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City Council to consider funding for Columbia Access Television

Sunday, May 23, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT

COLUMBIA – A proposal to appropriate funds from the city’s settlement with local cable companies to Stephens College may expand Columbia Access Television's capabilities.

According to a report from Lori Fleming, director of the city finance department, Columbia received $212,636 in 2009 from the settlement of two lawsuits with Mediacom and Charter Communications for the underpayment of franchise fees. In June, the council will review the proposal to set aside part of these funds for improvements to the Stephens College studio.

Stats about CAT

Membership

Number of individual members: 230

Number of organizational members: 23

 

Training and Post Production Classes

Studio Production: 32 members certified

Field Production: 21 classes held, 38 members certified

Final Cut Pro: 28 members certified

Other: Seven members certified in miscellaneous classes

Support, Revenue, and Expenses

City of Columbia Franchise Fees

2008: $200,522

2009: $199,805

Net assets, ending:

2008:  $196,005

2009:  $258, 864

Total expenses:

2008:  $88, 498

2009:  $179, 917



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CAT has always intended to renovate the Stephens studios used in its production. The college provides the station with the space and studios in return for overseeing use of the studios and equipment that Stephens also uses to train its students. As part of CAT’s contract with Stephens College, the station must also put funds from the city towards renovating the studios.

As part of an upgrade in February 2009, CAT's Studio B, which members use to produce programs and live broadcasts, was outfitted with new equipment, new lighting and a new switcher.

Station Manager Ryan Walker describes the difference as "night and day. CAT looks like a new facility."

In Studio B, CAT has video on demand. Members can create a show or podcast, air it on CAT’s station and even make it available for download online. Chase Thompson, president of the CAT board of directors, said the station is interested in how people use media and how fast they get it. CAT is working to keep up with these demands.

Next door to Studio B — and filled with outdated equipment — is Studio A. Walker said visitors are usually impressed with the space's potential, rather than its current capabilities.

During its June 1 meeting, the City Council is scheduled to discuss approving a proposal to appropriate $130,836 of the $212,636 settlement in 2009 to Stephens College for the “digital upgrade of its television studio.”

CAT’s 2009 annual report stated that the plans for upgrading the facility “will make Studio A a state-of-the-art studio, capable of meeting the needs of even the most demanding users.”

After researching what equipment will be most user friendly and long lasting, Thompson said plans to upgrade Studio A include installing HD equipment, a new sound stage and a large green screen. He explained that the plans to go tape-less would allow members to create digital files easily. Thompson said production in the new studio would be “twice as fast, twice as current.”

In the new Studio A, members will be able to shoot and air in HD, as well as post HD video online. CAT hopes that having both studios open will attract new members. Thompson said CAT “really wants to get to 300” members — a number the station is quickly approaching.  

CAT also offers free classes to its members in production and post-production. The new equipment would be available to students in these classes.

Students at Stephens College would be able to take advantage of Studio A’s upgradeas well. As part of the arrangement between CAT and Stephens, the students have access to the studio for their classes.

“Stephens students get a great environment," said Thompson, who is also a professor in digital film at the college. "It’s a plus for students to meet people and professionals and find their niche.”

Studios A and B are two of the largest studios in Missouri, Walker said. With a second live studio, the station could shoot two programs simultaneously. This would increase productivity and bring attention to what CAT has available for its members.

CAT wants to see more live broadcasts and get the community involved, Walker said. With the space in Studio A, CAT programming would have more chances for live interactions – audience members could call in or stop by during production.

With both studios in use, CAT would expect to see a rise in membership and programming production.

According to its 2009 annual report, CAT aired an average of 70 hours per week of locally produced content.

“Whatever it is now, we want to see more,” Thompson said.

For now, the upgrade is on hold until CAT receives the funding to move ahead. Once the station has the gear, getting the studio up and running would be the next task.

“It will not be a huge pain to make all of these things work together,” Thompson said.


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