Hosting two television shows might seem difficult, but Carlton Flowers does it every week in addition to working for the Missouri Department of Natural Resources.
Flowers’ shows, geared toward self-improvement in a “fun, quirky but educational way,” have been running on the Jefferson City public access channel for several years. Now that Columbia Access Television is off the ground, he’s ready to spread his message to Columbia. Flowers is not alone in wanting face time on the new station.
Twenty-six people spread out in the auditorium at Stephens College’s Helis Communication Center for Saturday morning’s CAT orientation. Another 30 showed up Thursday evening. President of the board for Columbia Media Resource Alliance Beth Federici said she’s received many phone calls in the past couple months from interested community members, but twice the number of people showed up than she expected.
“I think people are tired of never seeing anything local on television,” she said.
CAT went on the air Oct. 4 at 5 p.m. and has about five to six hours of programming seven days per week, but there’s still plenty of airtime for anyone interested.
To get on air a person needs to go to an orientation, become a member of CAT by paying membership fees and then receive some basic training on the equipment.
Bruce Alspaugh and Tim Perkins went to the orientation with hopes to start their own show. The two want to host something that would focus on gay and lesbian issues in Columbia. It would have interviews, news and other useful information for people in the gay community.
Perkins said that he and Alspaugh conceived the idea during the campaign against Amendment 2. The amendment, which passed in August, defines marriage in the state constitution as between a man and a woman.
“It’s important for people to realize there are a lot of other point of views out there,” Perkins said. “There aren’t a lot of perspectives in the mainstream media.”
Giving people a different perspective is the whole point of public access television, said Art Gerhard, a Columbia Media Resource Alliance board member. Gerhard, who works for the Jefferson City public access station as well, said he’s excited about the potential that a town like Columbia has with public access, because of the diversity of ideas in the city.
“Public television is television for the public. Access television is truly accessible to the public,” he said.
The station is run by volunteers and, in addition to a starting grant, membership fees will keep the station afloat.
“This is the last free soapbox in America,” CMRA board member Jeff Bassinson said. “You can’t get your manifesto published entirely in a newspaper and other stations won’t let you on. This is it. And if it’s not here, then there’s nothing.”