City4 TV, the government access TV station and the main public communication channel for The City of Topeka, Kansas, is dedicated to promoting the understanding of the City’s programs and services by broadcasting relevant information to the public. City4 is located on channel 4 on the Cox cable television and is on air all day, 365 days a year. The City’s small band of communications staff work collectively to gather and broadcast information to the general public and maintain the visibility of the City’s communication messages and public programs through City4 TV.
Housed in the City Hall, City4 TV’s programming includes live coverage of city council meetings and city planning commission meetings, taped coverage of press conferences, a variety of city government announcements, videos produced in-house, and timely public safety and emergency information.
Keeping in sync with the trends of the Internet age, and seeking to make information available to viewers in an easier, faster, and more effective way, City4 TV also ventured into the World Wide Web by taking advantage of the latest video streaming technology. Moving away from relying only on cablecast for the dissemination of the City’s messages, City4 TV’s bold new step now provides viewers an additional channel to receive the information they are looking for.
“It was not an easy process, by any means, to change the way we were used to doing things around here. Introducing the brand-new concept of video streaming to the Web and adopting new technologies to make it all happen required a lot of convincing,” says R Davis, TV Producer at City4 TV. “But in the end we made the right decision and succeeded to make the move, and the results have only been overwhelmingly satisfying.”
City4TV today uses the end-to-end streaming solution which includes the VSiCaster from Visionary Solutions (VSI), and streaming services powered by NetroMedia, to deliver live and recorded programming to viewers over the Web with a high degree of flexibility and minimal maintenance. The solution provides an ideal way for easy broadcast of high-quality video over the Internet, reaching hundreds or even thousands of viewers simultaneously. At the facilities, the City4 TV staff use a Compix Media character generator unit as well as a digital signage unit from KeyWest Technology to develop design slides for continuous messaging. Live and recorded programming from a DVD player are then sent to an integrated audio/video routing switcher from where the signal is simultaneously uploaded to the VSiCaster and to Cox cable for streaming and broadcasting, respectively.
The simple, straightforward streaming device, which is no bigger than a portable DVD player, requires minimal setup and maintenance, along with a hassle-free operation, which proved to be especially convenient for the lone operating staff at City4 TV. By simply plugging in the input device to the VSiCaster and connecting the VSiCaster to the IP network, the device is ready to stream content through NetroMedia’s content delivery network. Additionally, the device offers the staff the flexibility and convenience to start and stop the video stream as necessary by simply visiting the NetroMedia player embedded on the City4TV web site, thus liberating the operator from the control room.
“Our goal in implementing a streaming solution was to offer continuous information that allow for a more transparent city government,” continues Davis. “It was very quickly evident that the VSiCaster was able to do exactly what we had envisioned. Once during the broadcast of a city council meeting, the streaming audio was inadvertently turned off. We immediately received phone calls from viewers asking for the reason behind the technical fault. We knew we were being ‘watched’.”
Putting an exact number to represent the City’s return-on-investment on the move to streaming on the Web might be difficult, but the benefits derived far outweigh the investments made. The City, as an entity, produces “information” and its consumption by viewers justifies the entire operation. With information being readily available to viewers at the click of a mouse; with easier, smoother, and effortless operation; with drastically reduced man hours in operational and and troubleshooting time, the VSiCaster has been a cost-effective solution to help City4 TV move into an entire new era of web video streaming.