Tonight (Sept. 14th) I watched The Daily Show receive an Emmy for Outstanding TV Series. Last night (Sept. 13th) I watched – in person – the Seattle Channel – Seattle City Government’s own Channel 21- receive the national award for Excellence in Government Programming – essentially being named “Best Government TV Channel” for a large city.
Even more amazing, the Seattle Channel also consistently wins Emmy Awards. What’s the catch here? How can a broadcast of the Seattle City Council’s Finance and Budget Committee compete with Desperate Housewives or The Daily Show for an Emmy Award?
Well, unfortunately, the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences doesn’t recognize government television stations as members or the Seattle City Council when making those awards for Outstanding Drama Series (or maybe it would be “Comedy” series).
But almost every City and County government has a television station or at least television programming. And many are members of the National Association of Telecommunications Officers and Advisors (NATOA – pronounced nah-toe-ah). NATOA conducts a juried competition for city/county television programming each year in 63 categories. NATOA’s annual conference just ended in Atlanta with its gala awards banquet Saturday night, September 13th. The Seattle Channel (www.seattlechannel.org) took home six “first place” awards in those 63 categories, including that overall “Excellence in Government Programming” for stations with an operating budget over $500,000. Remarkably, the Seattle Channel now has won this honor two years in a row, 2007 and 2008.
TV programming in many other outstanding cities such as Tucson, Carlsbad California, Aurora, Colorado, and Prince William County Virginia was also recognized. A complete list of the categories and nominations are on NATOA’s website here and the list of the winners will be posted later this week on the NATOA website.
While the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences doesn’t recognize government programming, local chapters of the Academy do give their own Emmys each year. Government and public television stations do participate, and the Seattle Channel consistently brings back two or more Emmy awards from the Northwest Chapter each year.
Many smaller cities and counties only have the budget to broadcast meetings (“all meetings, all the time”) But innovative governments find ways to budget for creative programming which highlights the issues in their communities.
The Seattle Channel has an outstanding news magazine, City Inside/Out, hosted by C. R. Douglas (won two first place 2008 NATOA awards). C. R. drills down into the issues, and occasionally “grills” elected officials about their positions. And the Seattle Channel has a whole series of programming – ArtZone – which highlights the music, visual and literary arts scene in Seattle.
And the coolest thing? Not only is it all free, but it is all free online. Anyone, anywhere in the world with an Internet connection can watch any of the Seattle Channel’s programming at any time. Just go to www.seattlechannel.org and … well … “click”.