- Associated Press - Monday, December 22, 2014

OLIVE BRANCH, Miss. (AP) - The man behind the camera is taking OBTV-19 to the next level.

To be exact, that’s the second floor of City Hall.

Wendell Davis, often seen on the sidelines taping community events, recently moved the station’s equipment to the core of Olive Branch city government.

With the change in location comes a change in programming. The first change is the addition of a daily live broadcast of the weather presented by former Mayor Sam Rikard.

While taped events will continue to be broadcast, plans call for other events to be presented live, and there will be a greater variety of programming, Davis said.

Its potential could explode, Davis said. A variety show. A broader selection of local sports games. The annual police summer competition, LawFit.

“You can just see the possibilities,” said Davis, a retired DeSoto educator. “We’re really excited that we’ve got a place and the possibility of involving so many aspects of the community.”

Davis, the channel’s producer, notes that won’t include any political messages. OBTV is a public education and government access television channel, or PEG, among the hundreds across the country. OBTV is accessible to Comcast customers in Olive Branch, Bridgetown and Byhalia.

Area public access channels include C19-TV, operated by Shelby County Schools. Programming includes live broadcasts of the school board meetings, accessible by Comcast customers in Memphis.

OBTV, owned by Olive Branch in a franchise agreement with Comcast, got its start as a place to view taped Olive Branch High School football games in the mid-1970s. More recently, games were streamed live on the Internet for four years.

“We had 20 people from Europe who watched Olive Branch football,” Davis said.

Recently the school system, Davis said, didn’t want to broadcast games over the cable channel live, and other programs were city orientated, so OBTV was moved from Olive Branch High.

Mayor Scott Phillips invited Davis to move OBTV to a small, empty office in a second floor corner of City Hall.

Davis tapped Rikard to provide live local weather broadcasts. Rikard holds a certificate in broadcast meteorology from Mississippi State University. He studied weather in his spare time while mayor and billed himself later as “the weather mayor.”

“He has a real following on Facebook,” Davis said. “He has about 2,700 friends on Facebook.”

Now a broader audience can hear Rikard’s broadcasts. His tools are an iPad he uses to flip through weather data to transmit onto a 65-inch TV screen that he stands beside. The broadcasts are at 7 a.m., 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. on Saturdays and Sundays.

Rikard also plans to provide weather coverage during bad storms and hopes to add local traffic reports when more roadway cameras are installed by the Mississippi Department of Transportation.

“I am able to do what I love to do,” Rikard said. “When I began this meteorological journey, I never imagined where it would take me. I was only trying to learn more about what has always fascinated me.”

According to Phillips, Comcast provides the channel at no charge to the city. Donations purchase the equipment. The primary donor is Davis, who served at the head of this year’s Christmas parade in Olive Branch.

“That’s one of the reasons he’s a grand marshal,” said Vickie DuPree, executive director of the Chamber of Commerce, “because he invests in the community.”

Davis compared the work he does with OBTV to painting a picture.

“It’s basically an art form,” he said. “It’s such a pleasure to produce something. I wake up every morning and can’t wait to get up to there.”

___

Information from: The Commercial Appeal, http://www.commercialappeal.com

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