Cable Channel 14, where photographs from around town have replaced its usual shows in the past few months, is scheduled to roll out a range of new community programming as early as next month.
“We want this station to feel like our local community station,” said Dan Baumgarten, executive director of Community-Minded Enterprises.
The local nonprofit, with technical help from KSPS public television, is preparing to move the station into the remodeled Saranac Hotel downtown.
Last year, the channel’s mix of local and educational programming almost went dark for good after federal legislation no longer compelled Comcast to provide space for local television production.
Seeing an opportunity to use its grant-writing expertise and create a new venue for local organizations to reach a wider audience, Community-Minded Enterprises successfully lobbied for $50,000 in operating funds from the city of Spokane in December to keep the channel on the air. It also received $200,000 in capital from the city’s cable-franchise negotiations.
Since then the channel has secured production space, hired a general manager and heard ideas from hundreds of people on what they’d like to watch in the future.
“There’s plenty of room 24/7 for a lot of different types of programming,” Baumgarten said.
Footage from local festivals, recordings of numerous speakers who come through Spokane-area colleges, as well as locally produced shows on health, youth and senior issues are among the broad swath of public interests the group aims to include.
“There are not a lot of models for this” nationally, said First Presbyterian Church Associate Pastor Kevin Finch, who served on a transition board for the channel.
By setting up a yet-to-be-formed board to oversee content and establishing certain guidelines, Baumgarten has said, the channel will not legally be considered a public forum, which could compel the channel to broadcast programs that may be seen as offensive or lacking public value.
Instead, potential programs will be judged by what they offer the community, with a resulting lineup looking like something between a true public-access channel and a commercial station.
As Finch put it, the board will ask of each program, “How does this build the community?”
One example is religious programming. Instead of familiar televised sermons from one or two impassioned preachers, Finch said he would like to see a service from a different Spokane church broadcast each week, followed by interviews with the congregants about their thoughts on the needs of the community.
A contributing restaurant critic for The Spokesman-Review, Finch also said he’s interested in programs expounding on different elements of Spokane’s culinary scene.
The goal of Channel 14 supporters is to have as much air time as possible filled with shows created by Spokane-area residents. And in the next few months, Community-Minded TV, as the channel is now known, will begin offering people access to the station’s new digital production equipment.
“We plan on setting up a series of classes,” said Jeff Anttila, who was hired as general manager after working at a similar station on Bainbridge Island.
The courses will be modestly priced, and Anttila said they will try to teach new videographers the skills to make high-quality programs.
The training is one of several aspects of the station that its managers hope will bring in grant money to keep the channel on the air in the future.
Community-Minded Enterprises, the group that has taken over the channel, has brought in more than $22 million in grants for an array of nonprofit causes in Spokane over the years.
In addition to requests for funding from cable franchise agreements in Spokane Valley and Spokane County, Baumgarten is optimistic that grants will cover the station’s estimated $435,000 cost for its first year.
“We’ve had some early success,” he said, pointing to $10,000 for the station from a recent $100,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.