Our coronavirus coverage is free for the first 24 hours. Find the latest information at Please consider subscribing or donating.

  1. Archive

Dunedin becomes TV show producer

A few weeks ago, someone joked that the glass room in the lobby of City Hall looked like a fish tank.

But that was before the television monitors, computers, flashing lights and other high-end broadcasting equipment was installed.

Now visitors can peer through the glass and see the new television studio for the city's channel, Dunedin 15.

"It's one of those things that you have to start out on faith," said Maureen Freaney, assistant city manager and administrator of Dunedin 15. "And now that we have things set up, it's going to be something that will have an impact in the community."

Until now, Time Warner Entertainment videotaped and broadcasted the city's commission meetings and its Spotlight on Dunedin television show.

But starting last week, the city began producing its own independent broadcast of City Commission meetings.

In January 2002, Dunedin renegotiated its contract with Time Warner, which declined to provide broadcasting services under the new arrangement.

"When Time Warner took over TCI (Cable), one of the things they wanted to move away from was doing this service," Freaney said. "But now we'll have total control to really communicate with the city and give residents an avenue to know what's going on."

The transition was not as smooth as officials had hoped.

When Freaney hired Jack Martin last summer to launch Dunedin 15, her plan was to have the operation up and running soon after the planned renovation to City Hall was completed.

But then the rains came _ and came.

And because construction crews had not properly secured the exposed roof, heavy rains in June flooded the building, caused extensive damage and delayed plans for the television station's launch.

Nine months later, Martin is installing the last of the equipment and says he will be ready for tonight's commission meeting.

Dunedin 15 will broadcast commission meetings from Dunedin, Oldsmar and Safety Harbor, as well as segments from the county's public television station Pinellas 18.

Beginning March 20, Dunedin 15 will move to exclusively broadcasting city and county material 24 hours a day. The station also will run an electronic bulletin board advertising jobs, events and other city notices.

"The completeness of the system, and the excellent planning and budget the city put behind it is something to brag about," said Martin, whose last job was as a producer at a public television station near Orlando.

Martin, who will be Dunedin 15's production coordinator, will earn a little more than $44,000 per year.

To pay for his salary and the new digs at City Hall, officials used money collected from a 2 percent increase in franchise fees paid by cable subscribers during the early 1990s. The city added two, side-by-side rooms on the southwest side of the circular City Hall building during the project.

The city spent about $400,000 to launch Dunedin 15. It intends to spend about $600,000 to help fund the $120,000 annual operations and the station's growth.

Inside the studio and control rooms, local shows such as Spotlight and round table discussions will be taped. The rooms also will be used to store about $75,000 worth of equipment, including six cameras, four computers, a switcher and other hardware.

"It's a comfortable budget for this type of operation," Martin said. "It's not extravagant, but we've got nice equipment that will do a nice job."

_ Leon M. Tucker can be reached at (727) 445-4167 or