WESTFIELD – With the recent passage by the City Council on January 18 to transfer $28,750 from the PEG (public, educational and governmental) designated account to the full-time salaried account, and the acceptance at the same meeting of Peter Cowles, Jr. as the Media Systems Specialist for a term of one year, the city is on its way to creating a new community television studio at Westfield Technical Academy. The $28,750 pays for six-months of the salary for the position.
Working in conjunction with the school district, the plan is to turn half of the print shop at the Technical Academy into a radio and television recording studio, with a separate entrance for the school studio and the community studio.
“We hired Pete Cowles to help set it up,” said Mayor Brian P. Sullivan last week. He said the location of the new studio will make it more accessible for members of the community to get involved in creating programming and volunteering.
Westfield Public Schools Superintendent Stefan Czaporowski said the goal for the school studio will be to offer a Chapter 74 competency in radio and television broadcasting under the Graphic Arts shop. It will also be used for television and radio production of graduations and sports games.
The first to be done though, will be the community television studio. “The reason we aren’t doing the educational piece right now, is we have to set it up as Chapter 74 (approved-vocational program),” Sullivan said, adding, “In the meantime, we’re working on the community television part right now.”
Sullivan said it is important to state that the relationship between the City of Westfield and Westfield State University that has resulted in local broadcasts of meetings on PEG Access Channel 15 will continue. He said Mark St. Jean, who coordinates video production and TV operations at WSU and manages Westfield Community Programming Channel 15 endorses the new studio.
The source of the PEG funding is from a certain percentage charged to customers on the Comcast cable bill. Sullivan said the city is in the fifth year of a five-year contract with Comcast, which will have to be re-negotiated this year. He said Ed Watson, chair of the Westfield Technical Academy General Advisory Board and St. Jean serve on a special advisory board commissioned by the state to do the negotiations with Comcast.
Cowles, who has been a communications specialist in the city’s Technology Center, brings a wealth of technical experience to the position, including radio and emergency broadcasting. He also was the executive producer of the Softball World Series and the Babe Ruth World Series broadcasts.