Meet Bruce, the man behind the camera for PAC 99
ONEIDA — If you attend any government meetings in northern Madison County and surrounding areas, you may see 81-year-old Bruce Burke with his camera and a smile.
Burke has been the board president of Public Access Channel (PAC) 99, a volunteer-run station that records and broadcasts local government meetings, community events, and submitted material on Spectrum cable channel 99. Burke has been with the organization for over 30 years and has been board president for around 10 years. Burke is one of four camera operators currently volunteering for PAC 99.
“Our objective is to let people know what’s going on in northern Madison County and western Oneida County, both from the standpoint of municipal meetings and educational entertainment — programs put on by people like the National Abolition Hall of Fame or Canal Town Museum, and various libraries,” Burke explained.
“It lets people know how their government is being run,” he added.
Burke is from Rome and has lived in Oneida for close to 30 years. He is a graduate of Rome Free Academy, and he later studied at Cornell University. Burke joined the military and served as a personnel specialist, then went on to work for the NYS Department of Labor as a placement specialist until his retirement — which he jokes hasn’t really happened yet, but he’s happy volunteering part-time for the station.
“I’ve got friends who retired, and they’re not doing anything. They’re bored stiff,” he remarked. “I’m busy all the time.”
Burke is in the field recording content for around five hours a week, and for every hour of recording, there are another two hours to prepare it for broadcast, on top of scheduling and other tasks. PAC 99 works from a studio at Oneida High School.
These recordings are then scheduled for broadcast three times in one day — once in the morning, once mid-day, and once in the evening. A bulletin board advertising local non-profit events fills in the gaps between programming.
Videos are also uploaded to the PAC 99 Facebook page.
Recordings are also converted to DVD and kept as an archive. “This is old technology now, but it’s new technology for us. We were working with VHS tapes until about two years ago,” Burke explained.
PAC 99’s signal is broadcast from the Spectrum office out of Rome. The channel is accessible to parts of Vernon and Verona, the north shore of Oneida Lake, and the south shore down to about Route 20 clear across Madison County, Burke said. The westernmost area served is Chittenango.
When asked what keeps him on the job all these years, Burke jokingly responded, “I don’t know.” In actuality, he said he’s always enjoyed politics and learning new things. “It gives me an excuse to be there,” he said of the various events. He gets to meet some nice people, too. “I guess it’s my idea of fun.”
Burke was honored via proclamation in November by Madison County for his countless hours of volunteer service. “Bruce has long been a staple in our board chambers, recording the board of supervisors meetings with notable amusement and is quick to provide a labeled DVD recording for our viewing pleasure and evidence file,” the proclamation states. “May we enjoy his service and smiling face for many years to come.”
“You can always count on Bruce,” said Madison County Public Information Officer Samantha Field. “Bruce never misses a meeting, he walks into the chambers with his camera in one hand, his tripod in the other, and always a smile on his face. He even came in person to our first-ever all-virtual board of supervisors meeting in April of 2020. At that time, we didn’t know much about COVID-19, and we were all supposed to stay away from one another, but there was Bruce with his camera in hand and mask on his face. Thank you Bruce for all you do.”
PAC 99 is currently run by six volunteers. The organization is happy to have more help with recording events and organizing the schedule and bulletin board. Contact Bruce Burke at 315-363-7913 or firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more.
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