The Public Cable Television Authority crew prepares for the coverage of the Huntington Beach, Calif. Independence Day parade.The Public Cable Television Authority of Orange County, Calif., is a government channel that serves four cities with a full-time staff of three. Its “hyperlocal” approach seeks to provide viewers with information not provided by other channels.
PCTA has been serving communities in Orange County since 1971, when it was created as a “joint powers authority” by the cities of Costa Mesa, Fountain Valley, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Westminster, said John Borack, the authority’s general manager. Newport Beach and Costa Mesa dropped out a few years later; the city of Stanton joined in 1981.
A joint powers authority is an organization that provides service in areas where two or more public authorities are able to operate collectively, Borack said. JPAs—which are widely used in California—are comparable to rural school districts that serve two or more towns, he added.
PCTA camera operators Christopher Morales, in the foreground, and Robert Kanno, in the bucket above the street, capture the Huntington Beach
4th of July parade.Providing service, including event coverage, to four cities requires cooperation by the municipalities and the staff, said Borack, who joined PCTV in November 2011 after 25 years with Time Warner Cable. PCTA’s other full-time staffers are Louis Rocha, video production coordinator, and Nicole Cass, assistant director. “Both of those folks have strong backgrounds in television production and are extremely knowledgeable about what they do,” he said. Cass has been at PCTV for about eight years and is well versed in cable regulations, he added.
PCTA has an eight-member board of directors consisting of mayors and city council members from the four cities, Borack said. The cities also have production liaisons who present PCTA with production requests, which are reviewed by the board. Once projects are approved, the video production coordinator oversees the logistics, including assigning freelancers who are contracted for shooting and editing, he said.
While some PCTA productions involve freelance camera operators and video editors, most do not require a large production staff, said Borack. That includes “CityWorks,” an interview program with some “B-roll” inserted. Hosted by local sports broadcaster Kent French, “CityWorks” provides insight into various departments of the four local governments. An episode “might be on recreation in one month, and public works the next month,” Borack said.
“CityWorks” airs in all of the four cities on cable Channel 3, Borack said. “We’re fortunate that we’re on Channel 3 in all four of the cities because it’s between the CBS affiliate, which is on Channel 2, and the NBC affiliate on Channel 4. When viewers switch between those two, they will go through Channel 3, and there’s a chance they will stay if they find the programming interesting.”
Yollenna Morales assists in the production of the PCTA program “CityWORKS.”In addition, while the cities receive their respective PCTA broadcasts on Channel 3, “all the channels are separate and we program for each of them separately,” he said. That does not mean each city receives only original programs—“a lot of it is programming that is bicycled in from other entities”—but Stanton might receive a different program at the same time as a broadcast to Huntington Beach, according to Borack. “Much of the time the programming will overlap, but it doesn’t always,” he said.
PCTA LOVES A PARADE
Among the PCTA productions that require extra staff is coverage of Huntington Beach’s Independence Day Parade, which is more than 100 years old and one of the largest July 4th parades west of the Mississippi River, Borack said. The parade attracts a crowd of about 150,000.
With such interest, PCTA makes the parade one of its largest productions. “We televise it live and stream it live over the Internet,” he said. Because “there’s a lot of different moving parts” involved with broadcasting the parade, and to ensure the channel provides complete coverage, PCTA employs freelancers for that production, he said. The most recent parade had a staff of 12.
Norma Gilbrook, PCTA camera operator, shoots the 4th of July parade.In addition, PCTA produces an election night program; production efforts for the 2012 broadcast were “ramped up,” Borack said.
While Orange County is part of the greater Los Angeles area, the local media “tends to focus on L.A. and give Orange County short shrift,” he said. “Sadly, Orange County doesn’t get as much coverage on the local affiliates unless something bad happens. There’s where we fill the niche in terms of the programming. Hyper local is what we’re about.”
To fill that gap in 2012 election coverage, PCTA produced four hours of live coverage, Borack said. “We were live in our studio, we also had some live remotes out in the field,” he said. “Live television is always exhilarating.”
As part of the ramped-up production, PCTA engaged local on-air talent. They included Kent French, who served as the anchor and interviewed candidates from the four cities; Skylar Cuarisma, a local broadcaster who handled all the election results; and Matt Liffreing, who was in the field conducting interviews at various election headquarters, Borack said.
“It was really a fun, fast-paced evening” that provided PCTA viewers with information they could not get anywhere else. Providing such information “defines our channel,” he said.