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Journalists to get closer look at Republican National Convention site

TAMPA — Journalists from four continents converge today on the Tampa Bay Times Forum for their first look at the view they will have of the Republican National Convention.

Convention organizers expect about 400 representatives of U.S. newspapers, magazines, broadcast networks, wire services, bloggers and online media, foreign correspondents, Hispanic media, plus local newspapers, TV and radio.

That's about a third more than is typical for this event, which convention organizers take as an encouraging sign. The media types — mostly technical and operations specialists — are the advance teams for an expected 15,000 journalists expected to cover the convention.

Media companies will get a chance to see their space in the Times Forum and Tampa Convention Center, which will serve as the working hub for correspondents, plus meet with Bright House Networks, the convention's official provider of video, high-speed data and landline voice services.

"We're expecting folks from all across the country," as well as from Europe, Asia and Australia, convention spokeswoman Valentina Weis said. "This time what they get to do is see the space they'll be working from."

The convention is expected to draw 50,000 delegates, dignitaries, journalists, party staffers, corporate executives, lobbyists, demonstrators and others to the Tampa Bay area on Aug. 26-30.

Along with touring the convention site, the media advance teams also will talk with organizers about logistics, credentials, deposits and payment deadlines.

To create working space for broadcasters, an RNC contractor will convert the venue's luxury suites into mini TV studios, plus build some broadcast suites from scratch. Those conversions will entail unbolting the stadium seats and removing and storing the furniture and everything else, even the ceiling tiles. Then workers will cover the suites' floors with plywood and plastic sheeting and protect anything else, like cabinets, that cannot be moved.

The media companies will foot the bill for the work, with converted suites starting at $26,075 and going up to $34,360 for a double-wide. The fabricated suites will cost $19,912 each.

Want to book a stand-up broadcast position on the convention floor? Get ready to pay $7,872. How about a radio booth? That'll be $3,693.

That's just the space. There's also the cable and fiber optic connections — more than any event has ever used in Florida.

Bright House is expanding its fiber infrastructure around the convention campus and says it will guarantee sufficient bandwidth to meet what is expected to be a heavy demand. Its convention rates for dedicated Internet access range from $1,015 for a 10 megabit-per-second package to $37,500 for a 1 gigabit-per-second setup. Ethernet service at the convention will go from $3,500 to $5,100.

The company began taking orders Feb. 1, and so far it has heard from all the major players.

"Everything is on track," Bright House spokesman Joe Durkin said, "and we anticipate that the place will be ready to go."

Richard Danielson can be reached at Danielson@tampabay.com or (813) 226-3403.

More RNC security spending on tap

The Tampa City Council this week will consider making three more police purchases for the Republican National Convention:

• $518,460 for 1,400 gas masks and accessories, including 20 "voice projection units." The supplier, Dawson Associates of Lawrenceville, Ga., was the lower of two bidders. The higher bid was $798,565 from National Safety Supply of Frederick, Md.

• $225,063 for 225 tactical communications headsets, plus accessories and three days of training. This gear is different from the police radios that the city already plans to buy for the convention, but it comes with plug-in radio adapters. The manufacturer, CavCom, specializes in two-way communications gear for workers who are in noisy environments or have to use gas masks. The supplier is Safeware Inc. of Landover, Md., which already is selling the city $1.9 million in helmets, face shields, body armor and other protective gear for the convention.

• $85,580 for 17,400 short- and long-sleeved, all-cotton printed T-shirts to outfit the coalition of local and out-of-town officers working the convention. The supplier is Tampa T-Shirts, which has an existing contract to supply work clothing for the city.

Money for the purchases would come from Tampa's $50 million federal convention security grant.

The council is scheduled to vote on this spending Thursday — the same day it is expected to take a second and final vote on an ordinance establishing ground rules for protesters at the convention.

One of those rules is a ban on protesters carrying gas masks inside the city's proposed "Event Zone," which covers downtown, Ybor City and several neighboring areas. City officials say the ban is needed because if police use tear gas to clear an area, allowing demonstrators to wear gas masks could force officers to resort to even harsher methods.

But critics, including at least one council member, have questioned the ban, saying that innocent bystanders who aren't causing trouble would be left defenseless to the use of chemical agents.

"I find it troubling that people don't have a way to protect themselves," said Anne O'Berry, southern regional vice president of the National Lawyers Guild, who noted that she was speaking for herself and not for the guild.

Journalists to get closer look at Republican National Convention site 05/13/12 [Last modified: Monday, May 14, 2012 3:02pm]

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