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Five Years of Public Access TV

July 30, 2013
Five Years of Public Access TV

What do you give an energetic five year-old who’s celebrating a birthday?

The UpNorth Media Center, which took over the operation of both public and government access TV in northwest lower Michigan in July 2008, could use a lot of attention and maybe a little cash.

“LIAA (Land Information Access Association) opened the UpNorth Media Center to help citizens, nonprofits and local governments throughout northwest Michigan apply audio, video and internet technologies to inform, connect and engage people in their communities,” Executive Director Joe VanderMeulen tells The Ticker. “Before we took over in 2008, the public access station was known as tctv 2 and operated by the Traverse Area District Library.”

Under federal and state laws, municipalities can access cable TV channels as part of their franchise agreements with cable providers, locally that is Charter Communications. The City of Traverse City, along with East Bay, Elmwood and Garfield Townships have exercised the option and regularly broadcast public meetings and other events.

“Most communities in Michigan have something like this,” explains VanderMeulen. “We visited five different communities before taking over the operation five years ago. Our challenge was ‘How do we maintain this community platform that has proven so special for our citizens?’ Our focus is always on our region. It’s a community conversation.”

LIAA’s staff, along with volunteers, operates a TV studio and coordinates broadcasts for roughly 18 meetings a month, as well as nine different boards and commissions for Grand Traverse County. Late in 2010, Charter switched the channel number from 2 to channel 97 and a limited access digital channel 992.

So how many viewers tune in to those meetings?

Not even LIAA knows. “Charter doesn’t provide that information,” says VanderMeulen. “We’d have to authorize an Arbitron survey and that’s just way too expensive.”

In addition to broadcasting public meetings, the UpNorth Media Center offers video training for anyone who would like to produce and broadcast their own TV show. Over the years, 738 students have attended 139 different classes. In the past year, 85 students took part in 18 classes. Today there are 530 people who have been certified as producers.

UpNorth Media Center regularly broadcasts community events, such as the National Writers Series and the recent memorial service for Helen Milliken. One huge event that did not receive coverage was the National Cherry Festival’s Cherry Royale Parade. “We heard from people about that,” says VanderMeulen. “If someone would like to underwrite the parade, we could broadcast the parade for less than $5,000.”

UpNorth Media Center cobbles its $360,000 budget from a number of sources, including franchise fees, an annual fundraiser, and 30 cents a month from each local Charter subscriber.


Most Recent Comments

 
Jo Ann on August 6, 2013 10:02am

Unfortunately, I have to agree with "Disappointed." I've tried to watch the local station but the quality is so poor, I end up switching channels. Isn't there some way broadcast quality could be improved?

Nancy Forrester on August 4, 2013 4:56pm

I too miss the viewing of the Cherry Festival by local television. It is just not easy for those in the nursing homes and the handicapped to be present downtown. It would be nice if it could be funded and available for us locals who can not get out. The only comment that I have about the broadcast is that the commentary be kept at a minimum when the parade is actually being shown. Thank you for this opportunity.

Disappointed on July 30, 2013 12:21pm

I used to watch the government meetings being broadcast but they're impossible to watch now. The sound is constantly cutting in and out and the image constantly pixelating and clearing.

Jim Muratzki on July 30, 2013 12:19pm

Regularly scheduled shows are included in the Record-Eagle TV Guide. A detailed program guide can be found on the UpNorth Media Center website: http://www.upnorthmedia.org/upnorthtvsched.asp

The Writers Series are not broadcast live, but are cablecast later (see the program guide), and available on the Media Center website for streaming here: http://www.upnorthmedia.org/upnorthtvserlist.asp?pser=National%20Writers%20Series

NoMo on July 30, 2013 11:23am

Thanks to Up North Media Center and LIAA for allowing the citizens of the area to view several local government and many of their appointed commission meetings.
It is a true public service and the area is so fortunate to have a their team that works so hard to make that possible.

Barbara George on July 30, 2013 9:53am

Are the Writers Series broadcasted live?
If not, when are they available to watch?

Gloria on July 30, 2013 9:04am

I was really disappointed that I could not watch the Cherry Festival parade on TV. I was unable to attend this year. In the past one of the local networks broadcast it. I don't know when they quit doing it, but I think it's a loss to the community. As people get older and unable to brave the crowds and the heat, it would be nice to still be a part of it in this way. But thanks to Public Access TV for all that you do. I hope in the future someone will step forward and cover the cost involved.

c schomer on July 30, 2013 8:47am

I wish you had a program guide. I could select and plan to watch the programs I enjoy.

Chuck Korn on July 30, 2013 7:09am

We are very fortunate to have LIAA operating in this area. Joe VanderMeulen and his staff work hard to help in so many ways. Our township (Garfield) is delighted with the service provided in broadcasting our Town Board and Planning Commission meetings. We are very happy to support UpNorth Media Center. Thanks to East Bay, Elmwood & Traverse City for being a part of one of the few organizations that truly does more work than they take credit for.

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