The week-to-week Lower Merion Board of Commissioners and committee meetings don’t always have the same pubic attendance numbers, but residents and government officials can be sure more than a fair share of home viewers stay informed via their televisions, tuning in to LMTV for meetings and other township information.
“The meetings are the cornerstone of what we do, but they’re certainly not our only programming,” Public Information Officer Brenda Viola said.
Results from a 2004 township-wide survey conducted by the Center for Opinion Research at Franklin & Marshall College reported that more than 70 percent of township residents tune in to LMTV.
Despite promising statistics, the growth of the TV station actually began before the survey, which covered all aspects of local government.
Cablecasting since October 1991, LMTV began primarily as a scrolling bulletin board with different graphics and four different background colors, containing important messages and announcements from various township departments.
Viola joined the Public Information Office in 2001, with one of her priorities being to grow the station so it gained viewers beyond those who only watched the meetings.
“Realizing that we have a very targeted audience – only Lower Merion residents can view the channel on Comcast 7 and Verizon 37 – we started reaching out to the community at large, and expanding on the topics covered in government meetings to help educate and sometimes inspire our residents,” Viola wrote in an e-mail message.
The public information officer added that equipment improvements, acquired through grants, offered better quality productions that attracted programming guests and viewers to LMTV. One of the recent technological features, a virtual set system, allows LMTV staff to use green screen-like graphics to videotape a program in the station, and project a background such as the board meeting room so it seems like the program filmed in the actual room.
In addition to live meeting coverage, LMTV re-broadcasts meetings the day after, and each day subsequently until the next live meeting.
LMTV’s original content consists of 11 programs, produced, written, video taped and edited by Producer and Director Mark Murray and Associate Producer Josh Mackley.
These are a few of the programs from LMTV:
- “LMPD: Partners with You,” a program about the police department hosted by Superintendent Michael McGrath.
- “Public Works Pipeline,” a program addressing topics related to township operations such as recycling, road maintenance and snow removal.
- “Township Talk,” which offers a closer look at the township’s staff and how the township operates.
- “Living History,” which began Feb. 2011, features local historian Ted Goldsborough interviewing long-time Lower Merion residents to discuss he differences between the past Lower Merion and the contemporary township.
- “Health Matters,” which also started airing in Feb. 2011, offers residents a plethora of information and real-life stories relating to health, with topics such as weight loss, nutrition and wellness discussed by medical experts of the Township Health Advisory Council.
Murray, who’s been with the station for more than 15 years, said he enjoys when residents on the streets recognize him.
“People have stopped me on the streets and said, ‘hey, you’re the guy that films and produces [LMTV], I enjoyed that program yesterday,’” Murray added. “That’s fulfilling from a production standpoint.”
Murray recently filmed a dog-training video explaining rules and procedures for residents interested in the township’s dog parks. The video, featuring his boarder collie, Bromit, is exclusively available for permit applicants to access online and on demand.
Viola emphasizes the work Murray and Mackley do to broadcast the live public meetings. In the TV station, located in the basement of the township administration building, there’s a placeholder on the wall for longest meeting: Public committee meetings on June 28, 2010, which lasted seven hours, 57 minutes and 20 seconds.
“There was a huge agenda that night [commissioners] had to get through,” Viola said. “Keep in mind, for every televised meeting that Mark and Josh are the last ones to leave the building.”
“We’re a pretty ambitious little government access station,” Viola added. “We’re the little government channel that could.”