Evanstonians are debating how much taxpayers should spend on public access television as the city wrestles with a $9.5 million budget deficit.

But what do we get for the annual investment of $348,000 in franchise fee revenue and another $90,000 in capital equipment funding?

Here’s a report from several hours spent watching public access Channel 6 this week.

Evanstonians are debating how much taxpayers should spend on public access television as the city wrestles with a $9.5 million budget deficit.

But what do we get for the annual investment of $348,000 in franchise fee revenue and another $90,000 in capital equipment funding?

Here’s a report from several hours spent watching public access Channel 6 this week.

Most hours of the public access channel day — over 60 percent of the total — are filled with a rotating series of graphics promoting the Evanston Community Media Center or a community event, with music playing in the background.

On weekdays, local video productions start airing at 4 p.m., and if you tuned in at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday you’d see “Forever Friends,” described as “a teen soap opera” telling “the continuing saga of misfit children dealing with problems in a group home.”

The show is produced by Tricia Edwards, the most prolific community media center producer, with five programs now running. Her shows include another children’s soap opera, reading and poetry shows for children and a show that presents tapes of Sunday morning worship services from the Faith Temple Church of God.

At least five other religious shows are running on the channel — “Faith Temple Presents,” “First United Methodist Services,” Living Hope of Calvary Church,” “Prayer Garden” and “YHWH and Yeshua Speak.”

Ethnic programming forms another major public access genre. If you’d tuned in at 6 p.m. on Monday, you would have seen “Haiti Verite,” which airs in Haitian Creole. Others ethnic shows include “Video Creole,” “Chicayiti TV,” “ConversAsians” and “Croatian Perspective.”

The studio interview show is another staple of public access. On this month’s “Good to Know” program, which aired at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, host Ilham Algayed, a pediatrician at NorthShore University Health System, interviewed dietician Danielle Geneze about health eating habits.

Roughly a dozen talks shows fill out the public access schedule. 

With only about 25 hours of new programming produced per month — or a little more than one day’s worth — reruns play a huge role in the public access schedule. This Wednesday’s broadcast of “Keeping the Beat” at 8 p.m. featured an interview with the author of “new” a book on African drumming. The show was recorded back in 2007. 

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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4 Comments

  1. so what’s your point?
    so what’s your point? i see good content that is both informing us and is developing us and our community as content creators. you will see this increase as we move to live internet streams and as fewer people are afraid of technology in general. we could never dream of this without a media center.

    in your article you’re only talking about channel 6, public access. there are 3 other channels, government, school district 65, and evanston township high school. perhaps you can critique the content on those channels for us?

    1. Critique?
      Hi Stel,

      I was not trying to critique the programming on Channel 6, just provide an illustrated description of it. I believe many Evanstonians are not familiar with what programing is on the channel because they never watch it.

      Do you feel criticized by the story? How so?

      I didn’t think the programming on the government and educational access channels needed to be described. What more can you say about live and taped gavel-to-gavel coverage of public meetings except that it’s there?

      — Bill

  2. Can’t agree on the “good content”
    A three-year-old show about a book on drumming? Lots of interview/talking head programs? A continuing series on “misfit children” in a group home? (Great message there.) Lots of religious programming offered free of charge?

    I’ve seen goofballs talking about their cars or sports. What a waste of public funds.

    Only one day’s worth of programming produced a month…for almost $440,000 year? That’s a very high price per hour.

    Sorry to disagree but I do not see that Channel 6 provides programs with “good content.” From this article and my own observations for more than 10 years, the programming is paltry and weak. Assertions that good content “will increase when…” do not justify further funding at this level.

    I support cutting all funding to ECMC except what is necessary to provide government meetings. There is no need to spend public funds for any other programs. Run the Community Calendar and community information at all other times. If anyone wants to put content on the channel, use a handheld video camera and pay for the air time to show it.

    If the public channels have value, sell the air time and put all of the money toward the pension debt. We can’t joke any more about spending this kind of money for what we get.

  3. good taste is subjective
    Arguments about content are subjective at best. What is important or interesting to one is not necessarily so for another. The issue should be about the quantity or percentage of airtime being utilized for original programming.

    If 60% of airtime is being used as a message board, then I would agree that we could do better in our ROI.

    I would guess that a producer could put their content on file sharing sites such as YouTube and connect with a far more diverse and expanded audience than what the ECMC can provide.

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