New Studio Puts Public Access Television Back On Air In Long Beach

 

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Locals create their own programming at the growing PADNET studio located inside the Long Beach Community Action Partnership offices. Photos by LBCAP staff.

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The future of Long Beach public access television is currently an empty, concrete room littered with children’s art, murals and a makeshift talk-show set. No cameras, lighting or anything else that suggests this room at the Community Action Partnership offices in Long Beach will soon be transformed into the home of Public Access Digital Network’s studio and state-of-the-art television production facility.

But Long Beach Community Foundation President and CEO James Worsham, sees this dressed-down foundation as only the start of something much bigger.

“If you build it, they will come,” he says.

After the ground breaking ceremony Wednesday—which marks the start of construction on the new, high-definition studio—Worsham knows that this modest room will become home to Long Beach’s public access renaissance, one that is magnet for talent, creativity and potentially a source of revenue for the city. 

Long Beach, like other cities in the county, was forced to cut public access television in 2009 due to a shift in cable company requirements that left public access with little of the funding needed to cover operational costs.

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Worsham spearheaded an effort to remedy that issue and ultimately secured a $325,000 grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation along with matching contributions from the city’s PEG (Public, Education, Government) fund, giving LBCF and LBCAP the means to create Public Access Digital Network (PADNET) and revive public access TV in Long Beach.

This underscores an important point for Darick Simpson, executive director at LBCAP—which in conjunction with LBCF will manage the studio—the city will have a voice again.

“Unfortunately, when you see Long Beach on the networks it’s all murder and mayhem,” Simpson says. “There’s a lot of good that goes on in this city and we felt like PADNET could be a voice from a digital media perspective to show that.”

The station also represents opportunity. The high dollar figure and competition for network airtime has effectively locked out the vast majority of Americans from broadcasting their own content. PADNET will help to erode that barrier for Long Beach residents looking to express themselves.

“Public access is kind of like low-income housing,” Worsham says. “There are some people who are shut out of a market just because of their backgrounds or economic situations. This provides an opportunity for people to tell their story.”

The creation of PADNET not only affords the community a platform for dissemination, but also the training required to produce quality programming. Nominally priced courses in Final Cut video editing software and production techniques taught by professionals are required for certification to use the studio with the proceeds funding PADNET’s future.

Simpson says that this economical certification process should be an appealing aspect of the project considering many local schools are dropping similar courses due to budget cuts. The professional atmosphere present at the studio will also provide valuable, professional experience for their patrons.

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LBCAP Executive Director Darick Simpson gets in front of the camera. 

“We’ve created an environment that’s conducive to any Fortune 500 company representative or anyone coming in here,” Simpson says. “They’ve got a quality service, quality equipment and they can produce a quality content based on their own initiative.”

With construction set to conclude in December, the challenge now is to get the word out to community that local access TV is back and open for business. Social media campaigns and orientations on how to attain membership are just a few of the avenues being used by LBCAP to inform the public. Having user-submitted programming currently airing for a few hours a day also helps.

But the hope is that when the studio is fully operational in January, there won’t be a shortage of locally produced HD content available for live viewing or on-demand streaming via the PADNET website. The station will be broadcast in standard definition on Verizon (channel 41) and Charter (channel 32) until both companies allocate an HD channel for the programming.

Despite the return of local access TV, Long Beach remains a bit of an enigma as it is home to nearly half a million people yet lacks a network presence enjoyed by most cities the same size. Being nestled deep in the shadow of a media mecca like Los Angeles hasn’t helped matters according to Worsham. However, in addition to showcasing the interests and talents of people in the city, Worsham hopes that PADNET might eventually become a way to break that trend.

“Long beach has so much to offer that people don’t know about,“ Worsham said. “And, at the end of five years, if we can look back and say we attracted one big media arts company to come to Long Beach, that would be a homerun in my book.”

PADNET’s studio is located at 3012 Long Beach Blvd. The groundbreaking ceremony will take place Wednesday October 24 at 10AM. Information about membership, class schedules and other PADNET news is available at the LBCAP website.




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