The Mobile County Public School System is now broadcasting to AT&T U-verse and Comcast cable customers 24 hours a day.
For more than six months the system has offered its channel to U-verse users but is now expanding its locally produced content and adding more viewing options.
“This is all in an effort of the MCPSS to be transparent in everything we do, but also to communicate directly with all the homes of our students, parents, guardians and all of our stakeholders,” said Superintendent Martha Peek. “Communication starts with us.”
The addition of 24-hour broadcasting won’t cost the school system anything because the two service providers are partnering with the system free of charge.
MCPSS has a television studio on its campus in West Mobile, which is operated by a small staff with experience in professional broadcasting.
Last fall, that team tested the waters by broadcasting five of the system’s football games through a partnership with WKRG. This year, using a newly converted film truck, the system plans to broadcast a live game every week and show recordings of other games throughout the week.
Plans to begin broadcasting basketball games during the upcoming season are also in the works with other sports expected to follow.
MCPSS will now have the ability to broadcast live events such as board meetings, weather announcements, graduations and school performances on its TV platform.
The first annual “It Starts With Us Awards program” will be the first live event shown on the MCPSS channel, which will begin at 7 p.m., May 8.
The cost of producing original content is included in the communications department’s budget and Public Relations Supervisor Nancy Pierce said cost increases would only occur if more staff members were hired to produce local content.
MCPSS is already producing several in-house shows and has more on the horizon.
Some shows currently airing include: “Homeroom,” a program hosted by Pierce; “Cooking with Class,” hosted by Children Nutrition Director Suzanne Yates and “MCPSS Athletics,” hosted by Athletic Director Calvin Crist.
These shows have already been airing on closed circuit channels through the system’s classrooms and on the system’s web streaming service, mcpss.tv.
The web service has seen as many as 900,000 hits from users in a single month, will also continue to offer on demand programs for parents and students, as will MCPSS apps launching on Roku boxes, Apple TV and Xbox consoles.
“We’re very proud of the news, sports and information we’ll be able to get to parents through this medium,” said David Akridge, executive manager of information technology. “We would really love to get students involved, and that’s the ultimate goal. We have a lot of schools that teach marketing and communication — if we can get them involved, it will give students practical experience and an avenue to show their work.”
“On the Move,” another program produced and hosted by student journalists, will be shown the MCPSS channels as well.
A number of schools are already producing school-wide broadcasts of morning news and announcements, and Akridge said he hopes those programs will be able to develop content for the channel as it progresses.
When its not showing original content, the MCPSS channel will offer a variety of educational content for all ages produced by third parties like NASA, EnviroPals and PBS.
The only commercials on the channel will be public service announcements, and school-related updates and promotions.
Akridge said the format for production was modeled after schools in Georgia and Virginia, which have both seen positive reactions from parents and students.
“We’re very excited about the opportunities happening now and the possibilities in the future,” he said. “We are blessed in Mobile County with a tremendous TV studio department.”
U-verse users in Mobile County can get MCPSS content on channel 99, and Comcast users can tune in to channel 15.
For more information, visit mcpss.com.