LIVINGSTON, NJ — As the film equipment needed to continue producing content for Livingston Television (LTV) continues to fail while also falling short of public demands to stream content online, the Livingston Public Broadcasting Committee is requesting monetary support from the township for the purchase of new—and ideally updated—equipment.
Committee chair Rick Diamond recently attended a township council meeting along with committee members Patty Arnold, Frank Sheehan and Steven Milano, who doubles as a film teacher at Livingston High School, to explain the need for this equipment.
According to Diamond, not only does the failing equipment need to be replaced, but there are also elements that need to be upgraded in order to bring LTV into the digital age.
“There’s a demand in this town for some digital capabilities that we’re currently unable to satisfy,” said Diamond, noting that both township employees and members of the public often ask about getting LTV content onto Facebook or the township website. “It’s 2019—everyone’s got Facebook and Instagram and cell phones, and we should be able to do that efficiently…
“We’re just having trouble doing it with what we have. We’re very limited in what we’re able to do; but if we can handle the technical issue, which is necessary, that will help satisfy the public demand to handle the digital.”
Diamond further convinced the governing body that the “value to the town is tremendous” because the content LTV puts out there “is all good content for Livingston.”
“We try to capture what’s happening in town, and I would argue that we’re a de facto marketing arm, an infomercial, for the town,” he said. “We try to publicize what’s good around here, and it’s going to be a lot more efficient and a lot easier to spread it out across all areas of town if we get this one penny item taken care of.”
The committee members noted that—with or without the upgrades—the replacements are necessary in order to continue to produce content on LTV’s regular cable and Fios channels. However, Diamond added, “now is the time to do it correctly to add all the components so that we’re on cable, on Fios and on stream.”
“There’s a button on [the Livingston Township mobile app] that says ‘LTV’—so imagine that you could just go there and watch ‘Around Town’ right there, or watch ‘Clergy Corner’ or a Junior Lancers football game,” he said. “All the kids in town that have their iPads or cell phones and are not watching TV could watch a Junior Lancer football game on the Civic Mobile app.”
Due to the increased number of people who do not watch mainstream television and therefore rely on other media forms to stream content, Diamond said there has been a decrease in the number of people accessing LTV through cable or Fios.
And although the content being produced for the LTV network is more advanced and consistent than other towns’ due to the commitment of its volunteers, Diamond said that Livingston is still “way behind” other towns that regularly stream government meetings, local debates and other valuable content.
Adding to the reasons that “now is the time” to invest in these upgrades, Milano explained that the committee is currently using a backup system from the 90s because the one purchased in 2010 was “fried during one of the big storms.”
He further noted that since the committee put this item in its capital budget last year, the manufacturer has increased the price by approximately 25 percent. According to Milano, the replacement with the upgrades will cost close to $55,000 or 60,000 but will last for the next 20-plus years.
The committee members also explained the board of education’s involvement in LTV, as many of its volunteers are current or former Livingston students who use the public broadcasting committee as a resume builder and a means of community service. Most recently, the Livingston Board of Education contributed approximately $250,000 toward camera upgrades and other items that would help enhance LTV programs.
Diamond noted that the school district’s involvement in the township committee is one of the things that make the Livingston Public Broadcasting Committee so unique.
“There’s the school program, which is the educational side with the classes and homework, but the public broadcasting committee is a township committee,” he said. “We probably have more youth members than any township committee; we have 20-plus kids who come to these meetings and it’s not schoolwork for them. It’s weekends, it’s off-site and it’s community service also.”
According to Diamond, many of the young individuals who involve themselves in the committee become very successful in the industry due to the training and experience received in Livingston. He specifically mentioned that students who attended Syracuse Newhouse—one of the country’s top schools for television, film and public broadcasting—have often reported back that they are “steps ahead of other students because of what they learned and because of the combination of school and the extra curricular.”
Diamond added, however, that the number of students involved also makes it that much more crucial for the committee to be “keeping up with the times and with what’s important.” Because of the outdated equipment and its inability to stream on certain outlets, the students involved with LTV “can’t do the things that every kid nowadays should do with this piece of equipment,” he said.
As the council members began to express their support and willingness to move ahead with the discussion, Councilman Ed Meinhardt specifically acknowledged the success of the committee’s youth members as one of the main reasons for the community to continue supporting LTV.
“I’m not sure people realize how many careers that you’ve all launched,” he said. “I know 10 kids—especially one in Chicago who’s doing really, really well right now—who started with you. I look back at that and there are just so many more people who are affected and you’ve reached so many more families than just those who watch LTV. You have launched so many kids’ careers—boys and girls; so I just wanted to applaud everything you continue to do for this town.”
Mayor Al Anthony, who also serves as the council liaison to the public broadcasting committee, echoed his fellow council members’ statements of support.
“As evidenced by their presentation at the conference meeting, the hard-working volunteers at LTV provide valuable services for our town,” he said after the meeting. “In addition to being a good resource for information and entertainment, LTV also promotes the town in a similar way as we do on the council, or the chamber of commerce or other organizations in town. So in both of these regards, we would like to work with LTV and continue our strong relationship.”
The mayor noted that this conversation is ongoing and that the council has not begun deliberating the committee’s request.