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Samuel Hoffman | The Journal Gazette
Patrick Stelte, government access coordinator with Access Fort Wayne, works in the control room.

City TV a vital service to residents

– It was 1996 when an agreement with the Allen County Public Library created City TV as we know it. The question was what to do with it.

“It was a new toy – we had our own channel,” said Patrick Stelte, government access coordinator for Access Fort Wayne.

The answer was to develop programs that show how city government works. And for the last 15 years, Stelte has been in charge of it.

“I make television shows for city government,” Stelte explains. “I run the day-to-day operations of City Television.”

Of course, what City TV is has changed dramatically in the last 15 years.

Thanks to AFW.pegcentral.com, the days of depending on the TV schedule are over. Now, any show Stelte has produced is available 24 hours a day with a few mouse clicks.

The days of depending on a cable line to your home are over, too: AFW.pegstream.com has made it possible to watch City TV live anywhere you have an Internet connection. Want to watch City Council meetings even when you’re in Florida for the winter? If you’ve got the Internet, you’ve got the council proceedings.

Mary Tyndall, spokeswoman for the city’s Community Development department, said Stelte has changed with the times.

“Pat’s role has evolved,” Tyndall said. “Now, he posts the video and I tweet out links to it or email shows we do. It provides so many more opportunities to get information out to the public and the public expects that.”

The public also expects big brown eyes and wet noses, and City TV delivers, thanks to Animal Care & Control. Tyndall said other city departments are all jealous of Animal Care & Control because they know how many viewers puppies and kittens attract, but Peggy Bender, the agency’s education and outreach specialist, said City TV is just one more way to educate the public.

The agency’s award-winning “Kind Club,” a show that teaches children how to treat animals, has been in production since before City TV existed but is still popular. A talk show about pets called “The Scoop” also draws a lot of viewers.

There are also shows such as “City Beat,” “Behind the Badge” and live events such as council meetings.

But what you won’t see is politics, Stelte said.

There is a five-member editorial board that oversees content, and what concerns them most, Stelte said, is making sure the TV channel is not used to promote a political agenda.

“It’s about government, not politics,” he said. And that governs the way he shoots meetings when he has multiple cameras at his disposal: “I could use reaction shots, you know, someone rolling their eyes after someone else says something, and I could use that to paint a certain picture. … But I’m not going to do that.”

He also doesn’t cut content out of meetings, no matter who asks. Not that anyone has ever asked.

“That has never come up,” Stelte said. “No council person has ever said, ‘Please don’t show that.’ That would be a problem – it’s an open, public meeting.”

City spokesman John Perlich said with social media, the public expects not only interaction with city officials but to have information available any time they want it. With video on demand, they can get that information easily.

“The public sees more than the sound bite they might get on the news,” he said. “That C-SPAN aspect of it is important.”

Cable television subscribers pay a 5 percent franchise fee on their bills; 60 percent of that goes to the city’s general fund and the rest goes to pay for Access Fort Wayne, the umbrella organization over City TV and other cable access channels in town. But every year, Perlich said, the cable companies lobby the General Assembly to get rid of it.

“We want people to understand we have a great service here,” he said. “We don’t want to see that go away.”

dstockman@jg.net

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