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Cash infusion to target broadcasting program

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Mike Murphy works on the television truck for Bedford High School.

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After four dry years, the broadcasting program at Bedford High School has received some respite - an $80,000 bulk sum from Bedford Township.

It's money the two boards agreed in June would resolve their four-year-long dispute over what the township owes the district under the terms of an old cable broadcast financial agreement with Buckeye CableSystem Inc.

Mike Murphy, who directs Bedford High School's broadcasting program, decided to use $60,000 of the $80,000 to update and expand the program. He bought a spacious 24-foot trailer, which he has begun to outfit with equipment to make the program more mobile and professional.

Now students returning to school Sept. 5 will have a new set of toys and a new world of broadcasting opportunities.

"We didn't have room to grow as our program grew," Mr. Murphy said. "The new vehicle will give us the space necessary to expand."

The radio and television broadcasting program started as a club attached to the school's newspaper and yearbook classes in the late 1990s, but because of student interest it eventually expanded into a class of its own. Last year, the program offered four broadcasting classes, capped at 22 students each.

"I never really thought about doing anything in radio or television until I saw that our school offered programs like these," said Justin Anteau, 16, a junior who took Introduction to Radio and Introduction to Television broadcasting last year with Mr. Murphy.

Because of these classes, Justin said he became a DJ on the school's classic-rock radio station 107.9, whose signal can reach as far as Toledo and Oregon.

"It's neat being out on the public air waves, where people can hear your opinions about things ... where you can share your opinions with the world," he said.

The program's popularity, like its signal, extends beyond Bedford's boundaries. Students from Whiteford, Mason, Dundee, and Summerfield high schools have driven to Bedford to take the broadcasting classes.

Adrianne Crawford and Clint Anderson are both alumni of the program who now work for BCSN-TV. Ms. Crawford is a computer graphics operator and Mr. Anderson is a cameraman.

Ms. Crawford, who graduated in 2004, said she and Mr. Anderson have talked about how it "is just like the broadcasting class.

"All of the equipment was familiar from the class," she said.

More than 20 years ago, the township board agreed to pay $10,000 a year to the schools toward its journalism program, which would maintain a television studio the township could use. The district also would put $10,000 in the pot, and the cable company would give each contribution a $5,000 match.

When Buckeye CableSystem Inc. took over the township's cable television operations, it asked that the contribution be taken out of the township's annual cable franchise fees, which come to about $175,000, said trustee Larry O'Dell. Buckeye CableSystem is owned by Block Communications Inc., which also owns The Blade.

Bedford broadcast journalism students used to operate the camera for the township's meetings. When that stopped , the township stopped sending payments to the schools.

Tom Dawson, senior manager of government and community affairs for Buckeye CableSystem, has said the company has continuously remitted the franchise fee payments to Bedford Township since Buckeye CableSystem began providing cable services there in 2001 and was under the impression the money was for schools.

Bedford Public Schools Superintendent Jon White, then assistant superintendent for curriculum, was a strong advocate of the township's continuing to use Bedford High School students to broadcast its meetings. He argued that the contract with the schools provided a greater educational benefit to the community than just the sum of what was being broadcast.

After four years of arguing, the township and Bedford Public Schools agreed on an $80,000 settlement. The money was given in July, said Andy Gurecky, the township's finance director.

Under this new agreement, the township and the cable company are not obligated to make additional payments to the school's broadcasting program.

Mr. Murphy focuses on the program's possibilities. "This new center gives the students the opportunity to use equipment they would use in a real professional setting," he said.

Mr. Murphy began working at WTOL-TV, Channel 11 in Toledo in 1969. He left to become a Toledo police officer and later hosted a radio morning show on the former 3WM, now WWWM-FM (105.5), called "Mark, Wendy, and Murph."

He said after retiring from the force he "got drafted" to Bedford High School by his wife, Alice, who is the director of the school's Career Technical Education program. Students appreciate his background in journalism.

"He's had real-life experience in the field and can pass that information down to us," Justin Anteau said.

The students' television broadcasts air on Channel 69 in Bedford. They cover local sports games, theater, and various community events. Mr. Murphy plans to arrange for his students to cover the Nov. 7 elections live.

Last November, his students produced a telethon for victims of hurricane Katrina in Pass Christian, Miss., that raised about $4,000.

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch

at babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.

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