Gainesville and Hall County governments are shifting to provide more social media and online streaming content to residents as they plan to pull the plug on the local government access channel, TV-18, at the end of the year.
The move follows the retirement this year of Gainesville spokeswoman Catiel Felts and TV-18 manager Ronny Childs.
The two had been responsible for much of the production and content that aired on the channel, including city council and county commission meetings.
“Ronny did incredible things for the city of Gainesville and Hall County,” said Hall County spokeswoman Katie Crumley.
Their departures, however, left local officials to examine how to move forward and whether to “alter or reinvent” TV-18.
Crumley said the county and city took a survey from residents and “the feedback we received is that (people) are not watching traditional cable as much.”
Some cable providers also do not offer TV-18.
Additionally, most respondents preferred receiving information online and through social media, Crumley said, while TV-18 was more focused on longer-form content to fill 30-minute or hour-long segments.
So, that means turning to more online content to “meet people where they are,” she added.
One thing that won’t change: City council and county commission meetings will still be recorded and broadcast on the local government websites.
“We want to make clear that (residents) will still have access,” Crumley said. “We’re going to continue to do that.”
Hall County has already hired Brian Stewart, a reporter and radio host at AccessWDUN in Gainesville, to fill a digital media specialist role to support more web content production, press releases, newsletters, graphic design and photography.
Expanding local government’s messaging, which could include public meeting information and special events, through new mediums like Facebook Live should remain a budget-neutral proposition, Crumley said.
TV-18 currently costs about $250,000 annually to operate, split between the city and county governments, and Crumley said she expects savings to come in the years ahead.