Rifle TV founder retiring after 17 years
RIFLE — Rifle Community Television is not ending, but it’s losing its founder and manager, Jim Bell, who is officially retiring today after 17 years on the job.
If you’ve been to an event in Rifle, it’s more than likely that you’ve seen Bell, operating quietly behind the camera, recording the event and then broadcasting it on Comcast Cable Channel 10. Bell has captured school events, oil and gas meetings, chamber events, town boards and commissions, senior programs and streamed live City Council meetings over the years, allowing Rifle residents to stay in touch and connected to their community.
And he did it with flair.
Who didn’t laugh when Bell put on the theme song of “The Addams Family” while everyone waited during the call-in comment period during a City Council meeting? Or several years ago when he captured Rifle city councilors dancing on Third Street in tie-dyed long johns during a city festival?
While he preferred to remain behind the scenes, the loss of his presence will be felt front and center.
“Jim Bell has been responsible for capturing, sharing and preserving all things Rifle,” said City Manager Matt Sturgeon. “Without bias or fanfare, Jim stood behind the camera of our TV station to capture local events and share who we are as a local community. We won’t really appreciate what Jim brought to Rifle until Channel 10 is gone or its format significantly changed; hopefully that means Jim will remain in the shadows where he is most comfortable for many years to come.”
Bell started his cable television career in 1974.
“It was very exciting, because for the first time, ordinary folks like myself could make television for broadcast on cable,” Bell said.
He credits technology and a 1972 FCC ruling that mandated larger cable systems to set aside three access channels — public, educational and governmental — for use by the public and organizations. It also made it possible for the channels to be established in any cable system through the franchising process.
“Thus began the democratization of the tools of television, whereas before only those working in production houses or broadcast TV had access to the expensive equipment necessary to make television,” Bell said. “So now there are more than 2,000 cities across the country with access channels.”
Bell began his career with the city of Rifle in 1997 and branded the name “Rifle Community Television,” with the emphasis on the word, “community.” He also penned the logo, “Documenting our way of life … your community mirror.”
In 2014, with assistant manager Michael Churchill, Rifle Community Television launched the RifleNOW.org website. It includes programs such as “EngageRifle,” which allows viewers to share their opinions about local issues, as well as view live City Council meetings via their computer.
“Calling it ‘television’ at this stage is a misnomer, since it can be seen on your computer,” Bell said. “More accurately, it is Rifle Community Media. The potential of RCTV is unlimited and there is yet much that can be done. I’m proud of the fact that the Rifle City Council and the community have supported it and allowed us to bring that kind of service to the residents of Rifle.”
So what’s in store for his future?
“I have no specific plans,” Bell said. “I’ve been in this position before in my life — I tend to just make it up as I go. I may help out with some with production at RCTV. I will miss working with some of the wonderful city staff. I may travel to some exotic place like Meeker. I love books and love to read and need to go through my library and read through Shakespeare again. Who’s to say?”
But Rifle City Council members had something to say.
“Jim Bell was truly a blessing — he’s done some great things,” said Councilor Jonathan Rice. “He should be very proud of what he’s done.”
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