WestfordCAT Board of Directors will meet on Thursday, July 16 at 7pm (Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/88467302722)
Westford Community Access Television, Incorporated (WestfordCAT) is a Massachusetts non-profit corporation. The Board of Selectmen has appointed WestfordCAT as the Public, Education, and Government (PEG) Access Provider for the town of Westford.
WestfordCAT’s mission is to promote the use of local access to enhance a free and diverse exchange of ideas and interests that foster community participation and educational opportunities.
These resources are available for the production and presentation of programming of interest to the Westford community. Residents of Westford as well as organization and institutions within or affiliated with Westford, are welcome and encouraged to use these resources. The nature of access programming is that everyone is the community has equal access to the facilities and channel time.
WestfordCAT engaged Anstiss & Co., P.C. to conduct our first full financial audit of our 2016 fiscal year financials, due to IRS rules that require a complete audit, instead of a financial review, when our revenue exceeded $500,000 for the first time in the organization’s history. I am happy to report that we did have a positive cash flow in 2016 for the first time in 3 years of just over $23,000. Our cost control measures, monthly budget to actual cost analysis, and the increased revenue in 2016, due to our renewed agreements with Verizon and Comcast for just under 5% of cable television revenue, contributed to a financially successful year.
Short-term Investments ............................................... $49,541
Accounts Receivable .................................................. $125,618
Accounts Payable .......................................................... $3,568
Franchise Fees .......................................................... $508,711
Capital Grants ............................................................ $10,000
Change in Net Assets....................................................... $23,496
We continued to make great strides in 2016, with improvements in all areas of WestfordCAT operations. Due to increased efforts in our marketing, training, and outreach programs, we have more new locally produced series, more volunteers from the community and local schools, and higher quality productions. In 2016, we expanded our facility, by over 30% in size, providing individual workspaces for our growing staff, adding additional equipment storage, a larger lobby area with a beautiful reception desk, and displaying bright new signage both inside and out.
We also completed a full redesign of our www.westfordcat.org and www.westfordcatnews.org websites that went live during the last week of June. Both sites are slicker looking, easier to navigate, they integrate with social media and include a new video player that can both live stream all three of our channels and access hundreds of videos from our Video on Demand library.
This past year also had more changes to the WestfordCAT Board of Directors. Nancy Burns served as our Treasurer, and Paul Playe, from Eastern Bank, joined the board as a member-at-large. Carol Heidenrich, who is the Director of Technology at Nashoba Tech, served another year as our liaison from the Nashoba Tech School Committee. Tracey Tebrow continued her contributions in an officer role as our outstanding Clerk for another term. Kelly Ross continued to lend a positive voice and serve as liaison for the Board of Selectmen. Last, but certainly not least, Avery Adam from the Westford Public Schools School Committee provided valuable advice and a fresh perspective in her liaison role.
During the year, we continued to receive valuable support from individuals and organizations. Thirteen organizations stepped up to support our channels and community efforts as Channel Sponsors. An in kind donation was also received from our CPA firm, Anstiss & Co., P.C. who discounted their services, making the financial audit more affordable.
Potential state legislation may impact PEG Access, as it has in past years. In 2016, both the Massachusetts State House and Senate debated a bill that would have required PEG channels to appear on the HD tier as well as in the on-screen program guides. These measures failed to pass by a small margin. We hope that our representatives will continue to lobby for these measures next year. There is also bill at the federal level that was introduced in support of PEG Access. The Community Access Preservation Act directs such cable system operators, upon request by the local cities and towns, to provide for: (1) the transmission of programming in high definition format or better; and (2) the inclusion of program schedules in the on-screen program guides of the cable operator, either through the cable operator directly or through a third party provider. In May 2015 this bill, which was co-sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey, was read twice in the US Senate and then referred to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation where it remains today.
Because the town successfully negotiated the renewal of our franchise agreement with Comcast in 2015 to include an increase in PEG funding, we are now covering more events and meetings, providing more training and services, and we are able to update our equipment and systems. We have also been working with the Town of Westford’s Communications Advisory Committee to renew our Memorandum of Understanding with the Board of Selectmen. While the original agreement expired on 12/31/15, we are continuing to operate under the terms of the expired agreement.
In 2017, we plan to build on our momentum to incrementally improve WestfordCAT and provide our community with the appropriate facility, equipment, and services to fulfill our mission and exceed community expectations. Thank you to our corporate sponsors and all of our supporters in the community, our board and committee members, all of our producers and volunteers, and our hard working staff who make PEG Access in Westford better each year.
Ira S. Keltz, President
Our goals in 2016 were to expand coverage of local issues and events, complete the transition of all of our programming and transmission equipment to high definition (HD), and build awareness of our programming and services through direct contact and social media.
In June, we improved our efforts to deliver news in a timely manner by transitioning our staff produced series, WestfordCAT News, to a weekly telecast. In September we hired the former editor of the Westford Eagle, Joyce Pellino Crane, to bring a multimedia focus to local news coverage. We also covered more special meetings on key issues in town like the asphalt plant construction, Drew Gardens, affordable housing, and the new marijuana laws.
In September, we completed a transmission equipment upgrade that allows us to do live telecasts from anywhere on the Town’s fiber network. Following our connection to the Town’s fiber network in July, Comcast replaced their analog modulators with a digital encoder that handles all three channels on the Comcast network. Verizon plans to do the same, after we upgrade the equipment in our remote government meeting rooms to high definition in 2017.
We also completed a thorough redesign of our main website, WestfordCAT.org, and later merged with WestfordCATNews.org, providing visitors with access to all of our news articles and video from one central place. And our improved marketing efforts on Facebook and Twitter have successfully extended our online reach to the greater Westford community.
In 2017, we plan to continue our equipment upgrades so that our staff and members will be able to record live from the field with multiple cameras in the high resolution, or send back to our studio to be part of a larger live studio production. With the improvements and affordability of video recording and transmission technology now available, exciting opportunities continue to unfold to inform and connect our community. Stay tuned!
We hired two different Technical Directors in 2016 to help us update our infrastructure, network, and equipment needs. In January we hired Steve Brogan, who stayed with us for about 2 months before moving on to a position for the Town of Tewksbury. We then hired Jon Rose at the end of February, another talented technical person, who was with us until April, when he was hired into his dream job at the MIT/Haystack Observatory. We are now working to develop Steve Edwards into a more technical role and he has been doing an outstanding job.
In July we bade farewell to News Director Andrew Sylvia. After a short search we hired Joyce Pellino Crane, the former editor of the Westford Eagle, in September 2016. Her solid connections to the Town of Westford and her experience in delivering local news were a perfect fit and she has excelled in her role. Also, Nick Woodbury became a full time employee in June, providing consistent coverage of our government meetings, assisting with our studio recordings and post-production efforts, as well as picking up the weekly program scheduling for our three channels. In a very part-time technical consulting role, Mark Rocheleau, was able to provide us with additional technical expertise as needed throughout the year but unfortunately will not be able to continue with us in 2017.
Our Marketing Outreach Manager, Sarah Fletcher, successfully used social media and direct email campaigns to increase community awareness, membership, sponsorships, and overall traffic at the station. We also enjoyed another year with Patty Stocker, whose talents both in front of and behind the camera, as well as her solid video editing skills, contributed greatly to the overall production quality of our programming and specifically with our weekly WestfordCAT News program. Lauren Horton, our Executive Director, continues to devote her energy, focus, and the ability to complete complex tasks and manage our staff of six on a daily basis. Our studio is a very different place compared to eight years ago when we had just one full-time and one part-time associate!
We honored three members at last year’s Annual Membership Meeting - Niki Penta for her supporting role of the Ed Cohen Variety Show, Rekha Sharma for her continued efforts in producing Health Tips for the news program, and Joe Sepe for consistently scripting and recording his weather segments for use with the news program. We also hosted four Westford Academy interns in the Spring and one student from the Innovation Academy Charter School in Tyngsboro.
Anyone interested in becoming involved in PEG Access can attend either our scheduled group workshops or individual training sessions. Tours are also given to scout troops, upon request, as an opportunity to learn more about communications and local media. There has been a 45% increase in new and renewing members over last year; 53 new and renewing Members.
We are proud of our Community Producers and appreciate the work they do to share their experiences and knowledge with our community. Jenn debuted her first episode of Senior Spot in December of 2015 and has produced a variety of episodes around the health and care of seniors. She is a strong proponent of community access and has introduced many of her associates to our station's services.
With over 7600 cable subscribers in town, our sponsors enjoy great exposure for their annual contribution to our efforts, with acknowledgements posted on our channels, on our websites, and in our daily newsletter. In 2016 we had a total of 13 new and renewing station sponsors. WestfordCAT appreciates the support of our business community:
WestfordCAT News Online had steady, consistent growth throughout 2016 with more than 1,000 pieces of content posted to the website and many more photos. The goal for our new Multimedia News Director, who arrived in September, was to elevate the quality of writing and types of stories we posted, while continuing to maintain daily posts for our online newsletter.
Facebook, and to a lesser degree, Twitter, were employed much more frequently for directing readers to our stories, and is proving to be the most effective means of directing traffic to our website.
Our staff-produced WestfordCAT News series became a weekly telecast in June, to help keep Westford viewers informed in a more timely and entertaining way. Our entire staff gets involved in pulling this weekly production together, from Joyce Crane directing the content, Nick Woodbury and Steve Edwards gathering the cover video, Patty Stocker pulling all the pieces together in the edit suite, and Sarah Fletcher making sure it’s promoted on our social media websites. Ira Keltz is the host and Sarah Fletcher is in charge of the Upcoming Events segment.
Various community members contribute to other segments such as Joe Sepe’s Weather Forecast, Rekha Sharma’s Health Tip, Jodi Ross’s Town Manager Update, Bill Olsen’s Superintendent Update, Dan Toomey’s WA Athletics Update, and the Lowell Humane Society’s Adoptable Pet of the Week. Local organizations and community members are encouraged to feature their own segment or become a correspondent on the news program.
446 locally produced programs were added to our schedules in 2016, approximately half of all the programs shown in 2016. New series introduced in 2016 were Full Circle Fitness, which is underwritten by Circle Health and hosted by Will Courtney, Hello Westford!, which was created for members to pilot their programs without creating a full series, Home Economics, an informative real estate program produced by Carol Bousquet, and Thin Strong Healthy, a healthy eating program produced by Cheryl Major. Numerous special events were covered including the 9/11 Memorial Service, the Apple Blossom Festival, and the Brews and Blues Festival. Also, we were asked to cover many additional meetings including the Affordable Housing Committee, the Drew Garden Taskforce, and Joint Boards Meetings for asphalt plant settlement with Newport Materials. And, in September we also introduced the Adoptable Pet of the Week, produced by Patty Stocker in conjunction with the Lowell Humane Society.
19 Locally Produced Series, 209 Episodes
Beyond the Badge
Between scheduled programming, WestfordCAT runs public service announcements and bulletin board announcements on each channel. Our community bulletin board provides local information and announcements for 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 2016, 100 bulletin board announcement requests were submitted by the community, about 20% less than the previous year. This was offset by over a 300% increase in public service announcements, as more people submitted short videos to promote their upcoming events and informative messages. We also produced and added 50 CAT Tracks to the channels, which are short informational videos that usually accompany WestfordCAT News articles about people and events around Westford.
We moved into our expanded office space in April, freeing up the front area for more members to gather for now until our second construction phase begins. We plan to add more storage space behind the studio, and move the edit suite to the front area in 2017 to accommodate two additional video edit systems and free up the back area for a sound booth and larger kitchen area. We also added four cameras to our field equipment, capable of shooting video in 4K resolution, along with new microphones and video streaming equipment.
All of our staff was involved in expanding our training class offerings again in 2016. In conjunction with the Roudenbush Community Center, we offered a five-day “Lights, Camera, Action!” Summer Youth Camp in June and attracted 12 attendees. We also held our regular producer classes several times over the past year, along with an increased number of one-on-one training sessions.
Westford Community Television, Inc.
487 Groton Road Unit B, PO BOX 1037, Westford, MA 01886