What does it mean for a community television station to be MORE THAN TV?
Ah, so many things.
Many viewers think WPAA are call letters. In 2016, WPAA adopted new branding: WPAA followed by a ‘play button’ and the word TV. Written in text this becomes WPAA > TV.
More than TV is media initiatives done in collaboration with others.
Community TV is some part of 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 the media makers, the medium and the language used to embody or brand it.
Locally, community television began with a community message board. The public notices were administered by the Wallingford Public Library (c.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 into the new name within seven years. Wallingford Public Access Association, Inc. became WPAA-TV and Community Media Center. A mind map of ideas ranging from distributing content over the Internet to creating a local artist gallery space, with a few measurable benchmarks, tied to needs for capital improvements became the plan: better tools & stage.
While remaining supportive of diverse and underserved voices, community TV stations needed to focus on their own sustainability. In response to funding challenges, many became media centers. The models vary. Many included 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, which then became the Alliance for Community Media in 1992.
In Connecticut, baseline funding for PEG remains relatively secure due to Public Act-95 150. It is the framework that ensures every Connecticut town has some form of Public, Education, Government access television based on the reasonable needs of the community in return for use by Cable providers of public rights-of-way. Funds, averaging $9 to $12 annually, are pass-through dollars invoiced by Cable TV and IPTV Providers.
Since this democracy experiment began, the landscape has changed. Among the changes are the proliferation of Satellite TV subscribers and Cable TV cord-cutters. Satellite TV is a different transmission infrastructure which circumvents physical land-based construction, while cord-cutters use the poles and cables providing Internet transmission to the home for content delivery.
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, i.e., population, budget, staff experience, and perceived value.
In Wallingford, users are discovering that the tools & stage can be employed 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, interests and actions of the community.
Documentary on history and ideology of Public Access in the United States.
For more on the history of Community TV go here.