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Aug 2003 / media shoegaze :: email this story to a friend

Party Time, Excellent
By Tony Renner

If you're tired of the one-eyed monster in your living room spewing out junk 24/7, here's your chance to do something about it. (No, not throwing a brick through the screen of your television set.) Make your own TV program and submit it to DHTV, Channel 22, the public access cable channel operated by Double Helix.

DHTV DHTV provides education in media literacy and video production, as well as the facilities needed to produce local community programming. Public access programming helps people become effective communicators and empowers them to become effective users of emerging and traditional communications technology.

Double Helix Corporation is the non-profit arts and education organization that operates DHTV. Double Helix is dedicated to community participation and training in and through mass media. Double Helix's values include developing volunteer participation, supporting cultural diversity, promoting local talent and providing a forum for public discourse.

DHTV's public access Channel 22 was established to help meet the communications needs of the St. Louis community. Public access is available on a first-come, non-discriminatory basis. Channel 22 strives for diversity in programs about local people, organizations and institutions.

The people utilizing Channel 22 are exercising their constitutional right to free speech, and DHTV has restrictions only concerning profanity, obscenity, advertising and commercialism, defamatory material against people or groups or other programming inconsistent with federal, state and local laws. The creators of programs are the sole owners of the content of their programs and are solely responsible for any associated liability.

Public access originated with the Federal Cable and Telecommunications Acts of 1984, 1992 and 1996, which permit and encourage local governments to require local cable operators to provide equipment, facilities and channel space for public, educational and government access on local cable systems, as compensation for the cable companies' being able to lay their cable through publicly owned city streets. Charter Communications is the current holder of the cable franchise in the city of St. Louis, and Charter provides support and channel space for DHTV Channel 22.

According to (the website of San Francisco Community Media), the goal of public access is to "create a sort of electronic town square where everyone can be a provider as well as a recipient of information, and where everyone can participate in public debate electronically. Cable companies often argue that access channels do not get ratings the way ESPN gets ratings. That misses the point of the public access channels. Public access channels are meant to allow an electronic community dialogue and an exchange of important local information. There may be a limited number of people interested in any particular dialogue, but the availability of the channels means that there is an opportunity for voices to be heard. As a result, a very typical pattern for a well-supported access channel is that relatively few people will be watching at any particular time, but that over a period of time, a large number of people will tune it to the channel."

Wayne and Garth The most widely known example of public access programming is Saturday Night Live's parody of public access, "Wayne's World." So, yeah, public access can be you and a bud sittin' on a couch in the basement jammin' out the song you just wrote. Public access, though, gives access to the entire local community, including children, the elderly, minorities, the homeless, the disabled, immigrants, artists and others working through non-profit arts and social service organizations, as well as churches, synagogues, neighborhood schools and colleges, neighborhood and citizen special-interest groups, and economic development groups.

Individuals and organizations can get their programming on public access by submitting finished productions to DHTV, or they can hire DHTV to provide technical services. Field production services are offered ranging from $150 per hour for a one-camera shoot to $350 per hour for a three-camera shoot. Professional studio production is also available for $550 per hour. There is a four-hour minimum for all production services.

DHTV also offers public access training classes. The basic class, "So, You Want to be a TV Producer?," covers everything you need to produce a program from the initial proposal to the finished program. The class combines lectures with hands-on experience using Sony TRV 18 cameras and the I-Movie editing system. The cost for two three-hour sessions is $75 per person.

Courses are also offered in audio/graphics, studio camera, host training, field camera and non-linear editing. Cost for these two-hour classes is $35 per person. Graduates of the training classes are eligible to use DHTV's equipment.

For more information, contact Doug Whyte at 314 361-8870 or e-mail

Turn off your TV and get to work making your own public access program. As Wayne would say, "It's excellent!"

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