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City of Durango may scrap its DGOV broadcast services

Online media is overshadowing traditional television channel
Victor Locke, broadcast specialist for the city of Durango, retired in mid-May. Finding a replacement has been a challenge, which is in part why the city is considering ending some of its television broadcasting services. (Durango Herald file)

The future of DGOV television, the city of Durango’s over-the-air and cable service, is in question because of a lack of demand for its programming and a general shift to online media consumption.

Tom Sluis, spokesman for Durango, said programming hasn’t been updated since mid-May on channel 10.1 or on cable.

An apparent lack of demand for the service has the city reconsidering what to do with it going forward.

He said there is a “strong possibility” DGOV television programming will be shut down.

“The demand just is not at DGOV right now,” he said. “The demand is on social media and it’s for website and it’s for hand-held devices like your phone.”

Live broadcast service of the latest city meetings to televised programming dropped after Victor Locke, broadcast specialist, retired from the city in mid-May. After four months of trying to find a replacement, the city threw its hands up, Sluis said.

“I had a couple of bites on the applications,” he said. “Our pay scale was nowhere near what people were asking for.”

Sluis said the city was advertising the broadcast specialist position for $50,000 to $70,000 but the only people interested in taking the job “wouldn’t even touch it” for less than $100,000.

Sluis added in an email that the city typically hires at the lower end of its pay scales.

Broadcast specialists possess a rather highly specialized set of skills that many people lack in today’s day and age, he said.

“And we were also balancing that against, ultimately, the demand,” he said. “Because it’s a full-time position in our department. For what we’re seeing it’s just very minimal returns.”

Out with the old?

Sluis said the city has no way of determining how many viewers are tuning in via cable or rabbit-ears antennas to view Durango City Council meetings. But the city’s website accumulates about 1½ million page clicks over the course of a year.

“It seems like there’s a really low demand for over-the-air broadcasts because it’s an antiquated technology, essentially,” he said.

The Durango Telegraph reported in 2018 that respondents to a city survey asking residents what services they would choose to cut first as a result of a $1 million city budget deficit named DGOV as the first to go.

He said the city has received only three complaints or inquiries about over-the-air City Council broadcasts ceasing in May.

“We’re trying to balance that against basically a million and a half pageviews on our website in terms of getting the information out to people,” he said.

Sluis said the city is sympathetic to residents who don’t have internet access or those who are less tech-savvy and will have trouble adapting to streaming government meetings online.

“That’s why we haven’t just immediately pulled the plug on DGOV,” he said.

Sluis said the cost of technology isn’t the problem with continuing DGOV as much as continuing to staff the service.

He said the full-time position with salary and benefits would probably cost a minimum of $100,000. And if the city were to hire one of the few applicants who had reached out with that initial salary rate in mind, with the inclusion of benefits, the cost of that employee could reach close to $150,000.

Council Connections, a short recap of City Council meetings and goings-on, is another service that might get the boot.

“I think we might actually stop doing that because we were getting maybe 10 to 15 people viewing it,” Sluis said. “It just wasn’t getting any attention outside of a very small group of people.”

The city is trying to get as many people as possible to convert to online viewing, he said. DGOV currently has a promo directing viewers to YouTube, Zoom and the city website.

Sluis added that TV content on DGOV outside of City Council broadcasts is “fairly esoteric” and unrelated to city activities. He referenced programs such as a show about invasive weeds in California and a gardening show based in New Jersey.

The city is seeking public feedback about its DGOV service. Access the online survey at https://bit.ly/3NeNUPa

Durango livestreams City Council meetings and study sessions on its official YouTube channel, youtube.com/c/CityofDurangoYoutube.

Viewers and public participants can also enter virtual meetings on Zoom at https://durangogov.zoom.us/calendar/list.

City Council meetings are open to the public in-person at Durango City Hall, 949 East Second Ave.

cburney@durangoherald.com

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