Northern Berkshire TV settles into new home
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NORTH ADAMS — After 20 years of growth and trying to keep up with technological advancements, the Northern Berkshire Community Television Corp. has moved into new quarters on Union Street with all-new production and broadcasting equipment.
The move coincided with the start of a new 10-year contract with Time Warner Cable, which provided a grant of $248,000 toward the purchase of brand new broadcasting equipment, including four new cameras, video editing computers, a control board and audio equipment, bringing the non-profit into the modern world of digital broadcasting in high definition with a 16:9 aspect ratio.
After nearly 20 years in Heritage Park, the operation was getting a bit cramped. So when the city notified NBCTC that they would have to vacate to accommodate redevelopment of the park, Executive Director Dave Fabiano saw it as an opportunity.
In March NBCTC opened its new office and studio space at the corner of Union and Canal streets, in space built in the late 1800s, once operated by the Windsor Mill and most recently occupied by Gateway Chevrolet.
Today, the former showroom serves as a reception area, with a new wall separating the area from the spacious new studio with a connected control room. The former sales offices serve as video editing suites. There is a storage room/back up studio, and a small broadcast booth used for the new WMNB 107.1 low-power radio station.
NBCTC bought the building to avoid ongoing rent payments and to be sure the investment in renovations would pay off over a longer term.
Fabiano said the renovations included new HVAC, a new sprinkler system, and an upgraded electrical system. The space also had to be made handicapped accessible.
The cost of the building was about $250,000, and the cost of the renovation was about $450,000, Fabiano said. The building purchase was complete in the fall of 2014, and renovation work started in the summer of 2015.
The result was a facility that is designed to be conducive to producing and airing video content.
"It's a much nicer space and we were able to design it just like we needed it," Fabiano said. "And the quality of picture that comes out of here is much improved."
Fabiano explained that Time Warner Cable provides 4 percent of its revenue from North Adams, Clarksburg, Cheshire and Adams to NBCTC for operating and capital expenses, which comes to roughly $300,000 annually, some of which the organization "squirreled away" for just such an occasion.
With four paid staff members and about 50 volunteers, NBCTC broadcasts on three stations with Time Warner Cable on channels 15, 16 and 17. It airs a variety of shows produced locally along with video coverage of city council and other city board meetings, along with local sporting events and community events.
Also part of the lineup is "Democracy Now!" and a live feed from the Massachusetts State House.
There is also locally produced religious programming, some music shows and several call-in shows, including "Corner Office," a once-a-month show hosted by North Adams Mayor Richard Alcombright.
Alcombright said his show has been on for about six years and usually features a guest appearance by local folks and some discussion of local happenings. People can call in during the show, but rarely do, he noted.
"We try to keep the show fairly casual," he said. "I just take off the tie and talk about things."
Alcombright said the cable access station is important to the community.
"I think the impact is huge," he said. "The cable company tells us that more people use and watch [NBCTC] more than in many of their other markets. And people around here like to watch cable access. That tells me that Dave and his team bring us stuff people want to watch."
Even more important is their coverage of city government, Alcombright said.
"The fact that they're able to pick that up live is really important," he said. "It gives people the opportunity to see how the process works."
Fabiano said NBCTC is a volunteer-based non-profit organization with a mission to facilitate and encourage community involvement in producing local video shows through free access to the facilities and the equipment. He said anyone with an idea can come in and see what it would take to produce the concept.
If the show needs staffing, NBCTC can provide volunteers to help run the equipment. Or the producers can bring in their own team, who can be trained on the equipment if needed.
"There are very few outlets for the media to cover local events," Fabiano said, noting that commercial TV stations rarely send news teams into the area.
"You're not going to get television stations in Albany to cover the Fall Foliage Parade, for example, or a mayoral election debate. Since ratings have nothing to do with what we broadcast, it's hard to replicate that in any other medium."
He said he would love to see more folks coming in to produce local content.
"Whatever interests you, you can come in here and do it," Fabiano said.
What to watch::
NBCTC's annual fund raising telethon starts at 10 a.m. on Saturday, June 25, broadcast live on Channel 15. "A Musical Marathon" runs until 9 p.m. and features John Hill; Juliet Wright; excerpts of an autobiographical musical by Christa Jan Ryan titled "Good God! WHY?"; the Matchstick Architects; the JP Murphy Band; and Jerry Tyler.
For more information, call 413-663-9600 or visit NBCTC.org