Before 2003, the schedule of DeKalb County’s cable television station, DCTV, was filled with reader boards—scrolling text about various county events, announcements and services.
“It was a visual repository of written material,” said Burke Brennan, the county’s chief communications officer. “It was the lowest form of television.”
Then, “the folks in DeKalb County administration started paying attention to DCTV,” Brennan said. “We made it into the award-winning institution that it is today.”
Just this year, the station has received two Bronze Telly awards, three Pegasus awards of honor and four Pegasus awards of distinction. DCTV has won more than 60 national awards since 2006, including 31 Pegasus awards, 14 National Association of Telecommunication Officers and Advisors awards, nine National Association of County Information Officers awards, two Atlanta Association of Black Journalists awards and an Emmy award.
DCTV is DeKalb County’s government access station, which airs on Comcast Channel 23 and has video on demand at www.dekalbcountyga.gov/dctv. DCTV has produced more than a dozen different county-related programs and features, including Inside DeKalb, Let’s Talk DeKalb, DeKalb Salutes You, Check It Out, Arts, Culture & Entertainment Living and various public service announcements.
“It shows that there are activities in DeKalb …that you can come out and enjoy,” said Diamond Miller Lewis, director of the county’s Office of Cable Operations.
On JobTV, the station has teamed with the Georgia Department of Labor to inform viewers about more than 150 jobs that are available. The 30-minute program is updated daily and runs several times throughout the day.
The twice-a-month meetings of the county’s Board of Commissioners are aired on DCTV to allow residents to see “where the actual business of the county transpires,” Brennan said.
The reopening of a rehabilitated fire station, the CEO’s annual state of the county address, DeKalb’s Martin Luther King Day celebration and the opening of the renewable natural gas facility are all examples of special programming on DCTV.
“We produce programming with a goal of informing our viewers,” Brennan said. “It is informative programming that is entertaining as well.”
The station, which is planning to add animal services public service announcements and coverage of commissioner’s Committee of Whole meetings to its lineup, is never short of ideas, Brennan said.
“The requests far outweigh the resources,” Brennan said. “We hear from all corners—county departments and state departments.”
The round-the-clock programming on DCTV is produced by a four-person staff headed by Lewis.
“The programming you see is a labor of love,” Lewis said. “That’s what we do each and every day.”
Brennan said that it is commonplace for him to receive calls on Saturdays or Sundays from DCTV’s “magnanimous” staff.
“When they’re on deadline, they work until the job is done,” Brennan said.
To aid its staff, DCTV gets help from other county employees “interested in learning more about being behind the camera and learning about production,” Lewis said.
“Because they work and do the day-to-day operations and services in each of DeKalb County’s departments, we’re working with them to help us out in producing stories that are important to whatever department they work in,” Lewis said.
“We are using people who work in DeKalb County to help us tell the stories of DeKalb County,” Lewis said. “That furthers our mission and impact.”
Producing quality programming for a 24-hour station is “a labor intensive endeavor,” Brennan said. “You want to make it easy to understand and visually appealing. We’re talking about television and a lot goes into television.”
For example, producing the three- to four-hour Board of Commissioners regular meetings—a live broadcast with no edits—may take 20 man hours, Brennan said.
“Very few people really understand what it takes to make television,” Brennan said. “It is a subtlety of this operation that is very hard to educate people on.”
DCTV itself has been in the news this year after the Board of Commissioners voted to take $75,000 from the CEO’s budget to form its own communications office. After overriding Ellis’ veto of the measure, commissioners want to use the money as an incentive to urge Ellis’ administration to discuss giving commissioners more airtime on DCTV.
“We have severe fiscal obstacles to overcome and we are going to work with the Board of Commissioners to overcome the obstacles,” Brennan said. “We are optimistic that DCTV will continue its legacy of quality programming that educates, informs and communicates the official business of DeKalb County,” Brennan said.