To inform and educate members of issues facing municipalities concerning the connectivity and distribution of information from both internally and externally wired and wireless connections. This includes services by emergency responders, television stations, radio stations, security networks, IT departments and classroom education.
A Brief History
The Jersey Access Group (JAG) was formed in March of 2000 by a small group of stations that saw a need for open communication between all the cable access stations in New Jersey. From its inception, it was clear that JAG would play a dominant role in the development of New Jersey’s public, educational, and government (PEG) television stations.
JAG began its efforts to unify the member stations by gathering each station’s documentation (Franchise Agreement, Policy and Procedures Manual, and any related forms). Additionally, we looked to establish a mechanism for sharing programs. JAG elected an interim slate of officers, adopted a mission statement and formulated a set of goals. JAG membership consisted of 12 stations representing 222,500 households. JAG also initiated production of a ½ hour magazine show called Access New Jersey.
Access New Jersey is a magazine format information show consisting of four segments. Each month four JAG member stations volunteer to contribute to Access New Jersey. Each submits a six-minute story of interest to New Jersey residents. These stories are edited together to form that month’s program. The show is then made available to all JAG member stations for televising in their communities.
During the first quarter of 2001 JAG adopted bylaws for the Jersey Access Group, elected officers and established four standing committees (Executive, Financial, Production, and External Relations). JAG also premiered its web site: www.jagonline.org.
JAG focused on establishing a relationship with the New Jersey League of Municipalities. The development of this relationship made it possible for JAG to communicate with all the municipalities through their newsletters and articles in the League of Municipalities’ magazine. At the annual League of Municipalities Conference, JAG participated in a seminar on cable television and had representatives at a table during the Consulting Period.
The web site was expanded to contain Shows to Share. The application to join JAG and a Station Questionnaire were added to the web site.
An hour has been set aside at each meeting to discuss issues and answer questions raised by members. Operational topics have included hiring vs. volunteers, franchise fees and who gets the money, the televising of religious programs, staffing, candidates’ debates, and the Public Information Act’s effect on taping. We have also discussed equipment related issues including editing systems, cameras, video switchers, automated programming, and old equipment disposition. By the end of 2002 JAG’s membership had grown to 32 stations representing 487,000 homes.
JAG began the task of surveying every municipality the state of New Jersey to develop a comprehensive database covering operating and future PEG stations. The Emergency Management Ad Hoc Committee was formed to evaluate a proactive role in the states EMS. Later that year JAG presented a workshop at the NJ League of Municipalities Annual Conference on the role PEG stations can play in support of emergency management.
JAG held its first one day expo that included 12 exhibitors and was attended by over 80 PEG station operators, local producers and volunteers. JAG produced two promotional videos (This is Access TV and The Importance of Access) showing the diverse scope of our member stations, a brochure outlining the benefits of joining JAG, and a display about JAG that can be used in support of JAG presentations. JAG also conducted three sessions at the League of Municipalities Annual Conference. JAG representatives also provided consults at the New Jersey School Board Conference. JAG became a member of the Alliance for Community Media. JAG’s video The Importance of Access was a winner in the About Access – Professional category at the 2004 Hometown Video Awards. By the end of 2004 JAG’s membership had grown to 40 stations representing 692,000 homes.
JAG partnered with The Alliance for Community Media, Mid-Atlantic Region to hold a combined two-day conference, Access Television, The Visions of Liberty. The conference included 35 exhibitors and 12 panel discussions, with 150 attendees. JAG expanded into Pennsylvania. Membership in JAG was expanded to include any non-profit organization operating a closed loop network making it possible for PEG stations to partner with colleges and universities.
Additionally, JAG began testing the use of a common server to distribute programs of interest to member stations. JAG has produced over 50 programs as part of our magazine series, Access New Jersey that was seen in over ½ million homes. JAG’s membership has grown to 40 stations (2 from Pennsylvania) covering over 100 towns representing 873,000 homes.
JAG also took a proactive role on the federal, state, and local levels to preserve PEG stations. Members have met New Jersey’s state legislators and spoke at meetings and hearings in an effort to insure funding and connectivity from all providers of video programming to the home.
JAG continued its efforts to insure PEG stations are protected. Our second joint conference brought together over 200 attendees. Two new elements were introduced: six workshops by industry professionals and a production studio where programs were produced to inform the public on pending legislation and asked them to join the fight to save PEG stations and a documentary about the conference.
JAG began to meet with US Senators and Congressmen to expand awareness of the organization and the large number of PEG stations in NJ that are in danger of elimination and in need of protections through federal regulations.
JAG also joined The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors to increase avenues of communication on issues in Washington. JAG took another step in its development with the addition of stations in Manhattan and the Bronx to its membership. JAG increased its reached over 1.5 million homes in three states.
JAG’s efforts turned towards monitoring and insuring Verizon’s delivery of PEG stations on their system as specified in the NJ System Wide Franchise Agreement. JAG organized workshops at both the JAG/ACM and NJ League of Municipalities conferences with panelists from Cablevision, Comcast, Verizon, and The NJ League of Municipalities to insure that an open dialog would exist with PEG station operators. JAG also opened up a dialog with the NJ Office of Cable Television to provide information on PEG stations connectivity.
Through JAG’s outreach program a group of students spend the day producing a documentary about the conference and attended many of the vendor workshops. JAG will explore how it might get more students involved at future conferences.
After a year of Verizon’s fiber build out JAG began efforts to amend the NJ System Wide Franchise Agreement to plug the many loop holes that were hampering the delievery of PEG stations to residents. Meetings were held with the chairman of the NJ Assembly Telcommunications and Utilities Committee.
JAG hosted two workshops at the NJ League of Municipalities Annual Conference; New Technologies Provide Support to State, County, and Local Government Agencies and The Effect of Statewide Franchising including panelists: Former FCC Commissioner, Gloria Tristani and NJ Assembly Telecommunications Chair, Assembleman Upendra Chivukula, NJ BPU Commisioner Joseph Fiordaliso and Washington DC attorney, Jim Horwood.
JAG was able to get a bill introduced by the NJ Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee to support changes to the NJ State Wide Franchise Agreement. The committee voted in favor of the bill.
The JAG/ACM conference continued to grow with focus on two major issues; Tapeless Workflow and Content Distribution and Regulation and Enforcement: Role and responsibilities of state offices regarding cable TV issues including panelists Celeste Fasone, Director, Office of Cable Television, Commissioner Joseph Fiordaliso, NJ Board of Public Utilities, Christopher White, Deputy Public Advocate.
Late in 2009 JAG kicked off a marketing campaign with a booth on the trade show floor at the NJ League of Municipalities Annual Conference.
JAG launched its new web site, www.jagonline.org, with a number of features, embedded videos, and links to keep our membership informed about the work of the organization and related activities in the area of telecommunications. JAG’s annual conference developed a new model to increase the outreach and success of the event though new partnerships. Renamed The Eastern Region Community Media Conference, Power of Partners Version 1.0, the conference moved to a larger venue. Presentations by vendors became a major educational component of the conference as technology changes require stations to address changes in station workflow.
As part of JAG’s outreach program a one day Student Symposium was added to the conference events which allowed students in the neighboring area the opportunity to learn about the field of televison from industry professionals and the resources available at their towns local television facility. They also were able to spend time on the trade show floor visting with the vendors and learning about the latest technology.
JAG mobilized its membership to combat state legislation that would eliminate the requirements for telecommunication providers to carry or support community media. While the bill was fast tracked through the NJ Assembly it still needed to be introduced into the NJ Senate. JAG mobilized and members met with their state senators to explain the damage the bill would have on local community television. JAG was able to get enough “no” votes in place so that the bill never was presented before the NJ Senate for a vote. This marked a major victory in what continues to be an ongoing effort by telecommunication providers to remove any support for community media in NJ.
JAG begins annual JAM Video Awards, recognizing excellance in video production. This program is for members and residents of New Jersey and adds to the many benefits available to members of JAG.
JAG launched its conference web site, www.powerofpartners.org, and increased its conference partners to nine. The conference recorded its largest trade show with 55 vendors. We also added a pre-conference training day to the event and made the JAM Video Awards part of the banquet.
JAG became the New Jersey chapter of The National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA). This marked a major change in JAG’s structure that expands it into all areas of telecommunications to include broadband, right-a-way, franchise fees, wired and wireless communications, and developing technology. This opens membership to all municipalities in New Jersey.
NATOA Executive Director, Steve Traylor is conference keynote speaker. NATOA is the premier local government professional association that provides support to its members on the many local, state, and federal communications laws, administrative rulings, judicial decisions, and technology issues impacting the interests of local governments. JAG partnered with the NJ League of Municipalities to present a ½ day workshop on broadband.
As a chapter of NATOA, JAG began work towards reaching out to other organizations in support of New Jersey’s communications. JAG hosted its 9th annual community media conference. JAG added two new conference partners; NJEdge representing the all the colleges and universities in New Jersey and the NJ League of Municipalities representing over 500 municipalities. At this year’s conference NATOA and the NJ League of Municipalities partnered with JAG to produce a full day of CEU credited municipal workshops.
The Jersey Access Group, through its student outreach program, hosted a student symposium allowing us to reach out to the educational community to allow students to fully experience our media conference. 200 students from 12 area high schools and vocational schools, interested in the media field, were afforded the opportunity to participate in a day-long program that explored the many facets of a career in video production.
Special recognition for legislative support of community media in New Jersey were presented to Senator Barbara Buono, Legislator of the Year and Piscataway Mayor Brian Wahler, Municipal Excellence Award.
The NJ League of Municipalities approved JAG as an affiliate organization resulting in JAG taking a major role in providing support to New Jersey Municipalities in all areas of communications.
As a result of JAG’s becoming a chapter of NATOA, JAG was accepted as an affiliate of the New Jersey League of Municipalities. JAG has begun publishing articles in NJ League magazine and the Affiliates Newsletter.
JAG continues to have monthly meeting and has added a guest presentations to keep our membership informed of technology changes in the communication industry and related issues.
At NATOA’s annual conference JAG receives President’s Choice NATOA Chapter of the Year Award.