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Community Access Television helps TV ideas come to life
[January 07, 2013]

Community Access Television helps TV ideas come to life

Jan 07, 2013 (Erie Times-News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- To date, Erie's version of Snookie has not made an appearance on Channel 2, the local Community Access Television station.

But if she surfaced and wanted to create and produce her own TV show, Robert Lechner wouldn't stand in her way.

"Our mission involves empowering community voices and visions," said Lechner, CAT's executive director, "with an aim to provide a pretty much uncensored way for people to be heard at whatever they felt like doing." With a few rules and a nominal fee -- starting at $45 per year for Erie cable subscribers -- members can use the station's videography and editing equipment to create their own shows.

Training workshops are offered monthly, with the next five-week session beginning Feb. 7.

There are a few rules. We do ask that producers -- what we call them -- become members here. We ask that they are careful about what they do. Let us know if there's adult content so we can put it in late-night slots. It can't be patently obscene or offensive. It can't call for the overthrow of the government -- things that to most people would be obvious. And it can't be used for the sale of a product or for a lottery.

Out of 1,000 or so members, you might get one or two who try to push the envelope a little bit. But basically, without prescreening, we've been pretty successful in letting people say and do what they want on air, understanding that if they cause problems with the way we do things it could bring scrutiny that would create a situation where people wouldn't have the opportunity to do things on Channel 2 anymore.

2) Is there any cost involved It's $45 if you're an Erie resident and a cable subscriber, and $55 if you're a nonresident and a subscriber. Non-cable subscribers would pay $10 more in either case.

The idea isn't to generate a huge amount of revenue, and we try to keep the barrier to entry as low as possible and let as many people do it as possible.

But we also don't want people just to walk in off the street and hand them a $2,000 camera and light kit and wireless microphone and hope to have it come back. We want to establish a relationship.

3) What do the workshops offer Our classes include some basic and intermediate instruction about television production. They'll actually learn something. They don't just set up a camera and a tripod and point it or zoom in and out a little.

We teach them the basics about lighting, mixing audio and video, production, and the jargon and lingo used in the TV industry to where they could, if they want to buy their own gear, direct people or be the camera person.

4) Are you ever amazed by the creativity you see in member-produced programming Sure. People have a lot of fun with it, and a lot of that occurs away from here. They'll use a cell phone camera sometimes, or sometimes they'll use a very high-end HD camera and a MacBook and create a lot of things, then bring it in.

About 40 percent of the programming we get is evangelical or spiritual, but it really is all over the place. We have one guy who does workout programming, and he involves his family with it. We have a husband and wife who do religious programming in both English and Spanish. Up until recently we had a group of Bosnians who were doing a lot of programming.

Another thing we do is encourage people to have the programming they produce here appear elsewhere. But we do ask that if they use our equipment that it also appear here at least once, because the whole idea is to program our channel and not have it just be a bulletin board all the time. After that we'll show them how to get it on YouTube if that's what they want, and maybe it will go viral.

5) What appeals to you about this segment of the television programming world Well, anything's possible here. I do like that.

My main area of enjoyment is the First Amendment aspect, the fact that people can do, with very few limits, whatever they want to do.

There's also a social aspect to it. We have a members meeting where we hand out awards, and our members do help each other out quite frequently.

But really for me it's the free-speech thing. I'm a big advocate of that. With the consolidation of media in most markets, Erie included, you have common ownership of a lot of broadcast facilities, and this is completely independent. It's a resource for people to use as they see fit.

___ (c)2013 the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.) Visit the Erie Times-News (Erie, Pa.) at Distributed by MCT Information Services

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