APPLETON - All eyes will be on the gubernatorial candidates when they participate in their first televised debate to be aired across the state Oct. 1 by six public television stations and by C-SPAN.
What will be seen and heard will be made possible in large part by Pioneer Public Television of Appleton. It is bringing its new $400,000 mobile studio to Rochester to broadcast Wednesday’s debate by working with crews from KSMQ TV of Austin.
The debate will feature DFL Governor Mark Dayton and his challengers, Republican candidate Jeff Johnson and Independent candidate Hannah Nicollet in a live debate at the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester.
This will not be the debut for the new mobile studio, but it’s certainly its biggest test to date. The interest by C-SPAN in airing the debate live means the broadcast will have a national audience. Six public television stations will broadcast the debate to cover the entire state.
The station was not initially expecting as much interest in the production.
“It grew fast,’’ said Jon Panzer, director of engineering and operations for Pioneer Public Television, of the interest in the gubernatorial broadcast.
The new mobile studio allows Pioneer Television to put a fully equipped and staffed studio on site, no different really than its studio in Appleton, Panzer said. A director and three support staff in the trailer will be working with a five- or six-person camera crew inside the Civic Center. As many as seven cameras can be operated through the mobile studio.
Pioneer Television built the mobile studio to expand its reach and programming capability in the large rural area it serves. It jumped at the opportunity to broadcast the gubernatorial debate.
It’s an opportunity to show what the station is capable of, and showcase what it can do in the future, Panzer said.
The mobile studio has been field- tested at two previous music events, and Panzer is confident of its abilities for the upcoming debate.
From a production standpoint, the debate is less of a challenge than what music events present, he said.
The mobile studio is just one facet of the station’s continued effort to improve. The station is also working to have its signal distributed over DirecTV and Dish networks. Households in the Pioneer TV broadcast area who are subscribed to those services currently do not have access to Pioneer TV on the systems.
Being included on the Dish and DirecTV systems means that Pioneer TV will be available to their subscribers in the entire Twin Cities Direct Marketing Association, which includes an area from the South Dakota border into western Wisconsin. Panzer is hoping that Pioneer TV will be available on Dish and DirecTV at the start of the new year, if not earlier.