Community Cable TV Channel
By the early 70's cable TV systems were becoming common throughout the country. Accessible technology and the wealth of channel space seemed to hold great promise. The US government mandated that local cable TV systems must provide significant resources to the communities they served. As an outspoken community advocate, I was selected by the local Community Cable TV Advisory Board and Somerville Mayor's office to head up one of the first community-run and operated cable TV stations in the United States.
I directed Channel 84, operating from Somerville (Massachusetts) City Hall and transmitting directly over the city's cable system, the Municipal Cable Project produced two hours of local "live" programming nightly on a 5-days-per-week basis. Our coverage included:
Local sports was undoubtedly the most popular service we provided. We also pioneered interactive "call-in" programs that allowed access to community leaders. Eventually our coverage was taken over by the cable company itself (Warner Communications). I reported directly to the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs, successfully lobbied for and served as the community liaison to the local cable company.
As Director of the Municipal Cable Project :
- Negotiated active programming relationships with the local community college, the Boston Museum of Fine Arts, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Media Lab), Earthworm, Inc. (an environmental organization), the local community college, Boston educational broadcast TV channel WGBH and local government social services agencies.
- Got additional funding from local agencies: Cable Advisory Board, Aging Center, Adult Education, Nutrition Education Program and the Public Library. We also received support from the Alternate Media Center in New York City.
- Trained and supervised an operating staff of seven local citizens, including several untrained "jobs program" participants and community volunteers.We operated successfully for 18 months before a budget crisis during the recession of 1975-76 brought this innovative experiment in local community programming to an end.
Team management (budgeting, scheduling, etc), Project direction, Community activism, Team training, Channel Policy, Video programming, advocacy to Community stakeholders
"Channel 84" was a little in-joke play on the broadcast TV channel spectrum. Traditional VHF channels are numbered 2-13. UHF channels are numbered 14-83. As a cable-only channel we were "one step beyond".
And in the bicentennial year of 1976, there was the obvious reference to "1984".....
"... the Municipal Cable Project served as the basis for the creation of a more recently funded Educational Channel project in Somerville. John's work in the city has had a lasting effect on the development of community access cable here."
S. Lester Ralph, Mayor, Somerville MA (1977)