Public access TV showcases local celebrities, broad viewpoints

By: Victoria Mitchell | Royal Oak Review | Published February 23, 2015

 Program Coordinator Kevin Eckert and Outreach Coordinator Patty Brown demonstrate one of the many ways the CMNtv studio can be used. CMNtv has a prop room, which allows for the creation of various sets.

Program Coordinator Kevin Eckert and Outreach Coordinator Patty Brown demonstrate one of the many ways the CMNtv studio can be used. CMNtv has a prop room, which allows for the creation of various sets.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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OAKLAND COUNTY — Longtime Royal Oak resident Ernie Misch is a local celebrity to those who follow his public access television shows.

He hosts three series consisting of about 35-40 programs each, totalling about 120 programs, with the assistance of CMNtv.

By tuning in to WOW! or Comcast xFinity channel 18, residents of participating communities may watch “So Far, Safari,” “Every Thing Great Lakes,” and “Great Waters Wonderland.”

Misch said his experience with CMNtv has been rewarding.

“You have a lot of freedom to be creative, and you’re able to fully utilize the very professional equipment and services and guidance from the staff,” he said.

For $25 or less, residents of participating communities can be stars, too. Whether participants have interests and aspirations of being in front of the camera or behind the scenes, the public access facility’s resources are available.

People living in Auburn Hills, Berkley, Oakland Township, Rochester, Royal Oak and Troy are eligible to become members of CMNtv and utilize its training, equipment and studios at its Troy headquarters. Charges for participating community residents range from free to a nominal charge of $25.

The six participating communities provide funding directly to CMNtv (Community Media Network Public Access TV).

Nonresident cities, which may also use the same resources for an increased fee, include Clawson, Ferndale, Huntington Woods, Pleasant Ridge and Rochester Hills.

Fees for nonresidents range from $50-$200.

CMNtv Executive Director Chris Weagel said that for these fees, residents may receive complete training on the equipment ranging from cameras to field and post-production. Equipment rental includes different camera equipment packages, lights, microphones and studio rental, including the facility’s main studio and editing suite. Participating community residents also receive free facility use and channel playback for their programming.

“You can walk in with nothing and all the tools are here,” Weagel said.

Weagel said residents have utilized the public access television services for many purposes, including broadcasting political candidate forums, talk shows, community events and high school sports.

CMNtv also contracts its services and produces governmental programming for Oakland Township and the city of Rochester.

Weagle said the core mission of CMNtv is to give access to the equipment and channel to residents of the participating cities.

“The cable companies came in, and they were essentially an authorized monopoly … so this was to say, ‘OK, well, in exchange for that, we’ll give the citizens access to education about the equipment and access to a channel where they can have their point of view heard,’” Weagel said. “And we facilitate that.”

CMNtv’s primary funding source comes from franchise fees that cable companies pay to cities.

Along with providing community broadcasting opportunities, CMNtv operates with a staff of five employees who provide coverage of community events and local sports. The staff edits and broadcasts its shows on channel 18 and online at www.cmntv.org.

The station also broadcasts a media board during late-night hours showing local events, PSAs for local organizations and short video news-brief segments on events and activities occurring within funding cities. CMNtv’s remote production truck provides coverage of funding cities’ school sports, graduations and concerts, civic events, symphony orchestra concerts and seasonal activities.

“It’s all completely random,” Weagel said. “It’s all over the map.”

Weagel said the programming also represents a wide spectrum of viewpoints.

Really, he said, the only guidelines are no commercials or programs asking for money, and no programs that violate what the U.S. Supreme Court deems obscene.

“The idea is that every conceivable viewpoint gets a chance to talk about whatever they want to talk about,” Weagel said. “It’s all on a first-come, first-served basis.”

The channel is free of editors, censors, government or corporate control, which allows citizens to speak their minds on any topic.

Weagel said everyone is guaranteed one time slot, and if the contributor keeps producing shows, they may keep their existing air time.

Programming also streams live on CMNTV.org, and the website shows archived programming like the Berkley Holiday Lights Parade and the Rochester Fire & Ice Festival.

CMNtv Outreach Coordinator Patty Brown works at the station and spends time in front of the camera.

Brown, along with fellow friend and resident Paula Messner, broadcasts a weekly show, “Chatty Patty Paula Walla Talk Talk Show” about anything and everything from the Academy Awards to a Royal Oak concert or dining experience. They also provide insights into their own lives.

Another popular program shown on CMNtv is “Living Well Naturally” with Royal Oak doctor Anna Saylor.

Anyone interested in utilizing the CMNtv facilities must register for an orientation session before deciding which classes to take. Rolling workshops from basic to in-depth knowledge may be registered for via telephone at (248) 589-7778, in person or online at www.cmntv.org. A copy of a valid driver’s license or Michigan state identification card is required. A minimum of 24 hours notice is required to attend.

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