Initiative could connect Alaskans via TV, Internet

Juneau Chamber of Commerce director is building support for plan

Posted: Friday, December 12, 2003

Southeast Alaskans anywhere in the region could watch graduations from afar, virtually tour Craig's new high school or see municipal government meetings under a plan envisioned by Juneau Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Todd Saunders.

Saunders is building support for a cable TV and Internet initiative to beam events to and from communities throughout the area. He said he wants to attract likely participants for a committee to decide which events to broadcast.

"We in Southeast, even though we're somewhat close to each other, we really don't know what the other communities are doing," Saunders said.

The communities could pay into the project to augment federal and state grants, he said.

The public, government and educational access channels in Juneau are underutilized, Saunders said. The plan could add interesting and informative material that would reach wider audiences, he said.

"It really would be reality TV 24 hours a day in some form or another," Saunders said.

Events could include Assembly meetings, Chamber of Commerce luncheons, parades, school and planning board meetings, the Southeast Conference and the University of Alaska Southeast's Evening at Egan series, Saunders said. Residents from any of the communities could watch the university's graduation ceremonies.

Saunders also suggested that cable TV and the Internet could broadcast local headlines from media throughout Southeast. Print and broadcast journalists could discuss the week's news in a roundtable format, he said.

Bill Legere, president and general manager of KTOO-TV, agrees the public channels are underutilized and supports the concept, he said. KTOO could offer technical expertise, recording equipment and help figure out how to link Southeast communities via cable and Internet, he said. KTOO or some other facility could serve as the distribution point for the information. KTOO may be able to offer its studio during down time, he said.

Local cable provider GCI supports the concept, and would need to gather more information to determine the costs and logistics associated with such a plan, Southeast Regional Manager Terry Dunlap said.

Saunders' concept would allow University of Alaska Southeast to broadcast more content at better times, said Michael Ciri, director of information technology. The university now broadcasts about nine courses live on UATV channel 18 in Juneau. It can broadcast only one class at a time because it has only one channel, he said.

Saunders also suggested that high school and college students around Southeast do some of the broadcast work for credit to be used toward a degree program.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com



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