More Than an Name Change – More Than TV

What does it mean for a community television station to be MORE THAN TV?
Ah, so many things.

WPAA-TV Many viewers think WPAA are call letters. In 2016 WPAA got new branding: WPAA followed by a ‘play button” and the word TV. Written in text this becomes WPAA > TV.

In a nearly simultaneous ha ha moment the Board Members read the text representation of their new branding graphic as Greater than, or more than, TV.  Ironically this perfectly represented the evolving strategic plan for sustainability.

More than TV is media initiatives done in collaboration with others.

Community TV is some part or combination of Public, Education and Government (PEG) TV. It depends on where you are in the USA. From the birth of radio and television through the evolution of network, cable, fiber and other transmission capabilities many aspects of media morphed, converged, and transformed both the media makers and medium and the language used to embody or brand it.

Documentary on history and ideology of Public Access in the United States.

Locally community television began with a community message board. The public notices were administered by the Wallingford Public Library (@1975) and were carried over Community Antenna TV. A decade later citizens were appointed by the Mayor to a Wallingford Cable Television Access Board. In 1993, after some public reassessment, volunteers incorporated as Wallingford Public Access Association, Inc. (WPAA).

The initial strategy was a name change and a plan to grow in to the new name within seven years. Wallingford Public Access Station, Inc. became WPAA-TV and Community Media Center. It was accompanied by a mind-map of ideas ranging from distributing content over the Internet to creating local artist gallery space with a few measurable benchmarks tied to capital improvements of the immediate needs: better tools and stage.

While remaining supportive of diverse and under-served voices community TV stations needed to focus on their own sustainability. In response to funding challenges many became media centers. The models vary. Many include partnering with citizen radio, expanding distribution platforms, adding youth programs and offering more in-depth training such as documentary film. This evolution is represented by the National Federation of Local Cable Providers founded in 1976 becoming the Alliance for Community Media in 1992.

In CT baseline funding for PEG remains relatively secure due to Public Act-95 150. It is the scaffolding that ensure every Connecticut town has some form of public, government and education access television based on the reasonable needs of the community in return for use by Cable providers of public rights of way. Funds are pass-thru dollars invoiced by Cable TV and IPTV Providers averaging 9 to $12 annually.

Since this democracy experiment began the landscape has changed. Among the landscape change are: satellite TV and cable TV cord cutters that use Internet platforms. One is a different transmission infrastructure circumventing physical land-based infrastructure, the other a differently defined use of poles and cables to the home.

In conclusion, More than TV is many things related to 1) leveraging the convergence of media, 2) managing locally for changes in the global media landscape and 3) evaluating options for organization sustainability. Sustainability will be actualized differently based on the community served (population, budget, staff experience, and perceived value).

In Wallingford, users are discovering the tools and stage can be deployed for a wider variety of storytelling. Ultimately, More than TV is much like the core mission enabling citizen creation of Your Town, Your Station. Being More than TV will be determined by the reasonable needs and actions of the community.

For more on the history of Community TV go here.

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