the Township does not carry that liability.
It was discussed that Jim Bowe and Dr. Ugras will begin working on the guidelines together and discuss them at the next meeting.
COMCAST UPDATE: Joe DiJulio indicated that the modems are selling like mad. They have about 1,300 modems being installed a month in the Central Bucks area. There is a tremendous demand for them; however, there have been some central problems and e-mail problems.
Joe Di Julio indicated that Comcast's next big step is the digital boxes. They presently are one-way digital. When you order a movie you dial an 800 number. The number you call is the movie you are going to watch. That number recognizes your home phone number and cross-references it with the time you called, which then begins to play the movie you ordered. Sometime this year, Comcast wants to turn the box around, which will make this a two-way system, so when you order a movie you hit the buy button. The long-term goal is true video demand. You will have 500 videos to choose from and decide when you want it to begin to run. You will also have full VCR capability. It will be like purchasing a movie at the video store, so you can watch it for 24 hours and if you fall a sleep, you can watch it again in the morning. Comcast would like to have this up and running within a year.
NEW BUSINESS: The Board discussed a recent memo submitted by Tom Harwood. Mr. Harwood indicated that a permit application was submitted for the pedestal, which was used as our test to see if the cable company was requesting permits when they placed additional pedestals throughout the township. The Cable Company advised Mr. Harwood that in the future they would follow the proper processing procedures.
A memo was also submitted from the township discussing complaints from the residents with their modems. It was discussed that the Board does not wish to get involved with this issue, as they do not see this as a problem from other ISPs. They will, however, mention this to Joe Di Julio.
Mr. Harp discussed the possibility of having one of the Board members be in charge of keeping track of the customer service complaints and discussing them at the monthly meetings.
ADJOURNMENT: Motion was made Jim Bowe to adjourn the meeting, which was seconded by Stuart Myles.
Motion carried unanimously.
Respectfully submitted, By __________________________________
Anita Arndt, Recording Secretary