Channeling creativity: Falmouth cable TV station is a community resource
This article and accompanying photos appeared in The Bulletin - Serving Falmouth and Mashpee, March 29-April 4, 2012 Issue
FALMOUTH — Falmouth Community Television is not just an outlet for public information; it also serves as a forum for self-expression for all ages.
“We are a community media center. We are more than television, and we want to give people access to resources that allow them to communicate in a way that is meaningful to them,” said FCTV Executive Director and CEO Debby Rogers. “In terms of public access, all programs on FCTV are either produced or sponsored by members, people who have come to us and learned how to use the equipment. So, if one person in Falmouth wants to see a program, that’s all it takes.”
Rogers has been in the community media industry for 30 years and with FCTV for 16.
FCTV productions include municipal programs, such as the selectmen’s meetings, Town Meeting and Falmouth Planning Board, to name a few.
In order to be a member, one must either work, live or attend school in Falmouth.
“We are facilitators. We give you the tools, the training and the technology. Membership entitles you to our training program, and almost all of our training is free. Everything you need to learn how to produce a program is free. Use of the channel time is free. Use of equipment is free,” Rogers said.
“There’s a lot of bang for the buck here.”
FCTV offers a computer learning center for seniors, and the training is conducted by volunteers who are 50 and older.
FCTV is a nonprofit operated by a board of directors and in addition to membership fees, is funded by franchise fees the town receives as part of its agreement with Comcast. Because of its contract with the town, FCTV is required to offer a variety of government meetings.
“We are also reaching out to other department heads to see if they will participate by doing a show or providing announcements in an effort to keep the public informed,” she said.
On March 22 and 23, the station updated its Town Hall equipment which was 13 years old.
“People will notice a significant increase in the quality of our government meetings,” Rogers said.
Previously, the station offered Channel 13 for all programming but now includes education access Channel 14, featuring programming produced by and about Falmouth Public Schools, and Channel 15, designated solely for government meetings.
Channel 13 features an array of programs such as “The Village Green” news magazine, “Floral Designs Made Easy” with Anna Holmes and Valerie May Douglas and “Totally Trivia,” a call-in show which airs live once a month, presented by the FCTV Youth Producers.
The Youth Producers group meets after school during the school year and provides youngsters with hands-on experience and the opportunity to produce the trivia show, in addition to “The Youth View,” a current events program modeled after television talk show, The View.
Production Coordinator AJ Orsini Lebeda directs the group, and also teaches media literacy to FCTV members.
“The kids come up with their own topics, whether it’s bullying, MCAS or who has the best ice cream in town. They rotate in teams so everyone gets a chance to use all of the equipment, direct and also host the show,” she said.
“It’s a great experience. Many of our kids have gone on to Lasell and Emerson to study media, engineering or writing.”
Rogers underscored the value of early media training. As a student at Newton South High School, she chose television for career day and when she visited WCVB Channel 5 for a taping of the “Good Day Show,” she knew that was her calling.
“Until the recent cable license, we hadn’t received any capital funding since 2005 but thanks to our local business underwriters, these kids have the opportunity to learn on state of the art equipment.,” she said. “They’re building skills they can take with them to college and won’t be starting from scratch as I was.”
Rogers is the chairwoman of the Alliance for Community Media, a national organization that educates and advocates on behalf of community media centers.
“One of our newest board members is Michael Heylin, who grew up in Falmouth,” she said. “Michael started in FCTV’s kids’ group when he was in junior high. He is now the executive director of community television in Raynham. There are other stories like that and that’s something we’re really proud of because we want to give skills to people that they can use in real world situations.”
FCTV is part of the SmarterCape Summit Planning Committee and will handle the production of the event, which will be held May 14 and 15 at the Sea Crest.
Rogers is also part of the town’s Local Emergency Planning Committee and said many residents credited FCTV with keeping them informed during the boil water order and subsequent lift in June 2010.
“We were really on top of that. The moment we were informed, we went into high gear to make sure we were providing updated information through our channels, our website and social media,” she said.
“That’s a perfect example of why it’s so important for us to be part of LEPC. We are a community anchor institution and we want to be the place people tune to for their information.”
The station provides a venue for local artists with its Maser Gallery, which features 12 shows per year, coordinated by facility assistant Marcia Huyette. Each March, the gallery features the work of Falmouth students.
“It’s very rewarding for the kids to be seen as real artists,” Rogers said. “They get to come to a place outside of school and see their work hanging and have people from the community appreciate not only what they’ve done but also what the art teachers in our schools have done.”
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