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City’s Channel 6 growing up, changing name to ATXN

Thursday, December 12, 2013 by Mark Richardson

It was a wonky novelty 30 years ago, being able to sit in the comfort of your living room and watch Austin City Council meetings on the local cable system. But the City of Austin’s Channel 6, once just one of about two dozen channels on the original Austin CableVision system, has grown quite a bit over the years and is getting a new name in January.

 

The city’s video channel, which has grown from airing a single weekly Council meeting to covering about 550 City Hall meetings (live and recorded) each year, has outgrown its name, according to Station Manager Keith Reeves.

 

“We have grown from being a single cable channel to being on the Internet, Channel 99 on Uverse, something else on Grande and so forth,” he said. “We decided the name ‘Channel 6’ just doesn’t accurately describe what we do anymore so we came up with the name ATXN, for the Austin Texas Network.”

 

Reeves said the rebranding as ATXN will reflect the evolving mission of the Video Production Services Department, as it is known on its line item in the city budget. The operation has moved beyond its original mission of cablecasting City Council and board and commission meetings to producing original programming for a number of city departments to help fulfill their communications mission.

 

“For the past few years, we have been focusing on helping departments tell their stories through programs and that sort of thing,” he said. “For instance, we just finished up airing a documentary series on the Austin Police Department’s 122nd Police Academy. We followed them around during the whole eight months of their training last year, and put together a nine-part series on what it takes to become a police officer.”

 

That documentary series is just one of the department’s 318 original video productions done during the last fiscal year. They are planning to produce another 350 during the current year. In addition to programs on its cable channels (Time Warner Channel 6 or 10.6; Grande Communications Channel 6 or 119.6; and AT&T U-Verse Channel 99), the department makes its programming available on the city’s website (www.austintexas.gov/channel6) and on YouTube (www.youtube.com/channel6).

 

“We currently produce more meetings and other productions than any other city in the country,” Reeves said.

 

While the Video Production Services department is a part of the city’s Communications and Public Information Division, its staff is tied in to a number of other city departments that have requested additional service through cofunded positions. Two of the seven positions are funded by other departments, including Austin Energy, Austin Water, Resource Recovery, Austin Police Department and Watershed Protection. Reeves says that ensures that the responsibility for funding lies with the departments receiving the services, and also cuts down on the need to use expensive outside contractors for production services.

 

As the department’s mission has grown over the past several years, so has its staff and budget. In the current fiscal year, the Video Production staff has increased to seven full-time positions and has an annual budget of $694,682. That’s up from $557,717 in 2010, an almost 25 percent increase over the past five years.

 

The city’s investment has paid off, as Channel 6 has been awarded the Overall Excellence Award for three consecutive years by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors. That’s the top award in the country. Channel 6 also won five other first place awards from the association in the past year, as well as two Lone Star Emmy awards.

 

As part of the changeover to a new name, Reeves says the staff has developed four ATXN logos, and asked the public to provide input on which one they prefer in a meeting in mid-November. The new ATXN logo and rebranded channel will be introduced to the city sometime in early January.

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