Letter to the Editor

Don't Let Raymond RCTV Go Dark

Submitted by Art Wolinsky 1-4-21

I volunteer and work for Raymond Community TV (RCTV). Much of what I write here and elsewhere is informed by that work, but the opinions I express here are my own, not those of RCTV.

On Dec. 12, I watched with dismay and disbelief as after considerable questioning, the Selectmen rejected the server request of the Cable Committee for no expressed reason other than, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” 

After reading the Raymond Area News post of 12/16/20, I participated in the discussion thread as a taxpayer and thought about what I could do to correct what I felt was an ill-informed decision that was not in the public’s best interest. A link to that thread is provided below.

As a taxpayer I am perplexed and confused as to why the Selectmen denied the Cable Committee’s Request for a new server, but I am going to assume the answer lies in Occam's Razor, which states the simplest explanation is usually the correct one. Therefore, I am assuming the decision was made based on an incomplete picture and lack of some critical information. To that end, I offer the following information and observations that may not have been clear at the time of the meeting.

The server replacement has been a topic of discussion of RCTV staff and the Cable Committee off and on for about 4 years. Last year, committee members led by Kevin Woods, researched, and made site visits to multiple vendors of other cable stations to determine how to deal with and replace the failing server. An extensive, detailed technical RFP was sent out. After bids were reviewed, the committee; who's membership represents well over 100 years of professional experience in TV video production and computer technology; made their recommendation and the request replace the 15+ year-old main server, which is far beyond its useful life.

The need to replace it is driven in part by the two most dreaded words in broadcast TV, "Dead Air". There are many other big-ticket items that are also well beyond their life expectancy. At some point, they too will have to be replaced, but many of them would result in much shorter down time. They are off the shelf fixes and are relatively straight forward swaps of new equipment to replace the old. RCTV dead air would be measured in hours or days.

If the main server goes down before replacement, it is not something that can be ordered off the shelf. Additionally, the bidding process would have to be done again. Then the server will have to be built, shipped, and operators will have to be trained. Dead airtime will be measured in weeks and realistically could have RCTV off the air for a month or more.

To understand the scope and complexity of the change, consider the following. The requested server uses a different user interface and will require significant training on the part of operators. A replacement of this type is usually set up and running off air while operators are trained. Once trained, the old server can be retired, and the new server brought online.

When I first came to RCTV, I had 30+ years of technology consulting with schools. I built my first computer in 1979, but that is not broadcast TV experience.  It took me the better part of a year to become comfortable with the interface and functions of the RCTV computers so that I could abandon a 30-step check list I made of the steps to help me get a show on and off the air.

After making site visits with Kevin last year, it became obvious I would be depending on another check list. While it won’t take me another year to get comfortable, it is all new software and a completely different interface. 

On top of this, it is important to understand that the replacement will not cost the taxpayers a penny. If there was a cost, you wouldn’t be reading this. A cost to the taxpayers would be a defensible reason for rejecting the request.  The fact is, the money is in the reserve and the longer the delay the greater the cost in terms of the budget and inconvenience to the public.

No Tax Money Goes to Fund RCTV.

It is totally funded by a cable franchise fee of 2% on Comcast subscribers’ bills. Neither RCTV nor the Cable Committee can do anything to impact that fee. The percentage is set by the Selectmen when the contract is negotiated with Comcast. When the last contract was negotiated, the Cable Committee advised the Selectmen that RCTV could be run on a 2% fee, even though most other cable channels in the area were taking the full 5% allowed by law.

Considering all this, I am trying to figure out how the public interest is served by rejecting this server. Perhaps I missed something. Perhaps, the selectmen missed something. Either way I would love it if someone would explain it to me in terms a bit more detailed than, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."

There is a great deal of information not included in this letter. Much was in the discussion thread on the original  Raymond Area News facebook post of 12/16/20.

The rest can be found by viewing the Cable Committee meeting on 11/24/20 from 3:52 to 34:55
as well as the Selectmen meeting on 12/14/20 from 2:43:06 to 3:11:15

Art Wolinsky
(609) 618-4433

Here is the list of Selectmen and their emails, should you want to write to them.

Scott Campbell - dcampbell@raymondnh.gov

Kathy Hoelzel -  khoelzel@raymondnh.gov

George Plante - gplante@raymondnh.gov

Chris Long - clong@raymondnh.gov

Jack Barnes - dintonti@raymondnh.gov


























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