Going public

Public access TV would give wannabe stars a chance
Friday, March 5, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:24 a.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

Any kind of production by anyone could be aired on Columbia’s future public-access channel.

Local music videos, cooking shows, talk shows, faith-based programming, political programming, documentaries and independent films are only some of the things that viewers might expect to see on the channel.

While Columbia lacks a public-access channel now, the non-profit Columbia Media Resource Alliance has been working with Columbia cable companies, Mediacom and Charter Communications, and the Columbia City Council to get the channel in place. The franchise agreement between cable companies and the city, which expires in January 2006, says the companies must provide a pubic-access channel. Columbia has been without public-access programming since the 1980s when cable service switched hands.

“We have a vision based on lots of research,” CMRA President Beth Federici said.

Public-access television is protected under the First Amendment. As long as the programming follows the city’s decency rules, there would be no censorship, Federici said. “That is the nature of public access. It is whatever people want to produce.”

“We have encouraged people to start thinking of project ideas now, so that when the channel is ready, they can start shooting,” she said.

New student opportunities

MU student Olivia Wyatt and Ragtag employee Kim Sherman are doing just that. They’re excited about the possibility of doing a children’s variety show.

“It’s really to combine learning with the fun aspect of music,” Wyatt said.

The educational show would star Wyatt, a co-host and many puppets made by Wyatt and Sherman. Each episode would have a different theme. For instance, one show might focus on a different culture, featuring its music and facts about its people, a word of the day and a science experiment, among other things. The idea, Wyatt said, came from “Chicagogo,” a similar children’s show based in Chicago.

Federici hopes to have her own vegetarian cooking show, with a dash of talk about public affairs.

“I figure everyone talks about politics while cooking or eating,” Federici said.

Ideas roll in

Some people have already submitted ideas to CMRA. The League of Women Voters, for example, hopes to air voter forums and talk shows on the channel.

Educational facilities could also air student-produced programming. MUTV, an MU operation that airs movies and student programming, would take advantage of public access to air shows already on its channel, said general manager Nelson Muller. Public access would be a boon to the programs because it would have better production equipment and people throughout the community, not only on campus, could watch the shows, he said.

JC Rocks” is one such program. It’s a talk show and music-video show that features Christian rock bands. Paul Matadeen is the creator, producer and host . He said he thought of it while he was in high school in Florida and contacted MUTV when he realized Missouri had no Christian rock channel.

“People deserve to hear about what is going on in the Christian community, and what better place than a public-access channel,” Matadeen said.

A variety of viewing options

“MUTV News,” featuring on- and off-campus news; “Nitetime” with Nelson Muller, a comedy variety show similar to “David Letterman;” and “Eye of the Tiger,” featuring MU and regional sports, would also be likely candidates for public access.

The public-access channel would also provide a local venue for filmmakers. “A number of film- and video-makers have gotten their start with public access,” said David Wilson, manager of the Ragtag Cinemacafe and founder of CMRA.

Although the details of the public-access channel are not in place, CMRA members have said the operation could be similar to that of JCTV in Jefferson City.

Any Jefferson City resident who wants to air a production can simply fill out an air-request form. In order to produce something using JCTV’s studio equipment, residents are required to take an orientation class to be certified. CMRA hopes to implement a similar program, Federici said.

“I think the most exciting thing about public access is the spectrum of viewpoints and options it allows for,” Wilson said.

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