Lakes Region Public Access TV will try & use viewership survey results to rebuild support from area towns
Published DateLACONIA — The Board of Directors of Lakes Region Public Access television (LRPA-TV) was pleased with the results of a survey of its audience commissioned to lend strength and direction to its fundraising and programming efforts.
LRPA-TV is the public, educational and government (PEG) cable station serving central New Hampshire broadcast by MetroCast Cablevision on channels 24, 25 and 26. It is a nonprofit corporation with an annual operating budget of approximately $126,000 funded by contracting municipalities, grants and sponsorships.
The station is perhaps best know for its annual live broadcasts of the WLNH Children's Auction, which have been widely credited with taking the financial results of that 5-day event into the stratosphere over the last decade or so.
Denise Beauchaine, director of LRPA-TV, said that the station's signal reaches 21 municipalities in four counties — Belknap, Merrimack, Grafton and Rockingham — encompassing more than 50,000 households.
MetroCast bills its subscribers a franchise fee, which it then disburses to the municipalities in return for being able to operate a monopoly public service within their boundaries. But there is no direct legal connection between the franchise fees and LRPA-TV.
Meanwhile, LRPA-TV bills its contracting municipalities. Beauchaine said that prior to the recent recession 13 municipalities, including the 11 in Belknap County, contracted with LRPA-TV and paid their agreed upon share the station's overhead. However, the number of contracting municipalities has shrunk to a half-dozen — Alton, Belmont, Gilford, Meredith, Laconia and Northwood — which Beauchaine said share less than a third of the franchise fees they collect from MetroCast with LRPA-TV.
Although funding from the contracting municipalities is supplemented by grants from MetroCast and Lakes Region United Way as well as contributions from underwriters and sponsors, Beauchaine said "we've been running on thin margins for several years."
Beauchaine believes that the dwindling support from municipalities reflects doubts among municipal officials that LRPA-TV fails to command a significant audience and consequently is of little value to their communities. The survey was intended to test that notion.
The online survey was conducted by Dave Ferruolo, who collected data for about a year, from December 5, 2011 until December 19, 2012.
Altogether 868 viewers responded, of whom 86-percent said they watched LRPA-TV. Of these, two-thirds said that that the station returned high value to their local communities and another 26-percent said it was of moderate value. Only seven-percent, 60 respondents, found LRPA-TV offered little value.
The survey also sounded viewers about programming and found that the largest share favored the current format, but would like to have more shows about "local happenings," adventure and the outdoors, history and municipal information. Significant numbers responded they would prefer less religious and political programming.
To the embarrassment of Ferruolo, "New Hampshire Alive," which he has produced for eight years, topped the rankings of most popular shows, followed by the "Humane Happenings," a production of the New Hampshire Humane Society, "Living United," offered by the Lakes Region United Way, and "Lakes Region Spotlight," hosted by former Meredith town manager Carol Granfield.
Ferruolo said that survey remains on LRPA-TV's website, LRPA-TV.com, and encouraged interested viewers to complete the brief questionnaire.
Beauchaine said that the directors have yet to thoroughly digest and discuss the survey. But, she expected that "in the near future" the board would develop a strategy for leveraging the results to bolster LRPA-TV's financial position as well as to tailor its programming to meet the requirements of the communities and preferences of the viewers it serves.