Pushing for Better Community Access Through Cable TV

April 5, 2018 GMT

TEWKSBURY -- By this summer, Tewksbury residents may be able to sit back and enjoy programming from a community access cable television station.

The Cable Advisory Committee’s February report, which is available on the town website, outlined numerous goals for the town’s own cable access station. The committee visited a number of stations from other communities -- Wilmington Community Television, Reading Community Television, Billerica Access Television and North Andover Community Access Media -- to gauge what would work best in Tewksbury.

Cable Advisory Committee member Donna Higgins has high hopes for a future Tewksbury Community Television (TCTV) studio and said her experience working on this project has been incredible.

“My hopes for the cable TV station is that it brings the community closer together across generations,” she said. “I am so excited for the youth programs that are going to be involved in the studio -- kids are so hungry for something different.”

Higgins said this opportunity to have a tighter and more informed community.

While meetings and events are recorded in town, it’s a one-man show, operated by Joe Dermody.

The next step will be to assemble an interview committee to help in the hiring process for an executive director. A location for the station will also have to be decided on. Board of Selectman Chair Mark Kratman said the goal is to have TCTV up and running by July.

The Cable Advisory Committee held a public workshop and created an online survey last year to understand the community’s interests when it came to programming. Residents reported they wanted to see programming related to school meetings, clubs, political candidates night, youth sports, book clubs, cooking, talk shows and much more.

The committee suggested a location on Main Street, preferably within walking distance to the middle and high schools. They are hoping for a facility between 6,000 to 7,000 square feet that can accommodate two to three studios.

Jayne Wellman Miller, who chairs the committee, said they were impressed by a lot of what they saw at other stations in nearby towns. For example, RCTV has incorporated kitchen studio.

“They can do cooking shows, but also member events,” she said. “It offers so much versatility of function.”

But above all, Miller, the town moderator, hopes the station will help keep the community informed and give residents another opportunity to engage in the town.

Shaun Neville, the executive director at WCTV, said their station offers a variety of programming, but what binds everything together is that it is all Wilmington-based content. Last year alone, the station produced more than 300 pieces of content, which include things like shows, meeting coverage and podcasts.

“It was always a forum for residents to produce programming, to share ideas, to show off some events in town and to just have fun,” Neville said, adding that the station has become ingrained in the community for the past 30 years.

Neville said WCTV supports Tewksbury’s endeavors in launching its own station and looks forward to the potential for some partnerships.

“I think we really have difficulty getting communication out to residents. Right now we televise our meetings and rebroadcast them on YouTube,” Board of Selectman Chair Mark Kratman said. “It’d be nice to have a streaming, constant feed of meetings and special events to get public information our there.”

Joan Unger, who is a member of the Cable Advisory Committee, said she has been advocating for something like this in town for years and is delighted to be on the committee.

“I can just see it being a benefit to so many people, group and organizations,” Unger said. “I very, very much want it to happen.”

Miller said they are looking for interested people to join the Board of Directors for the station, which the committee recommended have up to 11 members.

Follow Kori Tuitt on Twitter @KoriTuitt.