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IL: Kankakee County tuning in local TV

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Created 03/16/2008 - 11:18am

from: The Daily Journal [1]

Kankakee County tuning in local TV
03/14/2008, 9:37 am

By John Stewart

Anybody can post a video on with a cheap Web cam and an even cheaper microphone.

But not everyone gets on television or can make a video that gets on television. That's because television still has a "mystique," according to Steve Bertrand, assistant director of the Kankakee Public Library.

Although television might be "dying," Bertrand believes there is still something very appealing about saying "I made something, and I got it on TV."

Bertrand is one of more than a dozen Kankakee County people who have spoken up recently in favor of public access television -- TV made by the people for cable television.

According to its proponents, it is good for the people and for their government. But locally, it has been a reality in just the village of Manteno.

Among those interested in establishing public access are seven Kankakee County Board members, who voted last month to tell local cable provider Comcast to make public access available in the area the county is responsible for -- outside the cities and towns. County Board member Ann Bernard said if the county government takes the first step, it could lead to other governments participating.

In Manteno, local programming is found on channel 4 and is created by Village View, a group of 12 volunteers. Village View was started in 1989, according to President Mike Hill. Funded by the village board through the cable television tax, Village View elects its own officers and does all the videotaping and editing.

Village View content ranges from weekly church services and monthly local government meetings to sports and community festivities. The nongovernment or church activities totaled 96 events last year, Hill said. While YouTube may be popular with the Internet-savvy, public access brings school events, including concerts, to those who cannot attend.

A special public hearing about Aqua Illinois taking over the public water supply, a change that had the potential to affect the entire community, was also covered on television -- making government more accessible.

Bertrand said the library could provide video of its public speaker series to public access. An upcoming library expansion will include a lab where local people can learn not only how to surf the Web, but also how to take digital photographs and to share them. He sees a day when lessons will also be taught in making videos.

"Television is old technology," Bertrand said, but "public access isn't. The concept is very new."

Long time coming

Public access has been around since the 1960s, but it wasn't until 1984 that the federal government allowed local governments to require cable companies to provide "public, education and government" (PEG) channels.

In Chicago, the Chicago Access Network (CAN TV) has three cable channels offering community events coverage, Chicago Public School and religious programs and cultural activities.

"PEG access puts the tools for the creation of video programming in people's hands, and it teaches people how to use those tools," wrote Barbara Popovic, CAN TV executive director, in an e-mail. "Whether it's a community-based employment program on Chicago's West Side, a group of suburban seniors talking about issues close to them or a public forum downstate on legislative issues, PEG gives community members the opportunity to use local channels to reach each other, to organize around relevant issues."

Thanks to private funding, there was a weekly news magazine show called Kankakee Valley Primetime in the 1990s on cable in Kankakee County. While not public access, which is government supported, it demonstrated what was possible.

One of the volunteers was Steve Benoit, who is now a communications instructor at Bradley-Bourbonnais Community High School. Benoit said at a County Board committee meeting in January that BBCHS, Kankakee Community College and Olivet Nazarene University all have video capabilities, although there is no outlet for their work. For instance, he said, BBCHS has "thousands" of interesting things going on that could be telecast -- sports, the in-school TV show, movies from the school film festival, and special events such as the conversation, via satellite with NASA astronauts passing overhead.

A community this size without local television is "like being in limbo, all by ourselves," Benoit said.

What is pubic access?

Comcast cable television in Kankakee County includes Channel 19, the regional public access channel with programming ranging from religious to motor sports from the south suburbs.

Channel 16 is the educational access channel offering programming from Governors State University and South Suburban College.

Channel 4 is the government access channel in Kankakee County operated by the city of Kankakee that offers public service announcements. In Manteno, it is operated by Village View.

Source: Comcast

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