Gala Explores Local Public TV’s Past

David Luhn directs a TV show at Fayetteville Open Channel in the late 1980s. Tony Owens runs audio. Luhn was later a manager of FOC.

Event kicks off ‘next 30 years’

By Katherine Shurlds

TFW Contributing Writer

A film about the first 30 years of public access television in Fayetteville will premiere this month, in conjunction with announcements about the future of the current public access provider.
“The Open Channel: Public Access Television and the People Next Door,” a film by Niketa S. Reed of Memphis, will kick off a celebration at the Cosmopolitan Hotel at 7 p.m., Thursday, Jan. 27. Anyone with an interest in local public access television is invited.
The event will also serve as a formal public introduction of Anne Shelley, Community Access Television’s new executive director. In turn, she will announce major changes in public access media in the region.
CAT was recently awarded the city’s contract to train and assist Fayetteville residents in using the city’s public access channel, seen in the Cox System on Channel 218. It has held the contract since 1991.
“Our organization is very excited about energizing class offerings to help Fayetteville residents learn to express themselves on Fayetteville Public Access Television for free,” Shelley said.
However, she said, to meet the demands of citizen media throughout the region, beyond Fayetteville, the organization will need to expand in 2011. That calls for some changes, she said.

Three former access managers — two before they took the job — are shown at a Fayetteville Open Channel picnic in 1990. From left are Renee Tillery, who served as FOC manager in the early '90s; Jim Goodlander, who was the first Access4Fayetteville manager; and Katherine Shurlds, who was FOC manager at the time. In the background, Robin Hinderer mans a camera.

“Well, first of all, we won’t be CAT any longer,” she said. “The name has served us well while television was our only focus, but now there are so many other avenues of expression that we are changing our name and our mission.”
The organization’s board of directors recently approved a new name for the organization, which will be unveiled at the gala. Along with the name change, the nonprofit will open an organizational office, separate from the city of Fayetteville Television Center.
The staff will continue to be the city’s public access television outsourced provider, training and helping Fayetteville residents use the city’s equipment under the city contract, but additional services and programming will be supported through the new office, located on Church Street near Center Street.
“We are looking forward to the gala this month to get us started with a bang,” Shelley said. A new drive for organizational supporters will be introduced at the gala and a silent auction will be conducted to raise money for the newly renamed organization.
The renaming will be the organization’s second name change in 20 years. Fayetteville Open Channel held the contract with Warner Cable Co. until 1991, when Warner turned that responsibility over to the city of Fayetteville. Access 4 Fayetteville received the new contract with the city. Its name was soon changed to Community Access Television, known as CAT.
“We have two reasons for changing the name,” Shelley said. “First, video media is no longer about communicating only on television. Second, our organization will no longer be solely focused on being the city’s public access television provider. Our new name recognizes our new vision and the many avenues open to those who want to communicate. We will be here to help them learn to do it better.”
Reed said she was interested in documenting the history of Fayetteville’s public access television providers.

Tony Owens, Fayetteville Open Channel production assistant, adjusts lights in the studio for "Fayetteville Live," a show featuring local talent. In the background are Charlie Alison, George Bartsch and Brian Shipman prepare for the show.

“In other places, it’s a free speech platform in decline,” Reed said. “On a national level, it has a reputation for airing amateurish and eccentric programming. But in this city, it refuses to die.”
Reed shares clips from long-standing shows and historical programming that has aired on Fayetteville public access, along with interviews with seven community producers from different walks of life. To see some scenes from the film, visit Reed’s website:
“The Open Channel” is Reed’s master thesis film and first solo project. A freelance journalist, she is a recent graduate of the Walter J. Lemke Department of Journalism, Fulbright College, University of Arkansas.
Reed earned her bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Memphis in 2005 and has a background in nonprofit organization work with at-risk youth. Born and raised in Peoria, Ill., she grew up in the Midwest, which is the focus of her new documentary film project “The All-American City.”

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