FairTV to host archives at town library
Published 2:40 pm, Friday, January 20, 2017
FAIRFIELD — Anyone looking for a glimpse into the town’s legislative past, or hoping to keep up with board meetings on the go, will soon be in luck.
FairTV, Fairfield’s public broadcast platform, will soon make available its archived footage of town meetings and community events at the Fairfield Public Library. Among several efforts to modernize, its education and government channels also recently became compatible on mobile devices.
The advancements are part of FairTV’s evolution, from its 2009 launch to the establishment of the FairTV commission a year-and-a-half ago and the strategic plan penned last fall as a guide for its future.
FairTV broadcasts town board meetings — the Representative Town Meeting, Board of Finance, Board of Selectmen, Town Planning and Zoning Commission, Board of Education and, as of late, several RTM committees — and a sampling of other community events, such as school and community concerts, sports matches or ceremonies.
The programming runs on channels 78 and 79 for Fairfield Cablevision and under channel 99 options for Frontier Cable as an education- and a government-access channel. Some past recordings and live streams of both channels are available online.
The media platform’s archives will soon be on hand at the Fairfield Public Library, stored on a server at the library and viewable on its terminals. They are set to become available to the public early next month, in what FairTV Commission Chairman MacKay Jimeson called a “watershed” moment for transparency in town government and public education.
Archives of past years’ meetings can be used for research into Fairfield’s history and a record of how town decisions have been made, Jimeson added.
Hosting FairTV’s archives seemed like a logical partnership for the library, Town Librarian Karen Ronald said, given its role as an information center and the main library’s long open hours and accessibility.
“It just seemed like a really good fit,” she said. “This is just another medium in which people can access information about their town.”
Recently the platformconsolidated several websites to a central address, fairfieldct.org/FairTV, and made its online live streams accessible on mobile.
The recent initiatives have been spearheaded by the FairTV Commission, founded by town ordinance in early 2015 and first meeting later that year. The commission finalized a five-year strategic plan in late September, highlighting financial independence, programming expansion and technology improvements as key goals.
FairTV’s funding stems from two sources: an annual Community Advisory Council 2 grant — representing a portion of $100,000 distributed across six towns — and town funds. Town backing entered the mix about four years ago, Jimeson said.
In 2014, the town contributed less than half of FairTV’s funding, but the contribution steadily rose. Fiscal Year 2017 saw it increase to $59,000, a roughly 16 percent bump from the year before, requested by the commission.
For next fiscal year, however, the commission is asking for a 5 percent decrease in town funding. Jimeson hopes the town sees the spirit of the request, though the difference is a “drop in the bucket” for its overall budget.
In the years ahead, the commission’s plan calls for increasing support from fundraising in particular. Among the plan’s goals is the establishment of a nonprofit foundation for private donations, part of the objective to make FairTV financially independent.
The commission will be seeking a change to its ordinance to help expand its programming, while retaining the nonpartisan intent of the original restrictions. Jimeson said the change would allow more event coverage beyond town meetings, so libraries, schools, the Fairfield Museum or other nonpartisan partners could create community-driven content to be available through the platform.
FairTV’s secondary programming amounts to under 5 percent of its content hours. Building logistics and equipment limitations also dictate what FairTV can directly cover.
Of the “ambitious” five-year plan, Jimeson, whose term expires this July, said, “I feel great that I think we started to build the right foundation for FairTV to build on in the future.”