By Mai Ling Slaughter
Designing the future of public access television in Lewis County is expected to be a long process, but it’s process area leaders are willing to take on. Almost a dozen LCTV supporters met Monday night and informally decide to continue looking at options for a countywide public access, education and government TV station. “If it’s going to be done, it’s going to take some people willing to step up to the plate,” said Don Mitchell, president of the LCTV board. “People have to be willing to go out and work on it.” But during the brainstorming session, the group concluded the biggest problem the LCTV concept is facing is a lack of money.
Last year, Mitchell visited the Lewis County Commission and the Centralia and Chehalis city council to request that each entity allocate a portion of money to help LCTV get started. Mitchell requested the entities pay accordingly to the amount of cable subscribes within each area, estimated at $12,500 from the county, $20,000 from Chehalis and $37,000 from Centralia. None of the entities seemed opposed to paying for the station – and they actually signed a contract of support last year – but all were unable to make the allocation during the 2000 budget planning process because of monetary constraints. Most of the money would have been used to pay a salary to the station manager, and $25,000 would have gone toward the production costs or a match for any grant money LCTV might receive, Mitchell estimated.
But the group doesn’t have to follow that format to establish management or a government body for the station. LCTV advocates are looking into a number of different options, including making the station private, and acquiring nonprofit status to apply for grants and loans. One option is to use the board, which the state incorporated when the station between CCTV and the Centralia City Council continued to sour almost a year ago.
CCTV, Centralia’s public access television station, was taken off the air in November when it’s contract with the city expired. Although the CCTV board still hopes to acquire a public access television station in the future, many of it’s supporters would prefer to keep the station separate from LCTV, which would focus more on educational and governmental programing. Some CCTV members have said they feared the public access programs would be shown only during late hours, when most of it’s regular viewers are sleeping. But other CCTV members – such as former board president Lee Coumbs – have collaborated with LCTV to use five years of CCTV’s existence as a learning experience. “I know there’s people in the community who would like to see some public access come back to the area,” Mitchell said. At this time, LCTV has not made any formal decisions regarding programing, but would like to focus on education. “The idea would be to get as many people a can and are interested in producing shows,” Mitchell said. The group would like to see some schools get involved with production, and it believes governmental entities would like to use the station to help the community learn about local politics and the government process.
Another goal is to avoid problems with other area media groups. But so far, it has been successful in garnering support from The Chonicle, as well as KELA and KITI radio stations, all of which have representatives with the board. “The medium is something that we need in the area,” Mitchell said. “If it’s done right and financially correct, I think it has a good chance of providing a good source of education and entertainment.”