Public access TV channel due in Baltimore Sept. 6 Cable studio will be at Coppin State

August 16, 1993|By Thomas W. Waldron | Thomas W. Waldron,Staff Writer Staff writer Sandy Banisky contributed to this article.

Gay activists and evangelical preachers. Rock 'n' roll and baby showers.

All could be part of the lineup when Baltimore's public access cable television channel opens for business on Sept. 6.

"It's going to be a potpourri," predicted Phil Sibley, a local producer who plans to air two rock 'n' roll variety programs. He is among a disparate group of would-be producers who want air time for their shows.

Public-access cable television -- which allows citizens to air programs that commercial stations can't produce or aren't interested in producing -- has been a staple in other cities for years.

Its offerings are diverse, ranging from nude talk shows in New York City to a pagan discussion program in suburban Virginia.

Public access became most famous with the movie "Wayne's World," about two rock 'n' roll fans who produced their own program in a suburban basement.

Cable TV companies serving all five counties around Baltimore already have public access stations. Their offerings are eclectic; for example, programs on chiropractic practices and public speaking in Howard County, computers in Carroll, sailing and gospel singing in Arundel.

Baltimore, which has more than 100,000 cable-television subscribers, required public-access channels as part of United Cable's 1984 franchise agreement with City Hall.

Baltimore Cable Access Corp., a nonprofit organization, has contracted with the city to run Channel 42.

A $1.1 million access grant that the city required of its cable operator, United Cable of Baltimore, will pay the costs of the channel. The organization expects to raise money privately as well.

The organization has ordered nearly $200,000 in equipment that will be housed in the television studio of Coppin State College and is expected to be ready for use in mid-October. The equipment, including cameras that can be taken out of the studio, will be available free to people who go through a training session.

Until the equipment is ready, the station will air only videos prepared elsewhere.

There are no rules about content, but shows must meet some technical standards.

"We can't have green people," said Karen Simmons-Beathea, executive director at BCAC. "Unless you're an artist and put green people in your show deliberately."

Greg Prude, co-owner of Harvestime Productions of Baltimore, said his company plans to produce three religious shows, and possibly more, for public-access viewing.

"We want to use it as a vehicle for the African-American community to have a voice," Mr. Prude said. "We think television is a powerful medium."

On Channel 42, it will also be an eclectic one.

One group has inquired about producing a daily local news show.

A gay organization will air a show on gay pride, including features on the AIDS advocacy group known as HERO and the late Howard Ashman, the Baltimore-born lyricist.

Eager producers already have submitted tapes about everything from state parks to home cooking.

One woman even sent in a tape of her baby shower, which features a Lamaze childbirth class.

"She said it was a real educational experience for them," Ms. Simmons-Beathea said.

All the videos stand a good chance of airing, as long as they're competently produced, Ms. Simmons-Beathea said.

"We can't be censors."


The Baltimore Cable Access Corp. at Coppin State College will supervise the programming on the city's public access channel beginning Sept. 6. Would-be producers can take an orientation session at 11 a.m. Saturday at Coppin's Grace Hill Jacobs Building. For more information, call 383-5556.

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