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TBNK Comes Through for Local Governments, Public During Pandemic

 

As local city and county governments were forced to move to remote, virtual meetings prompted by the social-distancing requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Telecommunications Board of Northern Kentucky (TBNK) stepped to ensure that the public still has access to these meetings.

Typically, in non-pandemic times, most government meetings in Kenton County are broadcast on cable either live or recorded.

“It is important for the residents of a city to have access to public meetings to be informed and know what is going on in their city and what their tax dollars are being used for,” Park Hills Mayor Kathy Zembrodt said. 

Since March, TBNK has assisted in having cities transfer their Zoom video meetings to broadcast for public consumption. The videos now play on TBNK's new web video platform, TBNKtoGO and also live on Facebook.

“When all of this went down, we knew our cities would need us,” said TBNK Executive Director Tim Broering. “We immediately started evaluating the software and video conferencing services for our cities and walked them through getting the software and service set up.”

TBNK also re-wired its master control room to convert the video conferences and connect them into our cable channels and web stream feeds. “Rehearsals” were run with the cities ahead of their meeting days to make sure everything was connecting at everyone’s homes and working OK, Broering said.

For a small city like Park Hills, this was essential to helping them follow safety procedures and meet all the state rules for public meetings, which were adjusted during the pandemic to make allowances for video conferencing. 

“It was very appreciated,” said Zembrodt. “We’re a small city and we don’t have a city administrator. The mayor does a lot and isn’t an expert at technology. So TBNK was able to hold my hand and get all this done in the right way. It was so helpful.”

A celebration to remember thanks to TBNK 

TBNK also edited and aired Park Hills’s socially-distanced Memorial Day Parade.

“The Park Hills Civic Association and the city get together every year for our Memorial Day Parade, which is our big event of the year in our city,” Zembrodt said. “This year with the rules of social distancing, we didn’t want to cancel our parade, but do it in a way that promoted health and safety. With that in mind we moved forward with our tradition of honoring our veterans.”

The parade committee came up with a virtual Memorial Day flag raising. Park Hills residents Elliot Feltner and Joe Binford recorded the video. In separate meetings, local musicians were recorded. TBNK put the footage together.

“We were able to safely put together a safe Memorial Day event virtually to remind all of what the day is about. It was important to have this virtual event recorded, I believe, to show that even in a pandemic a community can come together and celebrate, commemorate and be safe in the process," Zembrodt said. "We can’t let events or situations keep ups from caring for our neighbors.”

‘TBNK has been indispensable’

According to Villa Hills City Administrator/Clerk Craig Bohman, “TBNK has been indispensable” in the city’s effort to stay in compliance with the open meeting requirements during the pandemic and to allow residents to virtually attend meetings. 

“We used TBNK resources to stream because we do not have the equipment needed to produce our own meetings and it did not make sense for us to try do our own media when our residents have already paid TBNK to handle these issues for us,” Bohman said. 

In addition to holding one televised council meeting per month, Bohman said TBNK helped us stream several of our monthly committee meetings so the city could keep projects moving. 

“I can’t tell you how valuable it has been to have TBNK’s production expertise during this time,” he said. “Being able to fall back on their expertise has allowed our staff to stay focused on the other issues we are dealing with.

“As a public agency, we rely on taxes and fees. Since this is the public’s money, they have the right to know how we are using it for their benefit and the city needs to be transparent in how we go about our business. Being able to attend or watch public meetings, even during a pandemic, maintains that transparency and public trust.”

What’s next for TBNK

In addition to council meetings, TBNK has continued in-house and public-submitted programming. 

As restrictions continue to be lifted, TBNK’s free community media and video classes will soon resume. 

“We are hoping to be able to get back to working with our community based agencies and program partners, such as the Kenton County Library, NKY Community Action Commission, Redwood School, the NKY Optimists Club, the Thomas More Media Classes and all of our local schools again,” Broering said.


TBNK notes

TBNKtoGO offers a full library of meeting coverage     

It also provides live 24/7 web video streaming for two TBNK Government Channels, and, for when there is a third city meeting on the same night, the Main Event Channel is also streaming 24/7. The Main Event Channel is also where TBNK airs NKY high school sports, Thomas More University sports, and other local events. 

This system also provides the ability to share a link on websites or social media or emails, etc., for streaming any live meeting right from the live link and also for replay On Demand.

The TBNKtoGO library and LIVE player can also be embedded on cities’ websites, so visitors can select and view programming right on the city website.

These live feeds mirror the cable channels - moving TBNK’s programming more fully on the web.

TBNK also has a ROKU app and will soon be available on your mobile device. TBNK  apps for Android and iPhone, have already submitted to both the Apple Store and to Google’s Play Store for Android, but are waiting on those stores to approve the apps and make them available. This process has been slowed down by the pandemic.


Written by Melissa Reinert, RCN contributor