Good Television?

A Fool In NH Column Heading

As you know, community public television (aka local access) is one of the most misunderstood forms of entertainment, basically because it is hard to understand what is being said on many of the programs.
If you have ever tuned into a selectman or city council meeting (which is usually their prime time entertainment schedule) you might understand this. These meetings are boring enough in person but watching them on TV, without being able to understand what is being said most of the time is, understandably, torturous.
Even on those rare occasions that you can understand what is being said, what is being discussed is usually about something incredibly tedious or something that, even though you can understand what is being said, still makes no sense whatsoever.
Having these meetings broadcast is part of why local access came into being in the first place and it seems that those who are running things feel obligated to continue to air them. The original thought was that maybe there were people who, for whatever reasons, couldn’t attend the meetings but would relish the opportunity to still be able to watch them, even if they couldn’t understand what was being said half the time.
A small percentage of those who watch these public meetings on local access do it because they feel a sense of service to their community by tuning in. How else can they know what decisions are facing their everyday lives in their communities. They realize they need to be a part of what is happening in their city or town, even if they can’t understand most of what the heck is being discussed.
The rest watch – and this is still a very small percentage -because they want to catch their local selectman or neighbor saying something really dumb, which they hope they will be able to understand at the time it is being said. Then they will have something to talk about with everyone else in town, many who might actually appreciate being told about the dumb comment because they watched the meeting themselves but, of course, didn’t hear it clearly.
Whichever one of the above two categories you fall into, you will still watch the local city council and selectman meetings on local access with that unspoken hope that you will witness one of those meltdowns by either a local resident or even a board member that makes for the lead story on all of the local TV news channels the next day.
These are few and far between, but there is no better satisfaction than to have seen it as it happened so, the next day, when you are approached by a friend who asks if you heard about the meltdown, you can proudly say: “Heard about it? I saw the whole thing live” and then proudly go into your own personal recounting of how the momentous events developed.
If you are lucky enough to have caught one of the more significant meltdowns live, the buzz from it alone can give you enough prestige in the local gossip circles for at least a couple of days if you plan your trips outside and possible interactions with others wisely over that time frame so as not to waste it all in one day.
Holding out hope that someone will do something incredibly stupid at one of these televised meetings isn’t going to be enough to keep public access a viable choice for local viewers. They are going to need to make some serious changes to compete in this world of hundreds of channels. They will need to inject some better forms of entertainment into the mix to keep people tuning in as well as attracting new viewers.
It doesn’t seem likely that they will be getting away from the selectman and city council meetings, so maybe there could be a few changes to add to them to spice things up a bit.
Maybe have the members of the council or board sit in different chairs each meeting, just to keep the viewers on their toes.
Have September be funny hat meeting month.
Have a guest celebrity board member every once in awhile.
Have a secret word of the day, printed in the local newspapers and whenever it is said by a board or council member, the sixth viewer to call in wins a gift certificate to a local restaurant.
Have commercials (goodness knows they would have to be more entertaining).
Have students from the technical college produce a reenactment of the meetings using computer graphics and a music soundtrack.
Or maybe just a better sound system.
Is that asking too much?