Nantz Rickard: PEG Channels Open Up a Whole New World

Nantz Rickard

At the 2015 Government Video Expo, Nantz Rickard, president and CEO of DCTV, the PEG center serving the nation’s capital, helped attendees find buried treasure: in this case, it’s in the form of individual voices and hyper-local programming that are more directly accessed via the nation’s Public, Educational and Government (PEG) channels.

According to Rickard, PEG centers have a long history of serving communities with local and hyper-local community-based cable television programming in a way that isn’t replicated by any other television platform. Rickard recently spoke with Government Video about some of the biggest issues facing PEG programming.

GV: You spoke at the 2015 GV Expo about the challenges facing PEG programming. How have those issues evolved over the last several months?

Rickard: Like any other media and technology-based business, PEG channels constantly face the challenge of keeping in tune with the needs and interests of those who use our services. This requires staying abreast of the possibilities, planning the right timing and integration for updating business approaches, and to adopt and integrate the right technology, all while optimizing use of our resources.

Along those same lines, television channels are now the hubs of an increasingly interactive multi-communications platform extended through social media, multiple ways and platforms for viewers to receive content, and building audience engagement with programming. Because of the historical role of PEG channels in their communities, PEG centers are deeply rooted with an existing culture of interaction with the people and organizations they serve. The challenge is to continue to be creative, continuing to integrate and expand PEG media centers’ capability and reach in this area, including possibly expanding the role of PEG programmers as critical participants in the success of an overall strategy.

Another challenge is to continue to flourish in our unique role as hyper-local programming in a vast expanse of mega-audience-focused programming. Of course, with such a strong history and success in our unique niche, this is also a huge and fertile opportunity for us.

GV: For those who may not know, what is the power and significance of having a local PEG television channel in a community?

Rickard: Public, Educational and Government access centers have a long history of serving their communities with local and hyper-local community-based non-commercial cable television programming — a niche not replicated by any other television platform.

Television is incredibly powerful media. Having access to cable channel “real estate” is a huge value and advantage for communities.

Communities use the channels for important government transparency and accessibility of information, for a wide range of educational programming, and for publicly driven programming that represents communities’ wide range of diversity, to celebrate their local culture, people and organizations, and to explore varied perspectives and to share information and discussions that can support efforts to improve communities.

GV: How have PEG channels kept up with the changing media landscape?

Rickard: Even if folks are familiar with PEG already, they may not have thought about how contemporary PEG integrates with the expansive media strategies of today. These media strategies more often than not have changed from a broad generalized approach to a focused, personal, and more interactive approach. This has been the core strategy and strength for PEG for decades. As technology and how people use it provides more ways to interact and share, PEG continues to expand on its historical strength.

PEG is benefitting from the increasing richness of people using media — including HD cell phone cameras — in their everyday lives. Many new opportunities have opened up for many more people to use PEG channels. Some PEG channels are using apps for content sharing and uploading programs to the Public media center.

Very importantly, PEG is building on its long successes of strong community relationships to integrate television programming, social media, web presence, video-on-demand, and incorporation of video into e-newsletters, along with expanding relationships with viewers — just as many broadcast television stations are now doing. At the core are television channels, which are unparalleled as the hub of a powerful communications strategy. The television presence may increase information’s “importance,” while also expanding the reach and impact of educational or informational initiatives. PEG programming is streamed as well as on cable television, and so communities that are not necessarily defined geographically can access the diverse programming available.

Integrating social media and a synergetic use of the web provides ways to develop community engagement with PEG programming in creative and impactful new ways. For one thing, a television program offers interesting opportunities for social media conversations. Television programs also offer new opportunities for building partnerships — a critical aspect to maximizing impact of an organization’s mission.

In part, the integration of social media with PEG programming is taking hold very strongly because PEG programming often has constituent audiences that allow not only social media interaction with the PEG center, but with the community participants outreaching and generating conversation about programs they are involved with. This ripple effect is particularly evident for public channels, where many producers are community residents or organizations with their own circles of related organizations and communities, and the strength of relationships they have built.

GV: What are some of the other significant benefits of PEG programming? We’ve heard mention of PEG’s ability to assist with marketing and to engage the community. Are these some of the most typical? What are its other strengths?

Rickard: Branding and messaging is a very typical use of PEG channels. Because PEG centers do not charge for channel time, an overall strategy for programming can include promotional spots to drive viewers to programming, various program formats (e.g. half- hour series with three short segments, broken up by supporting PSA), and of course, the integration of programming with other messaging. Messaging is direct — government and education channels are solely in charge of their content and messaging, and public channels do not editorially intervene into the individual’s or organization’s program content. Programs and PSAs can be whatever length best supports presenting the message. It is easy to integrate programming with overall communications and education strategies, including that messaging need not be “sound bites,” so programming can best support information and education goals. And promotional spots can be used in conjunct with programming. PEG television programming also offers the great benefit to expand the reach of messaging beyond the organization’s mailing lists, and potentially expand interest to people who may not have actively sought out the information.

Another benefit of PEG centers is that they offer an affordable way for an organization to incorporate the new primary form of messaging — video — into their approach to advocacy, education or information. Even with technology making video more accessible, creating high-quality video that will represent the organization in harmony with it image is still an obstacle for many agencies and nonprofits. PEG centers have free or very low-cost production facilities with low-cost professional production services to create programming for the PEG channels. A link to this programming at the PEG channel can be included on the organization’s website. In some cases, once the program has premiered on the channels, the center allows the organization to use the video, including, for example, to divide it into short segments that can be combined with other information or distributed in e-newsletters.

PEG centers are often overlooked as a great source of employment talent for agencies or organizations looking to replace, add or increase media skills. Because of how most PEG centers work, people attain a broad range of skills from hands-on experience. Their experience includes use of their creative skills to develop compelling content, and often includes opportunities to experiment with new ideas and approaches. The skills are tested in a workplace environment that can provide information on candidates to recruiters, including actual examples of the quality of the candidates’ work.

In Part II of this Q&A, Rickard will discuss power of a PEG channel when compared to YouTube programming as well as some of the biggest challenges facing PEG channels nationwide.


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