About 5 years ago, CAT’s members and other supporters of community media had to make a case for support to the City of Columbia. Since CAT agreed to the five-year contract with the City in 2008, CAT and its staff have become an integral part of the community and have proven worthy of the trust and responsibility the City placed on them.
Back then, the CAT staff was worried about low attendance. Today, CAT enjoys a wide variety in its membership, and its locale is always filled with someone eager to discover the wonderful world of technology. Today, it is the hub of activity that staff, membership and board had always dreamed.
Back then, the CAT staff had to constantly worry about budget. With the contract, CAT was able to focus on acquiring up-to-date equipment and provide a state-of-the-art studio. During the five-year span, it received the national award for Overall Excellence in Public Access in 2010, 2012 and 2013. In the past four years alone, CAT has been recognized as providing “creative programs that address community needs, develop diverse community involvement, challenge conventional commercial television formats and move viewers to experiences television in a different way.”
Back then, the community did not have a platform, a partner to express its voice. Today, CAT provides not only training programs but also a voice to the local community. With its dedicated staff, CAT has empowered many to express their voice and has facilitated community involvement.
Back then, it always looked for ways to fill its programming. Today, CAT is constantly hard at work to lend a hand to the community. It has become an important player to the city’s greatest gems, whether it is True/False Film Festival, Citizen Jane Film Festival, Roots and Blues and BBQ Festival. … It also offers services to anyone residing or working in Boone County.
What is really at stake here is access to noncommercial media. Columbia Access Television is accessible to everyone in our community, of all ages and backgrounds, anyone who wants to learn about film, wants access to media training and production or wants to have their own TV show, etc. It is an incredible community resource that would be a tragedy to lose.
And all this wouldn’t have been possible without the participation and support of the City of Columbia. It would be sad and a tremendous loss to the community if both institutions were unable to find an agreement. I am reminded of the words of former Mayor of Columbia, Darwin Hindman. “I think it’s wonderful that we do have Columbia Access Television. … I’m proud that the city is able to do its part in supporting it. … Let me point out that supporting a creative community is one of the best economic development investments you can possibly make.”
Now is the time to remember that in supporting CAT TV financially, the City of Columbia is also making an investment, giving the community not only a voice but also a sense of belonging. This investment has turned CAT TV into a fertile ground whose fruits are already visible. Years from now, Columbians might just say proudly, this winning director or creator or producer or actor cut his or her teeth at CAT TV in Columbia, MO.
Antoine Matondo is a Columbia resident.