Not only will TV-watching options for cable-subscribing
customers in San Benito County be expanded in 2003, TV
– at least on three channels – will be open to the public,
Not only will TV-watching options for cable-subscribing customers in San Benito County be expanded in 2003, TV programming – at least on three channels – will be open to the public, too.
On Jan. 10, Community Media Access Partnership, the public-access TV station located on the Gavilan College campus, will launch three new channels – 18 through 20 – dedicated to the concept of programming for the public by the public. The new programming alternatives, and the $700,000 investment in state-of-the-art equipment by cable company Charter Communications, vastly improves delivery of community information now only available on Channel 17.
“We’re so fortunate to get such good placement. We have consecutive channels low in the spectrum. Some public access stations are given channels like 73,” said CMAP Executive Director Suzanne St. John, who over the past year has turned an office with a desk and a phone into a video editing studio, voice-over booth and business office, among other things.
At 6 p.m. on Jan. 10, the now dark channels will play host to a live broadcast of CMAP’s ribbon-cutting celebration. The two-hour show will also feature interviews of the many individuals instrumental in the public access expansion.
After the maiden show, channels 17 through 20 move into regular programming that will serve Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Gilroy. The public access channels are part of a contract agreement between the cities and Charter Communications, which has cable rights in those three areas. Operations of the channels are funded by nominal fees on cable subscriber bills.
Programming for each channel is as follows:
Channel 17 will continue to air government programs such as City Council meetings and public service announcements.
Channel 18 is dubbed Gav-TV. Gavilan College students and campus groups will have access to creating programs on this channel.
Channel 19 will broadcast shows catering to kindergarten through 12th-grade education. School district meetings can also be replayed on this channel or Channel 17.
Channel 20 figures to offer the most diverse programming. It will air live and taped shows produced by community members.
“Channel 20 can run the gamut from the most conservative religious program to the most left-wing show you’ve ever seen,” CMAP Programming Manager Jan Janes said. “It’s wide open.”
It will take time to educate the community as to how accessible public access can be, CMAP officials figure, so each month station orientations and production workshops will be conducted for a $50 annual membership fee. Cable subscribers get a $10 discount, and the courses are open to all community members, not just Gavilan students.
“We want people to come in here and produce their own TV shows. We want people to submit videos and DVDs ready to air. If people don’t know how to make a show, we want them to come in so we can teach them,” St. John said.
If “public access” sounds like a low-tech hybrid of cable and publicly funded TV, a look around CMAP’s high-tech digs easily changes that notion. Exhibit No. 1 would be the $250,000, 8-foot high playback station that handles VHS, Super VHS, DVD and mini DVD media. The system is so advanced, programming can be done over the Internet from home.
But St. John and Janes are equally excited about what looks like “just a bunch of cables” sitting next to the playback station, a so-called I-Net system that enables CMAP to broadcast live to air at 50 locations in Hollister, San Juan Bautista and Gilroy.
At locations where I-Net stations have been installed, such as libraries fire stations, police stations and schools, a camera crew can plug in their equipment and get broadcast immediately.
“And can you imagine broadcasting a children’s story time session live from the library?” Janes points out.
While community members become acquainted with editing equipment, cameras and other gear available to them at the CMAP station, Janes must fill air time on four channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Her solution to that programming challenge is also pretty high-tech – satellites. CMAP has four satellite dishes on the Gavilan campus that it will use to import free programming from around the country such as Army NewsWatch and former White House Chief of Staff Leon Panetta’s lecture series.
As for the not-so-novice TV show creators across the three cities, they are already showing up at the CMAP office.
“We had one person submit 13 videos to air,” Janes said.
Janes decides when programs on all stations get aired, but given this country’s free speech rights CMAP does not have editorial control over Channel 20. Program producers and users of CMAP’s public access television channel are fully liable for the content of all program material they submit.
“Basically, if it’s not protected speech or if there is a ‘call to action’ (commercials or requests for money), it can’t be aired,” Janes said.
St. John says the extra access to television air waves opens opportunities for government and nonprofit agencies in these budget lean times.
“I asked our public information officer how much it costs to publicize something for the school on broadcast TV and it was something like a few thousand dollars a minute,” St. John said. “You can get the word out for free on one of our channels. And that’s why its especially nice that we have good channel placement. People don’t have to search for us, they see our content as the do their regular channel flipping.”
For more information on CMAP, visit online at www.mycmap.org. To give viewer feedback, call 408-846-4983, ext. 8, or e-mail the station at [email protected].