City programs new channel 24 hours a day

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, January 3, 2001

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s meeting Tuesday was broadcast live on Channel 23. The new local access channel will carry meetings of city board, zoning board and Civil Service Commission. (The Vicksburg Post/MELANIE DUNCAN)

[01/03/01] City officials returned to the small screen Tuesday with a debut performance on a new Vicksburg Video local access channel.

As the Board of Mayor and Alderman deliberated on budget amendments and other matters at the 10 a.m. meeting, cable TV customers tuned to Channel 23 could watch the proceedings live.

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“The business of the city is your business, and you have a right to see how it is conducted,” said Mayor Robert Walker.

Under an agreement with the cable company, Channel 23 will now be programmed by the city 24 hours a day. It will show city board meetings, along with other official meetings such as the zoning board and the Civil Service Commission.

At other times, it will show phone numbers for city offices, job listings for the city, and information on suspects wanted by local police and the district attorney.

The video equipment that makes the live programs possible cost about $1,200, said Bill Ford, in the city’s data processing department.

Ford set up the video equipment and designed the look and feel of the channel, from screen fonts to the background music all classical to avoid having to pay license fees.

Tuesday’s board meeting was replayed twice during the day, although Ford said the city still doesn’t have the technology to show the meetings at night, because no one is around to press “play.” But that may be coming soon, he said.

“In the mornings, we don’t have the audience that we might have in the evening,” Ford said. “I think we’re competing with Oprah.'”

Bo Balch, general manager at Vicksburg Video, said he was impressed with the quality of Ford’s design for the channel.

“He’s done a bang-up job for the city,” Balch said. “I’ve set up cable channels in 27 states, and that’s about the best I’ve ever seen.”

The Vicksburg Warren School District also has been assigned a cable channel, and plans are in the works to put lunch menus and schedules of events on television. But that channel isn’t up and running yet, and the schools haven’t said when they want to start, Balch said.

This isn’t the first time the city has broadcast its meetings on television. Several years ago, officials had a private company tape and air the meetings on cable, but that agreement was short-lived.

This time, all the work is being done in-house, and the channel is being provided at no cost in exchange for the right to run cable lines through public right-of-way, Walker said.

During the board meeting, the mayor announced that city board agendas would soon be available 24 hours before the meeting and posted on the cable channel, so the public would be able to attend meetings on topics that concerned them.

Later Tuesday, he said that practice would begin with the next meeting, Jan. 10.