QCTV has new executive director

Quad Cities Community Television (QCTV) is tasked with making government meetings, sports games and other community programming available to the residents of Andover, Anoka, Champlin and Ramsey.

Karen George became the new executive director for Quad Cities Community Television (QCTV) on Aug. 20. QCTV is the local cable access provider for the cities of Andover, Anoka, Champlin and Ramsey. Photo by Eric Hagen
Karen George became the new executive director for Quad Cities Community Television (QCTV) on Aug. 20. QCTV is the local cable access provider for the cities of Andover, Anoka, Champlin and Ramsey. Photo by Eric Hagen

Karen George became the new executive director of QCTV Aug. 20. The last director, Terry O’Connell, was with QCTV for 28 years.

George had worked in the Anoka-Hennepin School District’s Community Education department for the past 17.5 years, most recently as the communications, marketing and elections manager.

During a QCTV board discussion about hiring George, Andover Councilmember Julie Trude said she likes the fact that George is well connected with people in the four communities QCTV covers due to her 17 years of experience with the school district.

Ramsey City Administrator Kurt Ulrich said George brings a lot to the table in terms of relationships and understanding technology.

“I love community work and this is an extension of building community and working with community members on telling the good stories of living, raising a family and working in these northern suburbs,” George said.

George said that QCTV has already been offering programming through means beyond cable television.

Non-cable subscribers can view live government meetings or sporting events or watch them later through the qctv.org website. Numbers vary greatly. An Aug. 2 Ramsey Planning Commission meeting was only streamed 14 times. On the other hand, an Aug. 14 Andover Planning and Zoning Commission meeting that included a public hearing about the proposed Walmart store has been streamed 69 times to date, according to numbers provided by QCTV.

A couple of the most impressive numbers can be attributed to Anoka football’s great run last year to state. The Nov. 4, 2011 7-AAAAA section final in which Anoka beat Blaine 27-22 was streamed 796 times. The following week’s state quarterfinal game in which Eden Prairie defeated Anoka 35-21 was streamed 885 times.

Staff told George that QCTV was among the first local access stations in the metro to stream live on the Internet. It also has Facebook and YouTube pages and utilizes Twitter.

With so many more people having smart phones and other tablet devices like iPads, the mobile delivery platform is one of QCTV’s priorities right now, George said.

It has already started placing QR codes at events it has covered such as Ramsey Happy Days and the Anoka Halloween Grand Day parade. By scanning the QR code, smart phone owners can access special event webpages created by QCTV.

When asked if QCTV would be creating a mobile website, George said QCTV is looking at making its website “more mobile friendly.”

“They’re not waiting until they get home to turn on their computer to look at something,” George said. “They’re doing it as they experience life.”

Another goal for QCTV is to broadcast in a high definition signal. This will be a sizable project. The early estimate is it could cost $1.5 million to purchase the cameras, update the editing equipment and get devices that distribute HD signals, for example.

George said QCTV’s board of directors and its budget committee is working on its 2013 budget and long-range capital plan to plan for these and other expenditures.

The core mission of QCTV is government programming, she said. QCTV broadcasts council and commission meetings for its four cities along with shows highlighting council actions.

It will eventually be broadcasting Anoka-Hennepin School Board meetings as well now that the district’s headquarters moved from Coon Rapids to Anoka.

Besides sports, QCTV also provides various community programming including community festivals, QC Outdoors, The Chamber Report, It’s Your History, District Court show, Suburban Mix and Business Spotlights.

George said early next year, the commissioners will be evaluating programming. Being new to QCTV, George said she will be able to offer a fresh set of eyes on what QCTV is offering and how it can be more efficient.

“We will always have a core commitment to covering government meetings and actions,” George said.

Cable television subscribers are an important revenue producer for local cable access networks like QCTV.

Cable subscribers who look at their monthly bills will notice a PEG fee. This stands for a public, educational and government access fee. In 2011, QCTV received $441,630 in revenue from this funding source.

The cable company that has the franchise in Andover, Anoka, Champlin and Ramsey is Comcast. This company must also give QCTV 5 percent of its gross revenues, which is called a franchise fee. QCTV received $883,258 from this source in 2011, according to its records.

George said Comcast’s franchise with the four cities will expire in 2016. A major task for George and the QCTV board will be to renegotiate the franchise terms.

She said the re-franchising process has many steps and usually takes three years to complete. The reason for the lengthy time frame is because U.S. Congress mandates that cable companies notify communities anywhere from 30 to 36 months in advance if they wish to renegotiate a new agreement.

With so much content on QCTV’s website, this means non-cable subscribers who are not charged these fees have access to similar programming to which cable subscribers are contributing.

When asked for her thoughts about this, George responded, “I look at it as multi-channel distribution. We are here for our core mission of covering local government meetings. Those are put on our local channels and it makes perfect sense to offer that to a wider spectrum of residents with the improvements of the Internet and video on demand capabilities.”


History in cable access

For a couple of years in the mid-1980s, George worked for Group W Cable, which previously covered Twin Cities north metro communities. George did most of her work with Roseville area schools.

One project she worked on was setting up a video feed into multiple classrooms so students and teachers could watch the Challenger shuttle launch on Jan. 28, 1986. The explosion of the space shuttle obviously made this a very tragic day in American history.

George moved to California in 1987 where she became a communications director and cable franchise administrator for cities.

She moved back to Minnesota in 1993 and became the executive director of St. Paul Neighborhood Network, which covered all the government and community happenings for this local cable access network.

George was hired by the Anoka-Hennepin School District a couple of years later and worked there for a little over 17 years before coming to QCTV.

Eric Hagen is at [email protected]