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2015 Annual Report of Westford Community Access Television, Inc.
Presented on: Thursday, June 23, 2016
Westford Community Television, Inc.
487 Groton Road Unit B, PO BOX 1037, Westford, MA 01886
There were more changes to the WestfordCAT Board of Directors in 2015. Tracey Tebrow joined us in the role of Clerk, Nancy Burns was elected Vice President, and David Brown from Enterprise Bank continued as our Treasurer. Kelly Ross stayed on as our Board of Selectmen liaison. Carol Heidenrich continued representing the Nashoba Valley Technical School Committee as its liaison. Margaret Murray stepped down from her Westford Public Schools liaison position and was replaced by Avery Adam, and I continued for another year in the role of President.
WestfordCAT has engaged Anstiss & Co., P.C. to conduct a review of our financial statements. While we did have a positive cash flow this year, we also experienced a larger than anticipated amount of depreciation expense resulting in a negative change in net assets for the second year in a row. When budgeting for 2015 we expected the Comcast contract renewal to be completed no later than June. However, it did not happen until September.
Short-term Investments........... $45,956
Accounts Receivable............... $116,968
Accounts Payable...................... $2,824
Franchise Fees...................... $376,686
Capital Grants................................ $0
Change in Net Assets............ $(34,039)
Lauren Horton, Executive Director
Andrew Sylvia, News Director
Patty Stocker, Production Technician
Sarah Fletcher, Marketing Outreach Manager
Nick Woodbury, Production Technician
Steve Edwards, Programming Coordinator
There is great value in sponsoring community television in Westford. The reach is indeed local with well over 7,500 cable subscribers in town. Add to that our ability to stream programming on our website and share web links and our reach expands. Our state and national media exchange networks allow neighboring towns easy and free access to our content. Our YouTube presence and other social media platforms allow us to share programs without boundaries, creating a great marketing reach opportunity for local businesses.
In 2015, we added 11 channel sponsors, which we acknowledge daily on our community bulletin boards that run on our channels between scheduled programming, on our websites, and in our newsletters:
Between scheduled programming, WestfordCAT runs public service announcements and bulletin board announcements on each channel. These bulletin board slides provide local information and announce upcoming events. Messages for the bulletin boards can be submitted through our website, by emailing email@example.com or by sending a fax to 978-692-5246.
WestfordCAT recognizes the timeliness of the community information that is presented on our bulletin boards and strives to post information in the most expedient and visually impacting manner.
In 2015, 122 bulletin board announcement requests were submitted by the community, 66 more than we received last year, representing over a 200% increase.
Additionally, 16 public service announcements were added to the channels in 2015, a little less than half the amount added in 2014. However, we also produced and added 55 CAT Tracks to the channels, short informational videos that usually accompany WestfordCAT News articles about people and events around Westford.
I am thrilled to announce that 2015 was an incredible year for WestfordCAT as an organization. We incrementally improved each of our area of operation and have set ourselves up for even bigger changes going forward. Due to our marketing, training, and outreach programs, there are more new locally produced series, more volunteers from the community and local schools, and a much higher quality of productions with our new studio equipment, tools and talented staff. In 2015, we put a lot of focus on WestfordCAT News with our goal of becoming our community’s ‘go-to’ place for local news. We won several awards over the year. Our westfordcat.org website was recognized by the Hometown Video Awards as the best website for studios with operating budgets between $300K - $650K. WestfordCAT also won an Alliance for Community Media (ACM-NE) first place award for The Richardson Method in the Health, Science, and Spirituality Production category. And we won the ‘Best Small Tree’ category at the ‘Festival of Trees’ event at the Westford Regency.
We have also seen various staff changes in 2015 that reflect our growth and future direction of the organization. We hired a full-time News Director to spearhead our local news efforts, a Marketing Outreach Manager to promote our services and build community partnerships, and two new production staff members to assist our producers and create new WestfordCAT programming.
During the year, individuals and organizations provided valuable support by making donations of cash or services. In kind donations were received from our CPA firm, Anstiss & Co., P.C. who discounted their services to make the review of our financial statements more affordable. We also received sponsor-level memberships from the following organizations and businesses in 2015: Nab One Stop, NE UFO Conference, Enterprise Bank, Mary Kay, Westford Rotary, Roudenbush Community Center, Cameron Senior Center, WestFit Clubs, Edward Jones, and the Harkness Law Office.
Potential State legislation may impact PEG Access, as in past years. No legislation was passed on statewide franchising; however, there is a bill at the Federal level that was introduced in support of PEG access. The Community Access Preservation Act calls for the removal of restrictions on PEG funding, reaffirms the requirement for equivalency with commercial channels, provides for a study on the effect of statewide franchising, and seeks to update the definition of a cable system.
The Comcast Licensing Agreement with the Westford Board of Selectmen expired at the end of 2014. The CAC (Communications Advisory Committee) completed its negotiations with Comcast throughout most of 2015 and the Board of Selectmen approved and signed a new agreement in August that will boost our revenue significantly.
During 2016, we will continue to build on our momentum to incrementally improve WestfordCAT and provide our community with the appropriate facility, equipment, and services that will ensure the fulfillment of our mission and exceed community expectations. Thank you to everyone, including our supporters in the community, board and committee members, our corporate sponsors, all the producers and volunteers, and the hard working staff who make PEG access in Westford better each year.
The biggest news of 2015 at WestfordCAT was the finalized Comcast franchise renewal contract, which was negotiated by the town’s Communications Advisory Committee (CAC)’s members/volunteers Jim Silva, Tom Spuhler and Bob Fesmire. After operating without a new contract since the end of 2014, the new agreement was signed in August 2015 and run through 2024. It included several items that allow WestfordCAT to grow and better serve the community for years to come. The new contract increased the studio’s revenue from cable subscribers from 3.5% of Comcast’s total cable revenue to 5%. This 30% increase in our funding is instrumental in allowing us to expand the studio into the adjourning unit, better staff the facility and expand our services to the community. We saw a partial increase in our quarterly payments beginning in September. Due to language in the Verizon contract, their rate also increased to 5% to match the Comcast agreement. Comcast passes the funding for these grants through to Westford cable subscribers. The new contract also provides $10,000 in capital funds each year through 2024 to help pay for equipment upgrades. Comcast also agreed to decommission the town’s I-Net system and replace it with a fiber connection directly to WestfordCAT. That work is expected to complete in 2016.
In 2015 there were many special requests for coverage made by town departments and organizations and we responded by staffing or coordinating volunteers to record and/or broadcast live the meeting or event. The Planning Board held special meetings on the proposed fire station and the a proposed asphalt plant. At the schools request we covered three separate elementary school STEM Fairs. We also agreed to cover a town managers breakfast event, hosted by the newly formed Westford Business Association. We supported the League of Women Voters efforts to host warrant review and a candidates night as well as the candidates themselves with studio recordings of their message to voters. We collaborated coverage of a regional All Girls Challenge. And in December we hosted a Day of Holiday Cheer, where about 20 members, organizations, and local businesses came into the studio to record a holiday greeting for our programming and also for use on their own websites. We joined with other regional stations to run the Beacon Santa Telethon, a full weekend of entertainment and on-line auctioning, hosted at the Maynard High School to raise money for the area’s needy families.
We thank the Nashoba Tech Automotive Program for their efforts in sprucing up our WestfordCAT van by touching up the paint and updating the van’s graphics with our new logo. Great job kids!
We added several new programs and series to our channel lineups. Multiple town events were also recorded including coverage of Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day, Apple Blossom Parade and Festival, Town Common Menorah Lighting, Jim Arciero’s Sun Santa event, the town election and warrant review coverage, the Scientists and Inventors Fair, the 4-H Fair, Town-wide Strategic Planning Retreat, Planning Board and Zoning Board of Appeals meetings, and the March and October Town Meetings. A number of new popular series began in 2015 including our own bi-weekly WestfordCAT News, Round Roudy from the Roudenbush Community Center, Nashoba Grizzlies Youth Hockey and Weather with Joe Sepe. Weathering the Weather with Ed transitioned into The Ed Cohen Variety Show in October. We also continued to record new episodes of Local Music Rocks, Legal Ease, Health Factor, Around Town, Meet the Members, Main Street Westford, and numerous CAT Tracks which are short features of events and news from Westford.
A strategic decision to incorporate local news content into our community service delivery allowed us to hire Andrew Sylvia full time and transition the Westford Template daily news site over to our own WestfordCATNews.org in February. The site features several new local stories each weekday, as well as content provided by the community and local organizations. Subscribers to WestfordCAT News receive daily 6 a.m. emails with highlights on our latest stories.
This initiative tied in perfectly with our new bi-weekly 30-minute WestfordCAT News program that was initially produced by George Cox throughout most of 2015 and then by Steve Edwards, in close conjunction with Andrew Sylvia and Patty Stocker. Government, school, and local businesses as well as volunteers provide segments such as Superintendent’s Corner with Bill Olsen and Jodi Ross’s Westford Town Manager Update, Rekha Sharma’s Health Tips, Dan Twomey’s Westford Academy Athletics Updateand Joe Sepe’s Weather Forecast, plus an Upcoming Events segment. The program allows both TV and web viewers from all over the world access to local Westford news stories, current events, and special features. It has made it easier for more people to get involved by participating in small segments on a regular basis rather than a full 30-minute program. Local organizations, businesses, school and government representatives, and community members all have easy access to a Westford-specific audience by featuring a segment or acting as a correspondent on the news program.
We had numerous staff changes in 2015 to support our expanded focus and services. Andrew Sylvia began working full-time in January as our News Director. Our longest serving staff member, Anya Zulawnik, left her Membership Manager role in May. Sarah Fletcher, former Executive Director of the Middlesex West Chamber of Commerce, joined our organization as our Marketing Outreach Manager in August. Production Manager George Cox left for a new position at Acton TV in November. And we brought two new part-time staff members on board, Patty Stocker in a Production Coordinator role to handle our post-production needs and Nick Woodbury as Production Technician to cover our meetings and other town-related events. Steve Edwards continued to excel in his role of Programming Coordinator and Mark Rocheleau assisted us as needed with planning, troubleshooting and other technical equipment issues.
Anticipating a larger budget when our franchise agreement with Comcast was renewed, we began working with our landlord on an office expansion plan, providing individual offices and cubicles for the staff, a larger reception area, additional studio and equipment storage areas, and moving our editing suite to the front area. We added four security cameras at the entrances and exits of the station that can be remotely monitored by computer or smartphone. We also purchased a portable multi-camera high definition switcher and recorder and an IP streaming device for sending a live feed over the internet back to the studio in buildings where live feeds are not available.
All of our staff was involved in expanding our training class offerings again in 2015. We offered expanded youth programs to include a four-week workshop for homeschoolers, and a five-day “Lights, Camera, Action!” Summer Youth Camp, in conjunction with the Roudenbush Community Center, which attracted 14 attendees. Multiple Cub Scout dens and Girl Scout/Boy Scout troops also visited the studio to work on earning their merit badges and to create PSA’s. We also held our regular producer classes several times over the past year. 10 attendees came to spring workshop training, 14 attended the fall workshops and 10 were at our winter workshops.
At last year’s Annual Membership Meeting in July we honored two members, presenting the 2015 Student Volunteer of the Year award to Sophie Haque, who was a weekly volunteer from the Valley Collaborative, and the 2015 Adult Volunteer of the Year to Ed Cohen for his efforts in creating dozens of episodes of his show over the previous year.
We were very pleased to host numerous student volunteers and interns throughout the year including Sophia Haque, Joe Sepe, Nick Woodbury, Kyra Kruger, Gavi Zahavi, and Kaylee Hartnett. They provided editing assistance, created PSAs, station IDs, archived older meetings, provided content for WestfordCAT News, and much more.
Members of our community who wish to become involved with PEG Access can attend training sessions provided in a number of different formats from formal workshops, to individual or group customized trainings, as well as special lectures that cover specific topics. Tours are also given to scout troops, upon request, as an opportunity to learn more about communications, media and PEG Access.
20 Locally Produced Series, 165 Episodes
Around Town (5)
CAT Tracks (52)
From the Hill (4)
Holiday Cheers (13)
Legal Ease (7)
Local Music Rocks (6)
Main Street Westford (1)
Meet the Members (2)
Musings and Meditations (5)
Out of this World (12)
PDT Girls (2)
Rotary in Action (3)
Round Roudy (2)
Second Opinion (3)
Senior Spot (2)
The Ed Cohen Variety Show (5)
The Health Factor (6)
The Richardson Method (1)
Weathering the Weather with Ed (18)
WestfordCAT News (16)
19 Locally Produced Specials
All Girl Challenge – Niki Tsongas Speech
Apple Blossom Festival 2015
Battle of the Bands 2015
Blues N Brews Special
Light Up the Night Special
North Star Talent Show
Parker Village Presentation Special
Patriots Day Concert
Roudenbush Person of the Year - Ellen Harde
Strategic Planning Retreat 2015
Summer Video Camp Special
Toys for Tots Special
Veterans Day Special
WBA Barry Bluestone Special
WBA Town Managers’ Meeting
Westford Knight Unveiling Special
Westford Menorah Lighting 2015 Special
Westford Tree Lighting 2015 Special
29 Presented Program Series
A Healthier You (8)
Animal Adventures (3)
Bay State Baptist (27)
Chamber Chat (11)
Dacey's Divas (6)
Democracy Now! (56)
Faith Evangelical Free Church (3)
Just the Facts (4)
Life Matters (26)
Long Live the Republic (5)
Lowell Folk Festival (7)
Money Talk (2)
Ooma's Cookie Jar (2)
Physician's Focus (10)
REELING: The Movie Review Show (18)
Shrink Rap (4)
TED Talks (46)
The Current Buzz (13)
The David Pakman Show (39)
The Folklorist (3)
The History Show (3)
The Jazz Room (8)
The Legal Edition (8)
The Mass Factor (7)
The Steve Katsos Show (17)
Town Talk (9)
Valley Homegrown (7)
Young at Heart (5)
Presented Program Specials
Christmas Comes But Once a Year (1944)
Hector's Hectic Life (1948)
Miracle on 34th Street (1955)
Christmas Jazz in Boston
Common Cents 2015
A Conversation with Larry Kramer
Carols and Cookies
Music From Messiah
Provincetown Celebrates Supreme Court Ruling on Gay Marriage
The Promise of America
Locally Produced Series
School Committee Meetings
Story Time with Noni
Nashoba Grizzlies Hockey
NVTHS - Spring Concert 2015
NVTHS 45th Anniversary
NVTHS Graduation 2015
NVTHS Short Videos
Locally Produced Specials
Light Up the Night
Abbot School STEM Fair 2015
Crisafulli School STEM Fair 2015
Volcanic Eruptions Living Lab
Blue Stormgears 2015
Blue Stormgears Plastic Bag Awareness
The Intern Files: Declassified
WA Graduation 2015
Eat Well, Be Happy
Expedition New England
Math with Matthew
The Chef Ron Lock
Video News from The Archaeology Channel
Wicked Good Food
Locally Produced Series
Annual Town Meeting 2015 AM
Annual Town Meeting 2015 PM
Board of Health (3 meetings)
Board of Selectmen (26 meetings)
Conservation Commission (23 meetings)
Finance Committee (13 meetings)
Planning Board (22 meetings)
School Committee (20 meetings)
Special Town Meeting 2015
Tax Possession and Sale Committee
Zoning Board of Appeals (6 meetings)
Locally Produced Specials
ABCs of Recycling 2013
Center Fire Station Study Presentation
Emerging Infections Seminar
Healthy Communities Forum
Healthy Lakes & Ponds Collaborative 2015
LWV ATM Warrant Review
LWV Candidates Night
LWV STM Warrant Review
LWV How to Run for Office
Strategic Planning Retreat 2015
Town Wide Facilities Study
Beacon Hill Buzz
Beyond the Badge
Your Federal Government