The agency that ran public access television in Schenectady for decades is back.
SACC-TV, which gave up control to a Proctors entity in 2010, is now open again, with a recording studio, equipment and editing classes.
The dissolution of SACC-TV and the creation of Open Stage Media at Proctors was controversial at the time, with some longtime contributors and board members vehemently opposed.
Their worst fears were realized when Open Stage Media stopped accepting VHS tapes, requiring that every contributor turn in shows on DVD or upload them from a computer.
That required costly new equipment, and some regular contributors had difficulty, especially at first.
They also had to have their own crews to film their shows at the Open Stage Media studio — a big change from SACC-TV, where the agency provided the crew. And they had to make videos for public service announcements, instead of simply handing a written note to SACC.
“You had to have a computer, Powerpoint, Photoshop,” SACC Board Secretary Anneke Bull said. “That’s not what’s on every desk in Schenectady. That’s not the picture of the city or the county.”
Open Stage Media now makes some public service announcements from written notes and helps those who do not have their own film crew.
But some contributors are still frustrated by the technical requirements.
Shawn Panella turned to SACC after his show was rejected from Open Stage Media. He was told that his DVD was unreadable.
At SACC, new organizer Randall Hogue plans to figure out why the DVD didn’t work and burn the show to a new DVD in the correct format.
Bull said SACC had to find a way to get Panella back on the air.
“It is the old SACC,” she said, describing how Panella used to do shows when SACC ran the public access channel.
“He needs our help. We should help him,” she said. “It is really that [at] SACC, the mission is to help people produce programs for public access. I always felt public access was the essence of democracy.”
SACC is trying to get those frustrated contributors back by offering its facilities and equipment for free. Once a show is produced, SACC brings it to Open Stage Media to be shown on the public access channel.
“Right now, we want to prime the pump and get it flowing again,” Hogue said. “We’re finding a lot of people are getting discouraged from public access.”
Eventually, he said, the agency will have to charge for some services. Although overhead is low, the rent for the 34 Jay St. studio is $500 a month. At some point, SACC needs to make at least that much to break even.
Charging for studio time might be difficult. Open Stage Media offers free studio space and free training, Proctors CEO Philip Morris said.
He said he hasn’t heard any complaints from those trying to get their shows on public access.
“Absolutely not,” he said, adding that Open Stage Media can’t reject shows on content, as long as they are delivered on DVD or by computer upload.
“It doesn’t matter what the quality is, people can bring in what they want,” he said.
Hogue is critical of Open Stage Media, saying that Proctors is too close to Mayor Gary McCarthy. He said the public access channel is clearly biased toward McCarthy because of that relationship.
During the mayoral election last year, Hogue said, the government channel seemed to be a constant advertisement for McCarthy.
“It seemed the city and Gary McCarthy in particular were very common on public access,” he said. “Every day you would see Gary McCarthy Paves The City. Gary McCarthy On A Firetruck. Gary McCarthy Keys To Homes. I would say it’s a little one-sided.”
Morris said the criticism was silly.
“It just so happened Gary was mayor,” he said. “That’s sort of the way it works. If you’re mayor, you get to announce things.”
But, he said, McCarthy’s opponent, Roger Hull, was welcome to run his own shows — and he did submit at least one, which Open Stage Media played on the channel.
Hogue isn’t convinced.
“We want to provide an alternative,” he said.
The studio is at his office, Best Web Design Deals, which he said allows SACC to keep the studio open without paying a director to run it.
“We’re here working all the time,” he said. “So it’s easy to schedule shows.”
Those who want to use the studio should call ahead to reserve a time at 831-9145.