They may never break any records for Nielsen ratings, but members of the Glendale City Council called their debut Tuesday on government-access TV a "history making event" nonetheless.
"I think it's a good move for our city and hopefully it will do a far better job of informing all the citizens of this community," Councilman Sheldon Baker said of the city's new cablecasting system.
The city will air meetings of the City Council and redevelopment agency live beginning Tuesdays at 1:30 p.m. and rebroadcast them Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 6:30 p.m. on Sammons Communications channel 6.
Some residents and activists have long called for the city to begin broadcasting its meetings on local TV, but the idea was opposed by several former council members who thought it would cost too much.
But officials said they have succeeded in putting together a "creative, yet low-budget" on-air system for about $90,000, much less than what some similar-sized cities spent on broadcast equipment.
"It was a really limited budget. They didn't think it could be done for that amount of money," said Ken Buckowski, president of Studio Spectrum, an audio-visual firm hired by the city to operate the broadcast console installed in the City Hall basement.
Using a computer-controlled device called a video toaster, the council broadcasts have many of the trappings of a commercial program like "Court TV."
There are on-screen graphics to identify the person speaking, summaries of the agenda item being discussed appear at the bottom of the screen, and even an original music introduction.
Two people operate the control console: one to operate the three remote-controlled cameras in the council chamber, the other to run the computer.
City spokesman Ritch Wells said the city hopes to eventually use its broadcast capabilities for more than just the weekly council meetings.
Among the possibilities are broadcasting local community events as well as results of local elections live on election night.
Wells said all the expenses incurred by the city to start broadcasting will be reimbursed by Sammons Communications.
Under its newly approved franchise agreement, Sammons will pay the city $200,000 for government-access related equipment and projects.
Still, not everyone is thrilled with Glendale's entry into the broadcasting arena.
"I think it's going to be a headache," said Gene Blankenship, president of Glendale Citizens for Law and Order and a regular at council meetings. "I think it's going to invite all the gadflies to come and speak just to be seen on TV. People who are interested in their government should be here, they shouldn't see it on TV."
The premiere broadcast went without a hitch, and council members said they got through it with only a few butterflies.
"I wasn't nervous, but I was keenly aware that I had more eyes on me," Councilman Rick Reyes said. "When I have more eyes on me, I strive to be proper; I get stiff. But I think as we get used to it, we'll all relax."