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Groups push for public-access channels

Friday, September 3, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 11:57 p.m. CDT, Thursday, July 3, 2008

Cable and Television Corp. board members Jeff Bassinson and Steve Hudnell assured Columbia's Cable Television Task Force on Thursday that they would deliver a programming schedule in time for Tuesday's City Council meeting.

At Tuesday's meeting, the task force, along with representatives from the Cable and Television Corp. and Stephens College, will attempt to promote to the City Council the idea of a 2 percent increase in cable costs to fund an educational public-access channel.

The increase in cost will help Cable and Television Corp., known as CATCORP, hire staff and sustain the station.

"The future of the station depends on the 2 percent cable fee increase; without it we will be unable to hire a consultant or fund the station next year," Hudnell said.

CATCORP received a $93,500 check last week from Mediacom, which it used to purchase cameras and equipment for playback and editing.

Although Columbia has had public- and government-focused access channels for years, an educational channel was not available until local organizations began lobbying for one.

The council is unlikely to vote on the cable cost increase at Tuesday's meeting - that vote will probably happen at a meeting later this month. Until a vote occurs, CATCORP will follow through with plans it has already made.

"We will be set up to receive a variety of programming from independent producers and expect to have programming on the air by the end of the month," CATCORP president Beth Federici said. "We will not be able to produce programs in house or allow people to check out equipment until late fall."

CATCORP's business offices and studio are at the Helis Communication Center at Stephens College, which has the largest studio in mid-Missouri. Playback and other smaller tasks will be done at the KMIZ/Channel 17 broadcast facility.

Federici said CATCORP is in the process of hiring a part-time station manager and two work-study students from Stephens to lead day-to-day operations. A nationwide search for a permanent station manager will begin before the year's end.

"We can't function at this point without volunteers," Federici said. "Part of the agreement for anyone being allowed to check out equipment in the beginning will be for them to do a variety of volunteer work at the office."

Stephens College senior Meghan Silverstein began attending Cable Television Task Force meetings in December because she thought an educational public-access channel was necessary.

"I had a personal vested interest in CATCORP because I was a KMIZ employee, (media resource alliance) member and, of course, a Stephens student," said Silverstein, who is now a CATCORP board member.

Based on students she has spoken with, Silverstein said Stephens is excited about public-access presence on their campus. If they choose, students will have the opportunity to see their programs on the air.

"Ultimately it will come down to the student," she said. "If they want to produce a program to put on public access, we can accommodate them."

Federici hopes both students and the wider public will submit, create and produce programs for cable access.

"Between the communications, broadcast, journalism and high school students, we expect to get a lot of student programming," she said. "We're also reaching out to anyone who's out there making documentaries, music videos, short films or anything of that nature."

Jill Womack, executive director for Theater Reaching Young People and Schools, plans to air programs on public access. Her group is a nonprofit organization that seeks to teach, reach and inspire young people through theater.

"One of our programs airing on cable access will be a reality program following kids through the audition process," Womack said. "It will give kids the chance to see how kids handle the process and to learn from them in a reality-based atmosphere."

Womack's programs and others airing on cable access can be seen on Channels 8 and 21 for Mediacom and Charter, respectively.


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