For the people, by the people
|By Andy Balaskovitz|
New and improved programming for Lansing’s public access cable TV channel 16 takes shape; programming due back by MarchThe past 10 years of public access television in Lansing have included obscure shows about Batman, neo-Nazi rallies, diatribes against the City Council. More recently, mind-numbing scrolls of community event announcements have been largely the only programming.
By March, though, viewers should start seeing shows again — the result of a $600,000 investment in local producers and a Lansing Public Media Center.
Dominic Cochran, director of the city’s Office of Community Media, said the goal of the new center is to give local producers access to state-of-the-art equipment.
With $250,000 in grants given to local groups and producers and $350,000 being sunk into a public facility, Cochran said it will no longer be “a bunch of community bulletins” on City TV. Any new, locally produced material is welcome — even if it is reminiscent of “Wayne’s World.”
“That’s what we’re really excited about. We don’t know what will happen or what people will create,” Cochran said.
Cochran expects programming to “run the gamut. Probably some art-centric stuff. People in their basement railing against the government. Expect that stuff you used to see — everyone will have a voice,” Cochran said.
The media center also plans to buy a production truck so it can broadcast more live events in Lansing. “That will be something open to organizations, and they can call us and we’ll go out and shoot,” he said.
Austin Howard, a 20-year-old Lansing Community College student who received a $10,000 grant, produces a show with two friends called Lansing Music TV. After forming in June, Howard’s program includes 40 videos online of interviews and shows of local music acts, including Cheap Girls and Frontier Ruckus.
“It’s a really good motivation to keep doing what we’re doing. A lot of kids don’t have this equipment,” Howard said.
Christina Harter, another grant recipient, has worked with cameras most of her life. She specializes in capturing “first-time experiences” of Lansing residents. For example, she said, catching people on their first walk through the City Market.
Being a Lansing resident for 20 years, Harter said she’s noticed a heightened commitment from the city to public access television. That ought to show in the work produced, too.
“It means more creativity,” she said of the new media center. “It’s the opportunity to be more creative and show off creativity.”
The Capital Area District Library, Potter Park Zoo, Impression 5 and the East Lansing Food Cooperative also landed grants.
Historically, public access television in Lansing was an anything-goes operation, though still offering much more content than the community announcements seen today.
Charlene Decker, who has appeared regularly at City Council meetings since 1994, used to have a show about city government.
She said at any given time you could watch cooking, musicals, maybe some religious programming. Her show was intended to explain how the city works on a daily basis with a critical eye cast upon the Council.
The city of Lansing is putting $350,000 into equipment and housing for the newly formed Lansing Public Media Center.
The money comes from public, education and government — PEG — fees that cable providers such as Comcast and AT&T pay the city to use its cable infrastructure.
The biggest challenge facing the Office of Community Media is rounding up enough volunteers to keep City TV running smoothly. While
“It’s one big pot for equipment and one little pot for personnel,” Cochran said.
Penniman agrees volunteers will be necessary.
But will all of this promotion lead to too much content being produced?
“That would be a great problem to have,” Cochran said.