Only three of the 14 candidates for this fall’s Falls Church City Council and School Board elections took advantage of a free offer from Falls Church Community Television, the city’s public access station, to record messages at its studios and educate voters about their choices this November. For the candidates who didn’t participate, there will be more opportunities in September to tape their messages.
The talks recorded so far began airing daily this week at 6:30 p.m. on Cox Channel 11, RCN Channel 2, and Verizon Channel 35.
Michael Palmrose, station superintendent for FCC-TV, said requests to screen the videos in Falls Church retail shops have been received and are being considered.
The three candidates who participated in filming were Erin Gill and Philip Reitinger running for School Board, and Letty Hardi running for City Council. All are running for the first time.
All candidates will have another opportunity this September to record talks which run a maximum of five minutes each, Palmrose said. Gill, Reitinger, and Hardi may re-record, if they wish.
Ken Feltman is one of the volunteer members of the FCC-TV board.
“It takes a lot to get your name on the ballot, and it takes courage,” Feltman said. “We ought to congratulate everyone who is running and make it as easy as possible for them.”
Which Palmrose said the station tries to do.
“My whole goal is to make the candidates feel as comfortable as possible,” so they can put their “best foot forward” on the air. (“It’s an old wives’ tale that television adds ten pounds,” he said.)
Hardi said she wrote her own speech, with feedback from others.
She rehearsed in front of the camera three times before the final filming was set for later in the week.
A teleprompter simplified her task and to slow down her delivery, which Palmrose and Feltman suggested, the teleprompter’s speed was adjusted to aid her.
Hardi said she is running because “I think there needs to be a new voice” in the city rather than same 20 she hears at the meetings she attends. Not all segments of the city are represented, she said.
Yes, “I am a little nervous,” Hardi said about the filming.
The opportunity gives candidates time to adjust to the camera and settle down nerves, Palmrose said. It worked for Hardi who was noticeably more relaxed by the time of the third taping.
Spreading her message by FCC-TV “is a great opportunity for free press. It helps level the playing field, especially for newcomers like me,” she said.
Palmrose noted that “those without name recognition see it [videotaping] as a tremendous value. Others, not so much.”
Some candidates think it’s “too early” to start television campaigning, and think it should wait until after Labor Day, Feltman said.
After Gill learned about all the shows broadcast by FCC-TV (City Council, School Board, and Planning Commission meetings, school functions, and graduations), she said she fully supports funding for the station which comes from one percent of cable’s gross revenues.
All programming requires the sponsorship of a group or an individual, and a person qualifies by taking three classes which teach equipment use and how to edit. Fourteen have taken the classes, Palmrose said.
It’s “a way to get your feet wet,” Palmrose said. “We’re here to make sure [the users] are all happy and that the equipment is up to date.”
Students can participate, too, and a FCC-TV credit course is set to start this fall at Mason which would have been hailed by Palmrose when he was in high school, he said.
The station strictly follows broadcast rules of the Federal Communications Commission and does not censor content as long as it meets FCC criteria, Palmrose said.
According to the website, the FCC-TV objective is “to provide the community with video production facilities and training to create and air original public access programs.”
“We see a positive future, but a tough political time, and we’re a football,” Feltman said.
Is there a hidden message in broadcasting candidate talks? Feltman asked out loud.
“Yes, we have a ‘hidden agenda,’” he answered himself. “We want the city leaders to know what we’ve got here.
“We think this station should be a sales tool for the Economic Development Authority, for the Chamber, for anyone interested in Falls Church city,” especially since the city lies “between D.C. and Dulles in a key geographic spot.”
An example of the FCC-TV’s far-reaching effects is board member Robert Sherratta’s show, “International Investor.” When Feltman was on it, he received 600 emails, mostly from outside the U.S.