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LRPA still trying to fix audio problems

September 01, 2010
TILTON — Even as Lakes Region Public Access Station Director Denise Beauchaine arrived at Tilton Town Hall for a meeting with selectmen, complaints were being voiced about the audio on broadcasts of Tilton town meetings on MetroCast Cablevision System's public access channel.

"I stopped to speak with a lovely woman on the street when I got here and told her who I was. She told me right away that (she can't hear what's being said at the televised meetings) and let me know exactly how she felt. I told her I was here tonight to help solve that problem," Beauchaine told the board.

The town has been complaining for months now that the audio is still not working during meeting broadcasts. Other towns don't seem to have this issue and selectmen wanted to know why Tilton's meetings were not of the same quality.

Town Finance Director Tim Pearson said he places the meeting audio and videotape onto a zip drive component, which is then mailed to LRPA. From there production manager Dexter Hecita downloads the information onto his Apple Macintosh computer, checks that there is audio on the tape and sends it on to Beauchaine.

"I don't do anything with the audio. I just make sure there is audio available on the tape," Hecita said.

From there it is sent to MetroCast Cablevision, which broadcasts it for public viewing.

"It just struck me that there may be an issue in taking this from a PC (personal computer) to the Mac," said Beauchaine.

She suggested LRPA try a small sample file from Tilton town offices and give it to another staff member who does not use a Mac computer and see if that's the cause.

"It would eliminate one of the variables at least," she said.

Recordings of the meetings on Tilton's end seem to have no audio problems. Chairman Pat Consentino said she has taken the recordings of meetings home on a flash drive and had no problem with the audio or video. Pearson said he has converted the tapes onto audio-only tapes and made videos of them for town use. He said he has never had a problem with the sound. He asked the LRPA representatives how other towns send their meeting tapes for broadcast to see if Tilton could perhaps use a similar format.

"Some send them on DVD, some send on (zip) drives like you and some send theirs on VHS tapes," LRPA Chairman Ken Curley said.

Pearson told Curley he had originally sent DVDs to LRPA but was asked not to any longer when they were having issues with one brand of DVD jamming their equipment. Since selectmen meetings can sometimes be lengthy, sending them on a zip drive became the preferred solution, especially when some meetings required three or more discs to cover a meeting in its entirety. That was when audio problems seem to arise.

Consentino said many people, especially seniors, cannot attend selectmen meetings and rely on the public access broadcasts to stay informed. She said it was not right for people to have to read lips as they try to keep up with the meetings. Adding that budget season is fast approaching, Selectman Katherine Dawson said a solution needs to be found as soon as possible.

"These meetings are important. People want to know how we're spending their money," she said.

Selectmen have refused to sign a new three-year contract with LRPA since broadcasts are not audible. Under the recently expired contract the town has paid approximately $6,500 per year for their services. Consentino said the town has signed a short-term contract with LRPA until March of 2011. At that time they hope to have alternatives to LRPA if the matter of audio is not resolved. Otherwise selectmen said they would try to seek services elsewhere.

"The problem is there aren't a lot of other options. We could do a live streaming broadcast on the Internet, but not everyone in town has a computer and so wouldn't be the best option. We'll have to see what happens," Consentino said after the meeting.

Beauchaine and Curley asked the board to be patient a bit longer and said they would have a solution for the problem within the next two weeks.

Curley also said there is a current opening on the Board of Directors for LRPA and asked selectmen to find a resident from Tilton willing to fill the seat. Anyone interested in serving on the LRPA Board of Directors should contact the selectmen's office.

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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