New home will be big step up for Community Television for the Southern Berkshires

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LEE -- By next summer, Community Television for the Southern Berkshires expects to be operating from a new $1 million state-of-the-art studio and training facility.

CTSB has hired Betnr Construction of Pittsfield to erect the broadcast complex on a two-acre parcel in the Quarry Hill Business Park off Route 102, just east of its current studios along the state highway. The nonprofit organization plans to relocate no later than June 2014, according to CTSB officials.

First signed on in 1989, CTSB broadcasts government, educational and independently produced programs over three channels on the Time Warner Cable system serving Lee, Lenox, Stockbridge, Great Barrington and Sheffield.

The new community television studios will be outfitted with more than $200,000 worth of high-definition cameras and other equipment that will improve the quality of its in-house productions, CTSB officials said.

"It's not just the equipment, we also will have more space," added CTSB board President Will Ryan. "We don't have the classroom space here ... to train people."

The new 4,000-square-foot studio complex will replace CTSB's current 3,000-square-foot building -- a converted garage -- that it rents across from the former Lee Bowling Lanes. CTSB is funding the project with an $800,000 loan from Lee Bank and $216,000 in capital money from Time Warner. The cable company investment is part of the license agreement the five towns recently renewed with Time Warner to continue servicing the South County communities.

CTSB officials anticipate two decades of savings toward the project and a 5 percent take of Time Warner's television revenue will help pay off the loan in 10, rather than 20 years.

Community leaders welcome the CTSB upgrade, including officials with the Lee Community Development Corp., which oversees the Quarry Hill Business Park.

"They are an integral part of the local media," said CDC President David Bruce. "The business park is about allowing new businesses or existing ones to expand and CTSB fits that plan."

CTSB currently employees three full-time staff members, 12 part-timers and has an annual operating budget of $300,000.

Since CTSB is contractually obligated to broadcast and record the board of selectmen and school committee meetings in the five towns, part-timers are needed to cover the events due to a lack of volunteers, according to station manager Leo Mahoney.

Mahoney hopes the new studio will attract more volunteers -- currently CTSB has 30 -- eliminating the $11,000 yearly cost to pay part-time help.

He noted additional volunteers could result in CTSB resuming live broadcasts of high school sporting events and an increase in other forms of programming.

"Our citizen-led community and cultural stations has a strong following for its variety of talk shows, music, history programs and community event coverage," he said.

CSTB also plans to encourage more independent organizations to learn how to produce their own programming and improve collaboration with area high schools.

"I hope within a year from now to get more high school students in for training," Mahoney said.

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233


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