p-tv3streaming School TV programs, meetings now online

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PORTLAND — The School Department’s public access cable TV station, commonly known as TV3, is now being streamed on the Internet.
In addition to educational programming produced by and for students, residents without cable television will be able to watch Portland School Committee meetings.
There is also an on-demand programming feature, which allows users to log onto the station’s Web site and view programs whenever it is convenient. Before the online service, residents had to pay $20 for DVDs of recorded programs and meetings.
Those anxious to have similar access to municipal meetings – City Council and other board and commissions – will have to wait. Tom Handel, executive director of Community Television Network Ch. 4, said that station is evaluating whether it has enough bandwidth from its provider, GWI, to stream and archive municipal meetings.
Handel said CTN Ch. 2, the other Community Television Network channel, began live streaming last spring and offers those programs on demand.
The school station began streaming online in January, but the initial roll-out was complicated by compatibility problems with district’s strict content filters, which restricts access between school-based computer systems and those outside the district.
School Communications Director Shoshana Hoose said the new online broadcasting system – along with upgrades to TV3’s video, audio and lighting systems – will increase the efficiency of station operations, in addition to increasing access and transparency for the community.
Hoose said that under the old analog system, station workers would have to transfer their digital video content onto a VHS tape in order to broadcast programs. That system required workers to juggle four different VCRs to keep programming on the air.
“The system was time-consuming and inefficient,” Hoose said. ” We were dependent on some very old and obsolete equipment – so old that if it broke, there often weren’t parts available to fix it.”
Hoose said the district invested nearly $40,000 into the new system. Roughly $7,500 in school capital funds were used to purchase the video software, while capital bonds were used to purchase a remote-controlled, ceiling-mounted cameras, monitors, microphone mixers, loudspeakers and the like.
“That kind of major equipment upgrade has not been done since TV3 started broadcasting meetings in Room 250 (of 196 Allen Ave.) perhaps as much as 25 years ago,” she said.
Hoose said she hopes to be able to archive School Committee meetings online for up to a year. However, the district is still learning the possibilities and limitations of the new system.
Live streaming is available at Blogs.PortlandSchools.org/tv3/live. Archived programs are available at Blogs.PortlandSchools.org/tv3/vod. 

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net.