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Community TV board seeks public support

by Merrie Leininger

The Douglas County Community Access Television board members are seeking public support for the television station after the county commissioners told them funding to expand the station depends on it.

The 11-member board worked from a budget made up of member donations of only $4,000 last year, compared with the Carson City public access channel’s budget of about $150,000, board member Tish Sammon said.

When board member Steve Lewis addressed the county commissioners last month during budget hearings, and requested $30,000, commissioners said they required evidence the community wanted taxpayers’ money put into the station. The issue was tabled by the county commission for a month,

“The board doesn’t see the need for it at this point. They’re not real excited about it,” said non-voting cable access board member and County Manager Dan Holler.

Sammon said the money is needed to make the channel an important part of the community.

“If we can get the budget, we can bridge a lot of gaps in the community and bring community ownership to the station,” Sammon said.

She said the station has one paid employee who actually works as an administrative assistant in the county’s emergency communications center and spends about 15 percent of her day keeping tapes running and putting in new tapes.

The station doesn’t have a studio, or even camera equipment now, which forces those who want to be on the station to make their own tapes.

However, board president Susan Bullard, who teaches a media art and video class at Douglas High School, uses her students sometimes to tape programs.

“I like to encourage people to take a video camera to a meeting or to their kid’s recital,” Bullard said. “If they need us to tape something for them, they call me. It’s a good opportunity for them to learn. It’s a regular part of the curriculum and if they do more than two, they get extra credit.”

Sammon, who previously worked as the director of the Carson City station, said the city supervisors’ meetings in Carson City are broadcast on the cable access channel. A recent survey showed the community used the channel as its number one link to information about how the government is operating.

“They have such a great response. Once our community embraces it and uses it, we will all be able to learn more about each other and what’s going on in the community that we can’t get anywhere else,” Sammon said.

Bullard said the board has requested $200 to be able to tape commissioners’ meetings.

Bullard said the $30,000 would fund an editing machine so those who make their own tapes can add titles and music to their programs. She would also like to see video cameras available for community members to check out to make videos to be aired on the channel.

The access channel raises money now through a membership fee. As of January, the board had accumulated a membership roster of 29 organizations and individuals who donated a total of $1,710.

Bullard said the board has discussed charging a membership fee to everyone who submits a tape, but has not wanted to discourage people from taking part in the access channel.

Sammon said the county doesn’t yet have a formal agreement with TCI for the station and a lot of technical problems are caused by the cable company that the access board cannot force them to correct.

Holler explained that TCI agreed to provide the channel 26 in the Valley and Channel 19 at Stateline. However, TCI did not provide a written contract with the county and neither the county nor the cable company has an obligation to provide funding or equipment.

“They were asked to provide the channel and the county moved forward with it based on the fact we wouldn’t have to fund it and it would be run with existing staff. It first started with the idea it would have no impact on the county,” Holler said.

A lot of communities require a portion of franchise fees from the cable companies to be put into the access channels and some cable companies install the equipment and provide a station, Holler said.

To submit a video to be televised on public access, bring it to the East Fork Fire and Paramedic districts office in the Minden Inn and fill out a form. Questions can be directed to 782-6299.