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Local channel found lacking in public access comparison



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Ken LaPlace, Oxford Community TV station manager, and staffers fill the schedule with community programming. Photo by Phil Custodio (click for larger version)
January 16, 2013 - Local artists discussing their latest works, frank and enlightening discussions on issues and people affecting the community, visits with local business owners explaining what they do with hands-on demonstrations, music performances by local jazz, reggae, and garage rock bands – all available on cable public access.

But not in Independence Township.

These are programs developed within the last six months for Oxford Community Television by station manager Ken LaPlace and staff.

"We brainstorm ideas for basic shows, make phone calls, find hosts for shows, shoot and edit," said LaPlace, who joined the station last August.

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They cover 16 government meetings a month, and they also have shows on karate, horses, art, senior issues, and faith.

In the Lake Orion area, Orion Neighborhood Television shows include healthy living, live wrestling once a month in studio with a live audience, coverage of football, hockey, soccer, lacrosse, baseball, fairs, and other community events, exercise programs, political debates and talk shows, senior issues, and entrepreneurship.

"We're bursting at the seams with new programming," said Ian Locke, operations manager.

Almost a year after Independence Township Board hired Joe Barnhart as program manager for Clarkston Public Access Channel, later renamed Independence TV, programming includes township meetings, 50 Plus Fun Report, and Holiday Lights parade.

"We have the equipment, classes are starting – hopefully it will change, "Barnhart said. "I'm anxious to get residents involved and be a creative force behind us, like Lake Orion, Waterford, Oxford. I'd like to be similar to them."

Norm Pardo of Springfield Township, who operates The Clarkston News' ClarkstonTV.com, isn't impressed.

"With one GL1 camera and two lights, we produced and edited about 220 shows in one year," Pardo said. "It's hard to understand how you can blame equipment for no programming."

Pardo started the website with Clarkston News about two years ago in part because of a lack of programming at CPAC, Pardo said.

"There's still no programming," he said. "We have weekly programs, business profiles, football, basketball, hockey, and we're not a public access channel."

He's working on new shows for ClarkstonTV.com with local businesses, including "Make the Big Deal," a talent show.

"We have a lot of new programs coming out," he said. "It's not acceptable, what done with public access. This is Clarkston, we deserve better."

Independence Township spent $200,000 in accumulated PEG (Public, Education, Government) fees last September to purchase new equipment for the Maybee Road studio.

"A lot of the old equipment didn't work – some was at least 20 years old," Barnhart said. "The new equipment is state of the art and ready to go."

With less in PEG and franchise fees, however, Oxford Community Television studio made do with less.

"We're not as big as Independence," LaPlace said.

He and his staff of 12 part-time employees produce a core schedule of shows every week, and assign crews to cover sports and meetings.

"The executive producer goes out into community and fills the show schedule up," he said. "When I came in, there was nothing here. We covered some meetings, with shows occasionally, here and there. It needed a shot in the arm to actually produce good content."

Now, the schedule is so loaded they need more people, he said.

"Anything we put up is well lit with good quality sound. The content is good, that's important," he said.

Orion Neighborhood Television moved into a new center on Joslyn Road last March, which raised the station's profile quite a bit, Locke said.

Before, they were located in a shopping center on M-24. They shut down for nine months as the new studio was built.

Pat Kittle, Independence Township's new supervisor, is taking a look at the local public access channel and considering options such as partnering with Clarkston Community Schools, Clarkston News, and other community groups.

If they successfully partner with the schools, one option would be to close the studio on Maybee Road and move the equipment to the high school's studio, he said.

"Both are funded separately by taxpayers and PEG fees – does it make sense to consolidate them," he asked. "One joint public access channel could offer the best bang for the buck."

The supervisor will present his findings and recommendations to the Township Board as soon as possible, he said.

For more information on ClarkstonTV.com, contact Alan Partington at info@clarkstonondemand.com or 248-821-1373.

Independence TV timeline

June 2007 Board enters into Uniform Franchise Agreement with AT&T, collecting 2% PEG fee in compliance with new state law

November 2007 Comcast closes billing office and public access studio on Maybee Road

December 2007 Andy Reish hired as cable administrator

July 2009 Board votes against recording special meetings

August 2009 Township votes "no" to taping and broadcasting special meetings

October 2009 Township loses $600,000 in cable TV revenue and legal costs over two years

November 2009: Board votes to videotape and broadcast all township meetings, including special meetings.

December 2009 It was agreed that Comcast would, effective January 1, 2010, begin collecting from its subscribers an amount of up to 2% of gross revenues as a PEG fee

September 2010 Board meetings pulled from clarkston411.com

February 2011 Supervisor David Wagner reports township has $200,000 in accumulated PEG funds

March 2011 Board votes to establish Citizens Public TV Access Committee

June 2011 Board votes in favor of spending $500 of PEG fees for Cable TV building enhancements

September 2011 CPAC program director Andy Reish's employment is terminated

February 2012 Joe Barnhart hired as new program director

May 2012 Board approves $62,000 for new video equipment, and changes the name from Clarkston Public Access Channel (CPAC) to Independence TV

September 2012 $200,000 in PEG fees used to purchase new equipment and remodel the Maybee road studio

December 2012 AT&T customers can view Public Access programming on channel 99; Independence TV offers on-demand viewing of programs at independencetelevision.pegcentral.com

Phil is editor for The Clarkston News. He is a veteran of the first Iraq war, having served in the U.S. Army.
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