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Must-see TV? Some Jefferson Co. residents think so

January 26, 2004|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

SHEPHERDSTOWN, W.Va. - About 20 people gathered at a Shepherdstown coffee shop Sunday afternoon to discuss the possibility of setting up a television channel that would focus exclusively on events, personalities and services in Jefferson County.

The project is being spearheaded by Jim Surkamp, who has been involved in a number of projects over the years, including ones that spotlight interesting aspects of the area's history.

Surkamp also is running for Jefferson County Commission this year and is promoting himself as a "tech-friendly candidate."

Surkamp said he is pushing the idea for a Jefferson County television channel because interesting stories can be told and organizations could benefit from another way of sharing their message.

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Organizations like emergency service agencies could use the channel to broadcast weather advisories or the Red Cross might like to use the channel to distribute information about its services, Surkamp said.

As an example of how the station could spotlight local personalities, Surkamp showed those in attendance Sunday a sample of programming that focused on a local dancer and a drumming group.

There are many talented people in the county, and "they deserve a showcasing place. The level of enthusiasm is really high," Surkamp said as he laid out his plans during a meeting at the Lost Dog Coffee shop on East German Street.

As part of the Adelphia television cable service in the county, the area is allowed to have four public-access channels, Surkamp said. Surkamp said it will cost about $30,000 to set up the channel.

As part of the agreement Adelphia has with the Jefferson County Commission, the commission receives about $600,000 from the cable company, Surkamp said. He is proposing that the $30,000 come from that allotment.

Some of the people who were invited to Lost Dog Coffee Sunday have backgrounds in television production and could help with the venture, Surkamp said.

Surkamp said he plans to have more meetings on the issue in hopes of making the proposal a success.

Among those people who attended Sunday's meeting was Massimo "Mo" Colella, who works for Specialized Communications, a Smithsburg-based company that provides television stations across the country with the equipment they need.

Colella used the broadcasting samples that Surkamp provided to show how the channel could look. Similar to a format used by CNN, Colella's sample used split screens to show more than one type of footage.

He also gave an example of a "crawler" at the bottom of the screen that can be used to list community events.

Also attending the meeting was John Hale, a career television cable executive. Although cable companies have helped communities finance studios for public-access channels, some companies have been backing away from them, he said.

One reason is that communities often do not follow through with their commitments to the channels, Hale said.

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