Live from New York, it's Brookhaven Town!
The town's government-access cable television channel launched its first live broadcast Tuesday afternoon -- an update on cleanup efforts after a storm felled dozens of trees in North Shore communities such as Stony Brook and Setauket.
The impromptu broadcast on Cablevision Channel 18, hosted on short notice by Supervisor Edward P. Romaine and Highway Superintendent Daniel Losquadro, offered a sneak preview of the town's plans to offer more live programming in the near future. Romaine said Wednesday that officials plan to add live segments such as weather-related school closings and possibly town meetings.
"This gives Channel 18 a little more of a kick, and people may want to turn to it for local traffic and weather reports," Romaine said in an interview. "We're learning to do more things that we can do with Channel 18 that can benefit the residents of Brookhaven."
Brookhaven, like many Long Island towns, operates a government-access channel as part of a franchise agreement with Cablevision. Cablevision owns Newsday.
It's common for towns to live-stream meetings and other events on their Internet sites, but Brookhaven may be the first town to produce a live TV program.
There are no Nielsen ratings for the channels, so it's unclear how many people watch them.
"More people watch it than you think," said Brookhaven Town spokesman Jack Krieger, who supervises the channel. "So many people come up to me and say, 'You know, I saw such and such on Channel 18.' "
Gail Lynch-Bailey, president of the Middle Island Civic Association, said the channel is "must watch TV" for many residents who can't attend town meetings.
"Sometimes people will watch it if they have trouble falling asleep," she said. "We call it 'Insomniac Theater' sometimes."
Live broadcasts became possible this year because of $50,000 in new cameras and other equipment, Krieger said. The money came from funds paid by Cablevision as part of the franchise agreement, he said.
The new equipment also enabled town officials to air prerecorded programs, such as municipal meetings, more quickly. Programs that previously could not be shown for up to 72 hours now can be broadcast within 24 hours, Krieger said.
Tuesday's broadcast was arranged hastily when Brookhaven officials learned the town website, brookhaven.org, had gone dark because of a damaged server in Setauket -- leaving officials with no other way to quickly provide storm updates.
Romaine said he and Losquadro shared emergency phone numbers and tips such as avoiding downed power lines. They had 10 minutes to prepare before they went on the air.
"We had no script, and we talked off the top of our head," Romaine said. "This was a good exercise for us because it was sudden, it was dramatic."