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Bell enjoys keeping community in focus

Post Independent/Kara K. PearsonJim Bell videotapes the Veterans Day celebration at Rifle High School. Bell runs Rifle's local access TV station, Channel 13.
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RIFLE ” He’s the man behind the curtain…the face behind the camera.

Jim Bell, manager of Rifle Community Television on Channel 13, is the person responsible for televising the city’s government meetings, community events, senior activities and school sports and functions.

Bell believes in community television as a way to disperse information to citizens. “One of the purposes of the community channel is to foster and create a sense of community,” Bell said. “It is of, by and for the community. It’s about resources.”



Unfortunately, satellite television, which has become more popular in the past several years, does not offer community television channels, which Bell finds frustrating.

“I think community television is a viable resource and should be utilized ” otherwise it’s going to disappear,” Bell said.



Since the early 1970s, the Federal Communication Commission set aside space to be used for public, education and government ” or “PEG” ” channels.

“Cities of a certain size had to reserve channels for those three things,” Bell said. Bell didn’t originally set out to get into television. A native of Fleming, Kentucky, he graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn. with a degree in business.

“I took a business degree because I didn’t know anything about business,” he said with a laugh.

He then enrolled in law school at the University of Kentucky.

But in 1967, things started heating up with the war in Viet Nam and Bell, like many others in his class, was soon drafted.

“People were being sent to Nam right and left,” Bell said. “Half the class got drafted.”

Bell was sent to Ft. Knox where he served in the Army for two years as a legal clerk. When his time was up, he went back to the University of Kentucky, finished his law degree and passed the bar.

“I practiced for a year in Kentucky and starved for a year,” he said with a laugh. “I really didn’t know what it was like to be a lawyer.”

It was in 1974 when Bell ran into a guy teaching telecommunications and found he had an interest in video and enjoyed it. Because the technology was new, he basically taught himself the ropes.

“Local community-based programming had just begun,” Bell said. “It was kind of the start of the democratization of television. It was on the cutting edge and on the brink and I wanted to part of it.”

Bell later moved to Frankfurt Kentucky, where he got his first real job in the telecommunications field.

“I could have stayed in law and not enjoyed it – although it was probably going to be lucrative,” Bell said. “Or I could follow my heart and my path. I did and I’ve never regretted it.”

In 1996, he moved to Colorado with his wife, Ruth Thompson, who had been born and raised here with a family in the oil shale industry.

At that time, the Rifle City Council was beginning to tape their meetings, which were later played back in the police department.

Bell informed council that the meetings could be aired live and in the fall of 1997, he was hired as a part-time contractor.

Rifle’s Community Television Channel 13 now operates and is funded under the city budget and Bell is a full-time city employee.

He can be seen airing live city council meetings, filming major city events such as city’s Centennial celebration earlier this year, school functions, oil and gas meetings, election forums and senior activities. Bell often has volunteers and part-time people helping him.

“The football coverage at Rifle High School is the most complicated thing we do because we have three cameras set up and do instant replay,” Bell said. “But last year, when the state championship was played here, we were the television station of record.”

Bell’s goals for Rifle Community Television are to air more programs live.

“We want to go live from the Senior Center, the schools, and the (Garfield County) fairgrounds,” he said. “With live feeds, we’re getting more people involved in the community and hopefully they’ll take ownership of the channel.”

Thanks to Bell – the man behind the camera ” Rifle residents are fortunate to have their community activities recorded and available for their viewing pleasure and information.

Name: Jim Bell

Age: 60

Hometown: Fleming, Kentucky

How long in Garfield County: 9 years

Occupation: Manager, Rifle Community Television Channel 13

Favorite place in Garfield County: The new Siamese Basil restaurant in Glenwood Springs, which serves Thai and Indian cuisine.


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