Members of the Cable Access Committee told selectmen last night they want to form a non-profit entity to manage the public access system in Southborough, and that doing so would open the door to more programming for cable access viewers.
“We’ve been talking about this for a while, and now the time is right,” Warren Palley, chairman of the Cable Access Committee, said.
Southborough’s three cable providers, Verizon, Charter, and Comcast, make monthly payments to the town as part of their service agreements. The money must be used for cable access programming or infrastructure. Boston attorney Peter Epstein, who is advising the Cable Access Committee, said as a non-profit, the cable access entity could use that money to create “more programming, and more diverse programming.”
Epstein said one way to do that would be for the non-profit to hire a full or part-time director to do outreach and teach residents how to use the equipment to produce their own cable access shows. “You may want to focus on how to get more young people involved,” Epstein said suggesting the non-profit could reach out to the schools to work on programs.
Southborough has three public access channels – one each for government, education, and general public content. Most would agree that the channels are content-light at this point.
A non-profit cable entity would be separate from the town, which would allow them to make decisions about staff, programming, equipment and other issues with autonomy, Epstein said.
Selectmen expressed concern about having limited control over the cable group in terms of how it spends its money and also in terms of content decisions, noting that some cable access programs may offend some viewers.
“It’s very rare that you have [content] that offends people,” Epstein said. He added that because the entity would operate independently from the municipality, the town would be insulated from content disputes.
“You are giving up some control, but I’m not sure if that’s a bad thing,” he said.
Despite its concerns about lack of control, and about finding enough residents to participate in a non-profit, the board voted unanimously to allow the Cable Access Committee to pursue non-profit status.
What do you think? Do you watch public access television? What sort of programming would you like to see? Would you consider creating your own cable show? Share your thoughts in the comments below.