Newsmakers/Jaqui Levy – Governing the airwaves

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You probably dont know who Jaqui Levy is, but if youve watched the citys television station sitting in the attic of basic cable on channel 70, youve seen her work. Shes the citys broadcast media manager, and while shes won no Emmys, Levy is charged with broadcasting the citys internal affairs to its residents.

City Council meetings, public hearings, the State of the City Address these are the events on Levys TV guide no soap operas, no sitcoms. Such events, broadcast for the masses, bring raw city-related information at its most basic level. Levys job is to make that information even more accessible and, eventually, even entertaining.

Were going to see what we can do to make channel 70 something that people really want to watch, Levy said. I can envision this channel as being such a fantastic resource for the city; its a showcase, a video record of what were doing here.

Originally from Brooklyn, Levy has run the citys media department for 6 years. She worked in broadcastings commercial industry before that, with record labels and various artists like Mariah Carey, Korn and Ozzy Osbourne. She once helped save the latter from a bout of pneumonia after his wife, Sharon, implored her to get him to the hospital for his shots! she said in a dead-on Cockney accent.

Levy says her experience in the commercial industry has transferred nicely to her government post, even if it is a different culture. Shes not marketing the city council members as the next American Idol but she is marketing the unprocessed goings-on at City Hall for the publics consumption, hoping to eventually do more.

Even as a public service you have to market your capabilities and what you have to offer, Levy said. If you can increase [citizens] perceived value of services without actually increasing your costs, I mean, thats the essence of government work.

Making government transparent is essential to disseminate its activities citywide, according to Levy. She called the Council, known for its relative lucidity, gutsy for standing up in front of live cameras with no scripts, to show residents where there taxes are going.  

[Residents] know that the trash gets picked up, Levy said. But are they necessarily gong to see the guy who is in the sewers fixing the infrastructure of the city? They may never see that. They may never hear about that. But those are the gears that turn and my goal is to illustrate that using a visual medium, so that people can see exactly where their tax dollars are being used.

In a diverse city, Levy says its important for everyone to have access to channel 70, especially for those who do not speak English or use the Internet, where city meetings and events are broadcast and archived instantaneously upon completion. Its about illustrating the city government, not dictating it in a press release a goal that Levy hopes to achieve with the help of WUSA Channel 9s Tony Castrilli, an upcoming addition to the citys media team.

Castrillis new post will help Levy realize her ideas for the citys visual archives, including more original programming, an overhaul in video technology (from VHS to DVD) and a generally attractive TV station. But she warns that it will take time and money during a budget-conscious time.

In government you have to do more with less, Levy said. You have to really maximize your resources. Its built on relationships and just being really resourceful when it comes to finding equipment. She added that cooperating with other city departments, like schools, for video production is imperative when spending taxpayers money.

Take the approximately $24,000, 20 minute-long video produced for the State of the City address last month. At its lowest price, Levy said it could cost $15,000. But it could have easily cost $60,000, according she said. By collaborating with TC Williams, the cost was reduced. Levy said the value is in the videos visual benchmark for 2008, which can be augmented and altered to help lure business and prospective residents into the city.

That video and a revamped cable channel shows that theres so much to this community from an arts  and cultural and historical and developmental standpoint, and we need a medium that can communicate that more effectively, Levy said. And thats television.

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