June 10, 2009

Oahe TV: Pierre depends on it

While attending the 2009 South Dakota State Historical Society History Conference in Pierre last month, I noticed a young man videotaping the various speakers and struck up a conversation with him.

Patrick Callahan is a “one-man show” for Oahe TV, operated by the City of Pierre. It was a serendipitous meeting, since just the evening before – while sequestered in a room at the Kings Inn – I watched a Pierre City Commission meeting on Oahe TV, an “access” channel provided by the cable television franchisee.

What impressed me about the broadcast was its professionalism. This was not a one-camera, high school production (with apologies to high schools and C-SPAN, which can and do produce some outstanding material with a single camera). The City of Pierre contracts with Callahan to run Oahe TV and can be rightfully proud of this service, which provides a close-up view of city government and school board activity in the Pierre and Fort Pierre communities.

Think of it as a local C-SPAN-type service.

Callahan says the city uses part of the cable franchise fee paid by Midcontinent Communications to run Oahe TV. It’s about an $83,000 line item in the city budget, but Oahe TV also contracts out to folks like the State Historical Society convention and other events to help off-set costs.

That’s a small price to pay for the resources delivered by Oahe TV. Not only are their informational programs available on cable television, they’re archived and available on the worldwide web. Take a look at their website at
www.oahetv.com. It includes a comprehensive local weather site, too.

From time-to-time, I’ve happened across a “Government Channel” on Knology Cable in Spearfish. I’ve never seen anything but Rapid City meetings televised, and many of those have been poorly produced – bad audio or video, or both. Pierre does it well, and Mayor Laurie Gill says "the community has come to depend on it."

Spearfish Ward 2 councilman Paul Young tells me there's been some discussion about such a service in Spearfish over the years, but nothing has ever come of it. It seems to me it would be a valuable tool in helping make city government more transparent and accessible.

The City of Spearfish is already pretty progressive. It has developed a great City Park, and numerous neighborhood parks provide most neighborhoods with a delightful place to picnic and let the kids play. We’re particularly fond of the five-mile bike/walking path that abuts Spearfish Creek. Perhaps the greatest testament to the wisdom of city fathers in building the path: it is used extensively.

Making city government more accessible and transparent through a service modeled after Oahe TV in Pierre would be another valuable asset for Spearfish. Like the bicycle path, it, too, would be used extensively, and we’d be a better community for it.

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