The village of Oak Park's communications department was awarded for programming excellence in September by the National Association of Telecommunications Officers (NATOA) at its annual awards show in Seattle.
VOP-TV, the broadcast division of Oak Park's Communications Department, received the award – programming excellence for organizations with budgets under $250,000 – for a "best of" reel of short videos shot and edited by VOP-TV Media Production Manager Joe Kreml.
But the informational videos produced by Kreml, which highlight public health and safety, local government, business and economic development, are only a fraction of the work by the broadcast department in its effort to keep residents connected.
VOP-TV also produces video footage of meetings of the Village Board of Trustees, and most recently began shooting and archiving for viewing online meetings of the Zoning Board of Appeals and of the Plan Commission.
Oak Park Communications Director David Powers said board meetings have been available the village website since 2011 – that's in addition to the Board of Trustee meetings being broadcast live on Channel 6 since the 1990s.
"We recognized a long time ago [viewership on] cable declining, so we started looking to move [the broadcast] online," Powers said.
He said the online portal that provides access to the meetings is run through a software package known as Granicus, which pairs the meeting's agenda items with the video and allows viewers to skip to the section of the meeting that interests them.
"In my mind, the village can't get more transparent than putting it online and having gavel-to-gavel coverage," he said.
Powers said board meetings usually get about 100 to 250 views, depending on the public's interest in the agenda – those views tend to grow over the subsequent weeks as residents view meetings on their own time, Powers said.
A meeting held on Oct. 2, where trustees approved a controversial residential apartment building downtown by Albion Residential, was viewed by 269 residents live, but that number jumped to around 900 in the days following the meeting, according to Powers.
He said making the videos available online saves the village time in Freedom of Information Act requests for DVDs of the meetings, which is how the village distributed the meetings prior to posting them online.
"We're creating a public record," Powers said, adding that "matters of public policy should be argued in public."
Powers praised Kreml for his work in making the meetings available online and for winning top honors at NATOA this year, noting it's the fourth time the village has received the award.
The village's Youtube.com page, where Kreml posts his videos about Oak Park government, includes more than 400 short films that have received nearly 400,000 views, according to the village.
Kreml says in a press release that in Oak Park he's never short on ideas because it's an "incredibly visual and vibrant community."
"Something interesting to feature, whether it's government in action, unusual personalities or community partnerships, is always out there," Kreml said.
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