Cobb County Government
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Channel keeps government access open

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Cornelius Pope, who produces the weekly "Spotlight on Cobb" news feature program on Cobb County government access channel TV23, covers a class at the North Cobb Senior Center concerning healthy eating for the holidays.


By Gary A. Witte
CobbLine Staff

Even if someone didn’t know where the government building is located, Cobb County public meetings are not difficult to find.

The Board of Commissioners meetings, Planning Commission meetings, Board of Zoning Appeals and bid openings are broadcast to a television audience every time they’re held. Even those without cable can watch as the sessions are streamed live on the county Web site.

The government access channel TV23 reaches about 200,000 households throughout Cobb County with 24-hour programming, including shows that cover local events, issues and special events.
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David Tyler, chief engineer and “Focal Point” producer, prepares the Cobb County Board of Comissioners meeting room at 100 Cherokee St., Marietta, for a live broadcast. TV23, the government access channel, reaches about 200,000 households. 

And it accomplishes this with a full-time staff of just four people.

“We’re proud of the fact we can cover the entire county with a minimal staff,” TV23 Station Manager Brad Plumley said. “We work to accomplish a lot.”

Cornelius Pope started as an intern with the Cobb County Communications Department in 2000 and became a full-time employee the following year. Originally, he intended to go into computer science, but didn’t like what he saw in the profession.

“It was all about binary codes and not interacting with people,” he said.

Now Pope produces the weekly news feature show “Spotlight on Cobb,” covering various county events and programs. As a result, his work hours shift regularly, with him handling shoots in the evening as well as the weekend.

“I could be in west Cobb one day and be in east Cobb the next day,” he said. “It all depends on what’s going on in the county during a particular day or a particular week.”

Each team member works with no frills, hauling a nine-pound camera and 11-pound tripod by themselves to each shoot. Producing and editing a single show together can mean hours of work.

Story subjects can range from classes to ribboncuttings for new facilities, each giving residents a glimpse of how their taxes are being spent and what programs are available for their benefit.

Pope, during a drive to cover a cooking demonstration at a senior center, said it feels good to provide a service to the community.

“I get to meet people I wouldn’t ordinarily get to meet,” Pope said, noting he highlights information the public wouldn’t typically know about. “That, for me, is gratifying that I can get the word out to people.”

Then there are the public meetings. It takes at least two employees to manage the camera systems, sound system and live broadcasts. Both Board of Commissioners and Planning Commission meetings are rebroadcast numerous times the week they happen.

David Tyler, chief engineer and “Focal Point” producer, said the meeting broadcasts are popular both on cable and the video on demand online feature.

“It saves residents from driving all the way to downtown Marietta … to come to the meetings,” he said. “The citizens can watch it at their leisure in their own homes.”

The TV23 studio is housed in the corner basement of the Cobb County government building on Cherokee Street. Elected officials, department heads and local leaders come here each month to share their opinions and information with the viewing public through the monthly “Focal Point” show.

The station supplements its staff with the occasional assistance of other county employees. Communications Coordinator Tiffany Lewis anchors the “Spotlight on Cobb” broadcasts while Senior Services Program Coordinator Kathy Lathem and others have hosted show segments.

“TV23 is a great instrument in getting the word out about our programs and services,” Lathem said. “They’re very responsive when I request coverage of something.”

She added that many residents learn about available programs for the first time through watching the channel.

The station shares offices with the Public Safety Video Unit, headed by Lt. Chris Stone. The unit works in conjunction with TV23 and produces training videos for county Public Safety officers.

Other programming includes a variety of information, ranging from local documentaries to updates concerning troops overseas. There are live feeds from Cobb County traffic cameras, Army Newswatch and numerous shows about children and teen safety.
Nevertheless, Plumley, who has worked at TV23 since 1997, said its main mission is open government, with every meeting broadacast covered unedited and gavel-to-gavel.

As a courtesy, the channel also replays city council meetings for the cities of Marietta and Smyrna.

“We try to put as much out there as possible,” he said. “We enjoy what we do because it’s not the typical television production environment.”

The channel is only available to those households with cable. Select programming and public meetings are available on the county Web site. For more information about TV23, its daily schedule and online video on demand, go to cobbcounty.org/tv23.