Public Access Television provides an opening and a medium for citizens to express their views and participate in the democratic process. Public Access television operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, and provides education and training to citizens who wish to participate in the process of producing and airing a show. Because Public Access Television is not controlled by mainstream media, it offers alternative television to viewers who are interested in what is going on in their community, and in topics that are relevant to their communities and their lives.
New Bedford’s Public Access Television Station, is in the far south end of the city located at the 918 South Rodney French Boulevard, and has been on the air since 1995. The city of New Bedford runs the stations, but they are funded through an annual grant from Comcast Cable. New Bedford’s Public Access Station won the 2007 Overall Excellence in PEG Access Awarded by The Alliance for Community Media.
I had a chance to briefly interview Tom Sexton, the Public Access Director. Mr. Sexton has been the Public Access Director for New Bedford since 1999 and he works directly with the public and the volunteers at the station. “Our belief is that Public Access Television is a powerful vehicle for promoting greater awareness of the issues of New Bedford and the diversity of its people”. New Bedford has three channels that broadcast from the station, channel 95 is the public access channel, channel 17 is the educational access channel and channel 18 is for government access programming. Channels 17 and 18 have a separate staff and a list of requirements for what is acceptable to be broadcast.
All individuals and groups are able to broadcast on Channel 95. However, you must be a resident of New Bedford take part in an equipment training program and an orientation session to use the station (these are free). Mr. Sexton directed me to the website for a list of what they offer for equipment. This is a list from their web page: “Two (2) fully functional television studios featuring JVC cameras and Panasonic S-VHS recording and switching equipment. Three (3) digital video editing workstations with complete software packages. Three (3) editing suites with A/B roll capability. The edit rooms consist of full audio dubbing equipment and the ability to import different graphic formats. Six (6) portable digital video camera set-ups for use in the field. Five (5) portable VHS Camcorder set-ups for use in the field. A sound booth for audio voice-overs. We also have wired and wireless hand and lavalier microphones, microphone mixers, and portable lighting”.
Mr. Sexton said they have a wide variety of programming on channel 95, and almost a third of them are Portuguese. New Bedford is almost 40% Portuguese and the Public Access Television Station is a great way for them to keep up with each other, and share news, arts, culture and cuisine from Portugal.
Kellner, D. PUBLIC ACCESS TELEVISION AND THE STRUGGLE FOR DEMOCRACY.