November 5, 2021 By Carol Britton Meyer
Harbor Media staff have been busy this past year completing innovative technology upgrades and increasing the amount of community-produced content to benefit its many Hingham viewers.
"We've trained more than 20 volunteers of different ages, all of whom have filmed and/or edited videos for the Harbor Media television channels," Executive Director Michelle Balconi told the Hingham Anchor.
One of the biggest accomplishments is the addition of high-definition viewing for Comcast and Verizon subscribers.
Harbor Media is a non-profit in its 10th year of providing cable television service to the town through public, education, and government programming. Norwell oversight was added in November 2018. The Harbor Media team includes eight full-time and four part-time employees.
The facilities are located in the Hingham and Norwell town halls as well as a fully-functional, state-of-the-art studio and TV-set kitchen that is open to the public for filming at 35 Pond Park Rd., Hingham.
Community television is primarily in SD (standard definition, which is not of the highest quality), but through negotiations with town administration and the Cable Television Advisory Committee chaired by David Jones, HD (crisp high definition similar to what viewers experience when watching programming on network TV) was added for the benefit of Verizon subscribers in Hingham nearly two years ago, and now it's available for Comcast subscribers, Balconi explained.
Harbor Media Board President Laura Burns shared her thoughts about this enhancement. "We're delighted to finally have HD for our viewers. It's been frustrating to be shooting in HD for years and only have the capacity to show our work in standard definition," told the Hingham Anchor. "I hope everyone will put our HD channel on their 'favorites' list in Verizon or Comcast and check out our Hingham-centered local programming."
Harbor Media can now show all programming on its two main channels (Comcast 1072 and Verizon 2131) in high definition. "We've been filming in HD for many years, so now viewers can actually SEE it on most HD-capable televisions," according to Balconi.
Harbor Media now provides both live and video-on-demand scheduling, and closed captioning will be available soon.
Comcast 1072 and Verizon 2131 feature the best-of-programming model, meaning that viewers can see programming blocks (set times of day) featuring educational content, member-produced shows, and the most recent government meetings every day.
An added feature is the showing of a recent town government meeting at 9 p.m. on the two main -- now HD -- channels. The TV schedule is available at harbormedia.org.
"An earlier survey of subscribers indicated that town government meetings and high school sports coverage are the most popular," Balconi said.
Note that the Harbor Media TV schedule is live, viewers can see what is airing on the public (main) HD channels as well as the education and government channels.
"This means providing a live schedule similar to network TV as well as on-demand video, providing viewers with the ability to watch programming on cable TV and also on their laptops, tablets, and smart phones," Balconi said. "This is great for viewers who travel or live part-time in another state. If someone would like to send the video on demand link to the Fourth of July parade or high school concert coverage, a graduation ceremony, an interview with the Hingham Unity Council, a football game, or school committee meeting to family or friends out of the area, that's now possible."
Popular content includes Ally Donnelly's "Hingham Cast" every Sunday evening at 7 p.m. and throughout the week; Mass General Brigham "Health Highlights" on specific health topics; "Get Schooled," featuring school activities and clubs, such as rowing, art showcases, and Hingham Historical Society internships; "Give Me the Good News Hingham," featuring local food trucks; and "Harbor Light," covering events around Hingham, such as shopping downtown and the Hingham Farmers Market.
"We've [also] started a new series resulting from a collaboration with South Shore Conservatory -- "Conservatory Clips," which will feature exclusive, monthly performances from SSC musicians," Balconi said. This programming will be viewed on Harbor Media's HD channels (Comcast 1072/Verizon 2131).
New underwriters, whose support helps augment Harbor Media's cable funding budget, include Mass General Brigham, South Shore Conservatory, and Sport Tobin/Taking A Toke. (Member Lori Tobin is about to release a documentary about vaping that started with interviews recorded by Harbor Media).
There is no longer a fee to be a volunteer member of Harbor Media. "Anyone can present a program idea," Balconi said. "Our doors are open."
She expressed appreciation for the town's Cable TV Advisory Committee, who works with the town's lawyers to negotiate contracts with Comcast and Verizon to the greatest benefit possible for Hingham subscribers. "It takes several years to go through the negotiation process, and this culmination of offering HD and more community-based programming is fun and exciting," Balconi said. "We're very grateful for their efforts."
For more information, visit harbormedia.org.