Area 58 Community Access Media, serving Carver, Plympton, and Halifax, will be holding an Open House from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3. at Area 58’s studio, 96 North Main St., Route 58, North Carver, in the Honey Dew Donuts strip mall located between McDonald’s and CVS, just south of the junction of Route 44.
Visitors can tour the studio, see how a television show is created, find out how they can learn to use a camera or do video-editing themselves, discover the possibility of doing their own TV show, and meet and talk with people who have done just that.
Area 58 Community Access Media is found on channels 13, 14, and 15 on Comcast cable systems in the three towns. Channel 13 is for general public access programming. Channel 14 provides coverage of educational events and meetings and channel 15 does the same for government events and meetings.
The actual joining of the public access TV operations of the three towns was not a spur-of-the-moment decision, but was carefully considered by the towns involved.
The process began in 2012. Rich Goulart, Executive Director of Area 58, recalls how he was asked to develop a 5-year plan for Carver Community Access Television.
“I realized the only way we could truly increase our effectiveness was by partnering with neighboring communities,” he said.
Right around the same time, Halifax and Plympton were coming to the end of their contracts with Comcast and were looking for new solutions.
“I met with their Cable Advisory Committees, and the seeds for the partnership were sown,” Goulart said.
Those seeds came to fruition with the creation of Area 58 Community Access Media in 2015.
The name was chosen because Route 58 runs through all three towns, but Goulart admits with a smile that the station’s logo, featuring someone pointing a camera at a UFO, is a playful reference to the mystique of “Area 51,” a US Air Force facility in Nevada engaged in highly secret research projects which often has been connected to claimed sightings of UFOs.
Ron Clarke, president of the Board of Directors of Area 58, is firm on the operation’s value.
“Area 58 Community Access Media plays a vital role in the life of our towns,” he said, because it “brings us unfiltered coverage of government meetings and local events.”
What’s more, because such coverage is also posted to the station’s YouTube channel, the “ability to be aware of what is happening in our towns” is available to almost everyone, he said.
Clarke also looked forward to developing “more home-grown programs,” that is, ones produced by residents of the towns, a desire echoed by Larry Erickson, the station’s Program Manager.
“Channels 14 and 15 carry information an informed citizenry needs to have about local government,” Erickson said, “but I have to admit that Channel 13, the general access channel, is where my heart is.”
“I just love the idea of people taking the time, using the energy, showing the commitment, to do a television program not out of the desire for fame or for money but out of the love of the topic or the opportunity to be heard or just the fun of being on television, even if it is ‘just’ local access TV.”
Channel 13 now runs programming seven days a week from around 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., all of intending “to make channel 13 a channel worth watching,” Erickson said. “One with enough good stuff to make people pause in their channel-surfing to check out what’s on.”
Much of that programming now comes from public access stations around the country rather than being produced locally, Erickson said, but he added that “we are now running locally-produced shows focused on painting, on political commentary, on on-the-street interviews, on wrestling, on equestrian events; we show local religious services, and more.”
Erickson said his big hope for the Open House is to encourage more residents of Carver, Plympton, and Halifax to do locally-produced shows.
“We’ll provide the equipment, the space, the training, and any assistance you need,” he said.
“You provide the enthusiasm.”
Erickson noted that Ron Clarke called local access media “the last true bastion of free speech” and that “Area 58 is dedicated to maintaining that tradition.”
“Absolutely true,” Erickson said. “And the only thing better than free speech is more free speech.”
“Free speech and an informed public,” Erickson said. “What a wonderful marriage. And it’s organizations like Area 58 Community Access Media that perform the ceremony.”