Someone wanted me to write out my thoughts as coherently as possible as to where the streaming television station project stood so that blanks could be filled in. Somebody has to clear up the gaps. This one is not a solo project in the long term. What follows below is a bit of a brain dump.
The streaming television station project serves a need as the local news sources are not the most functional. Although Conneaut CAT TV does exist it is limited in its scope and its quality is lacking. The quality issue was raised after discussion with a member of the staff of a television station in Cleveland as to our local attempt at a video newscast. Currently service from our local radio stations in Ashtabula County does not have consistent coverage of local news. Newspaper reporting locally is a shadow of what it was pre-pandemic.
The goal initially would be to start with offering a “headlines service” which would recap the headlines in a manner akin to top of the hour news bulletins from BBC World Service/CBC Radio One. Growth would be on an iterative basis to move from a headlines service toward a more traditional American evening news broadcast. Initial lengths of news broadcasts would be targeted at five minutes and then would increase over time to thirty minutes. The tentative list of topical coverage areas includes:
- Ashtabula City Council & other municipal affairs
- Ashtabula Area City Schools
- Ship traffic in the Ashtabula Harbor
- Community events with the churches
- Community events with the social organizations
- Medical news with our local hospital, Ashtabula County Medical Center
- Parks events
- Business news, including chamber of commerce updates
There needs to be at least two reporters to cover events in the identified topical areas. Ideally they would be multimedia journalists to be able to handle videography on their own in the old style of CityTV across the lake in Ontario. I’m thinking specifically of the CP24 news style for presentation from the days when Mark Dailey was still a presenter. If we have to have a cameraman in reserve then we would try to make that a cross-training responsibility for somebody with other duties. There would still need to be a host for continuity purposes but that role could be alternated between the multimedia journalists.
On the back-end there have to be some production staff. There have to be technical staff to do editing and mix down to produce the show as well as make it look good. There have to be people to handle the computer connections to get the broadcast actually going out to the world. That’s keeping operational/creative crew separate from administrative/financial. Yeah, a producer would be needed to handle the administrative side so the production side could stay functioning.
A small team of about five to seven would be needed to staff the project and spin it up. Going solo results in things like this from Conneaut CAT TV and that’s an unacceptable outcome. Even with a small team of five to seven the operation wuold be running very lean with no real margin for error.
Missing from this is an advertising operation. Using monetization options from the online video hosting platform would be likely the best thing to do at first. The overall ad market nationally is unusually soft and that has been reflected in cuts and closures at both radio and television stations. Even if a miracle worker was hired for ad sales they would be placed in a no-win situation based upon the state of the market.
Hosting would be managed via Vimeo. To handle live streaming via Vimeo would cost $75 per month at this time. Sticking to a broadcast paradigm appears to be the best way to meet the needs of local viewers rather than utilizing a video-on-demand model. A VOD model would likely be implemented via video podcasting but that would be harder to monetize and more difficult for local viewers to access. Vimeo does have the capability to restrict broadcasts to paid subscribers only although that would cost more to do.
Appropriate production space would be needed. Essentially a set would need to be constructed. Although tools like OBS Studio allow for a decent amount of chroma key work the problem comes down to having sufficient room in one’s home to be able to record. Securing an actual place to record in would obviate many of the problems on that front. Spaces in which this could be done are priced at prohibitive levels currently. There are articles about virtual production techniques but the one at https://www.tvtechnology.com/news/the-reality-of-virtual-production deals more with using LED walls as well as the notion of “broadcast virtual sets” but they still require a degree of space to work in. It appears that Newtek is pretty much the main vendor for the technology to back up such things since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The “minimum viable product” in this instance would be to produce a five minute evening news broadcast every day that could be viewed by local viewers. In this minimum viable product we would also cover local stories across our communities. We would read out the weather reports from the National Weather Service forecast office in Cleveland to begin with although that would expand hopefully in the future. The goal would be to do something akin to a BBC World Service/CBC Radio One top of hour news break. I think we can manage to accomplish that.
That’s what I’ve got. Prevailing wage data would be a concern since Ashtabula County would rightfully be considered a “hardship posting”. Searches of the data at https://flcdatacenter.com/ and considering numbers at 110-120% of the rates shown would give good figures to start with for budgeting personnel expenses. Since people would have to be hired from outside the county to staff this there would have to be a premium paid to secure their services.
There’s currently no piggy bank available to raid for something like this. A crowdfunding effort using Indiegogo or Kickstarter would most likely be needed. Doubts exist as to the amount of local participation that might occur with such a fundraising appeal.
The foregoing is the most coherent brain dump I can come up with at this point.