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Public Access Cable Touchable Tv

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Despite the omnipresent influence of the tube in our Uves, televisión is usually I considered the great untouchable ... a j medium meant solely for observation, and : never participation. We conjure up visions I of Hollywood sets, bereted directors, and : professional actors smothered in makeup - all a long way from "the people" and j their pocketbooks. It ain't necessarily so. Because in a mounting number of cit : ies, Ann Arbor included, there's a new : kind of televisión - touchable televisión I - called community (or public) access I TV. Right here in Ann Arbor, anyone can learn how to use videotape equipment. : borrow it to make programs of any type, : and show the finished product on a cable : channel devoted exclusively to coirtmuni; ty programming. And it's all virtually 5 f ree of charge. Ann Arbor's community access TV op eration recently celebrated its first birth day. We figure it's about time you know ! its story. A Channel For The People Ann Arbor's community access TV af fords every person the opportunity to ex! press himherself and convey the message : via the most powerful communication meI dium there is. The message can be almost j anything - a jam session, an astrology les son, a local happening, or an original play f you've written. The beauty of it is that i what you have to say isn't distorted by 5 third-person interpretation or bias. You { are free to teil your own story. The only restrictions on program con tent are those outlined by the FCC: there ■ is to be no obscene or indecent matter; no 5 lottery information; and no commercial 5 material - which, by their definition, is "advertising designed to promote the sale of a product or service." The fact that the access operation is } noncommercial is fundamental in its role : as a community service. The networks de: pendent on advertising revenues strive for gargantuan viewership - the bigger, the - better. Thus their "lowest common de nominator" is aimed at the "general pop5 ulation" and cannot fuif il 1 the needs of f the specialized group. Access, on the other hand, isn't compeI ting for the advertiser's dollar, so it's feas: ible to address an access show to even the : minutest segment of the community. In i the jargon, this is called NARROWCAST: ING - distinctly different from broad; casting. Take the videotape now being shown ! about a well-known Ann Arbor landmark I- the Fleetwood Diner. Wouldyou ex peet ABC to air that? CBS? No way. What if there's a lecture you'd like ot5 hers to see? What if you're appalled that Í the Nickels house has died so that McDon[ aids inight live? What if you think you : perceive the street scène in a totally diff[ erent light than everyone else? Opportun; ity knocks - community access TV. The critical ingrediënt of an access pro{ gram is the MESSAGE. You don't have to worry about making a polished presenf tation or fitting your program into an ar tificial parcel of time. The Women's CrisI is Center made an unelaborate tape that f said what it had to say in about 4 minutes. { On access, that's terrifk. Using Access Facilities If you'd like to have the capability to convey your message on community access TV, the first step is to contact the Public Access Office and make an appointment to be trained on the portapak. The office is at 403 South Fifth, phone 7697422, and is open between 2-10 p.m. weekdays. Training will take about 2 hours, and it's free. You'll find the equipment extremely easy to opérate. To ensure that you've digested the training, you'll have to come back another day for a simple equipment certification test. Then you're authorized to borrow the portapak and accessories, free of charge, whenever you have something to tape. As for videotape you may either buy your own through the office at cosí ($ 1 1 .09 for a 30-minute reel) or rent it for 2 weeks @$ 1 .00. Two features of videotaping minimize the hassles of producing your show! the videotape itself records camera and soundtrack simultaneously; and the machine permits immediate playback so you can verify that every thing worked. As a result, many tapes can he shown just exactly as you shoot them. If your tape needs editing, you can learn on and utilize the office 's editing equipment. Editing certification involves a $12.50 fee, which is applied to equipment maintenance. When your program is finished. you can choose the date and the time you want it shown on cable channel F. It's first -come, first-served, and free, and you can schedule repeated showings. Access watchers can comment on your prodiiction by phoning the access office - and the word will get back to you if they do. How The Channel Happened Public access televisión was born out of the synthesis of three essen tial ments: the advent of cable technology, which dramatically increased the number of TV channels available; the development of moderately-priced, easy-to-use portable videotape machinery; and a ruling by the Federal Cominunications Commission (FCC) that cable systems beginning operation after March 31 , 1972, must provide one "noncommercial public access channel available without charge at all times on a first-come, first-served nondiscriminatory basis." The FCC's ruling does not apply to Ann Arbor since cable operations starled prior to the specified date. However, the city itself made access a condition of the franchise agreement, which stipulates that four of the channels provided by Michigan Cable TV be set aside for "public service use." Translated into the language of your cable converter, these four channels are E, F, G, and I. F is the community access channel with which we're concerned. E, the educational access channel, is open to any community programming which requires a series of regular time slots, as well as to school and university use. G will be the government access channel. Channel I's use is still undesignated. Although Ann Arbof s CATV (Community Antenna Televisión) ordinance was finalized in 1970, wiring of the city wasn't begun for over a year, and it was mid-1973 before the community access facilities came to life. At that time. Michigan Cable TV put access in business by renting an office, hiring a coördinator, purchasing some equipment, and actually activating channel F. The company continúes to directly support the access venture through rent, salaries, and sundry outlays. The operation is also subsidized by a portion of the annual franchise fee paid by the cable company to the City of Ann Arbor. Three C's and a Contest There are three major protagonists ia the local access scène. You might cali them the three C's: the company, the commission, and the committee. The company, Michigan Cable TV, handles the day-to-day operations of the access office, and of course provides the cable that brings channel F to Ann Arbor ï homes. The Ann Arbor Cablecasting Commission is a city-appointed body set up by the CATV ordinance as a regulatory ï cy and sounding board. This Commission j is responsible for disbursing the : to-city franchise fee, and has been using a í significant portion of the money to support access operations. The Commission office (202 E. Washington, Suite 7 1 2 ) i so has two portapaks which it loarfs out free of charge. The third C is the Citizens Public j ess TV Committee. Open to anyone who I is interested in access televisión, this j unteer group advises the Cablecasting mmission and undertakes various projects ï to nurture the access adventure. ] ly the Citizens Committee is conducting a Logo Design Contest, in order both to adopt a symbol for A2 access TV and to help inform the community of the access facilities available to them. Ten prizes : will be awarded, including first prize of a Sony color televisión. Information about : the contest can be obtained at the Public Access Office or by calling the i ing Commission (662-6827, weekdays). Entries are due October 12. The Idiosyncrasies of Access If you've ever turned to cable channel F, you know that programming is sporadic and the screen is often dark. Perhaps, having grown up with the ubiquitous tube, you'raskeptical of this irregularity. You will just riave to adjust your frame of reference, because access is an entirely ! erent trip. The amount of programming depends on the whims of the public, and in itself is of little importance. What is important 1 is that a given program reach its intended audience. Right now, about the only way people j know your show is on is if you teil them yourself. The newspaper isn't geared to the loose format and last-minute : ing of access programs. And, while Cable ; 5 can carry Cable F's program listings, it does so only occasionally. j ture, it is anticipated that Cable F will j play its own program schedule and thereby solve this communication problem. The bigger issue is getting Ann Arbor people into the ha bit of WATCHING for access offerings. Today there are 10,000 households (probably 35,000 people) hooked up to the cable. Many don't even j know what access is. Only when everyone : learns HOW to watch access can it achieve its full potential as an outlet for j ity expression and interact! on. Public Access TV O ffice-403 S. i 7422 Aun Arbor Cablecasting Commission-202 E. Washington, Suite 7I2-662-6827 Eitizens Committec Cliairman, Sonny 76 1-2009