SALISBURY, Mass. — As unlikely as it may seem, the Salisbury Community TV & Media Center has never had a proper studio to broadcast out of until now.
The cable access TV station’s executive director, Lance Wisniewski, has made use of Town Hall’s Colchester Room for a home base as much as possible for the past 10 years but a glorified broom closet just off the dais was no substitute for a permanent studio.
“We would have difficulty setting up (a set) and breaking it down every time,” Wisniewski said. “It was just too time consuming.”
But the town recently signed a new 10-year contract with Comcast that netted the federal maximum 5 percent (up 1 percent from the prior contract) of the cable company’s Salisbury television revenue.
With additional revenue headed its way, SCTV is expected to take up permanent residency in the former Memorial School, which is scheduled for renovation over the next year.
Reasonably content to wait to occupy his new studio, Wisniewski was more than happy to accept an offer from local businessman Wayne Capolupo to temporarily move into roughly 1,000 square feet of studio space in the rear of the Millennium Engineering warehouse on Elm Street for free.
“Wayne has also given part of the building space to The Pettengill House to store canned goods and this space was used in the past to store books while the library was being built,” Wisniewski said. “So they have had a very civic-minded intention with the space and we are very happy to be the recipients. We needed something just like this.”
Permanent studio or not, Wisniewski and his four part-time employees have been able to put together an impressive list of programming, including the popular “Salisbury Speaks” talk show.
“Mostly we have been geared toward the civic culture of the town,” Wisniewski said. “We are hoping this (studio) allows us to branch out and get more involved.”
The landscape of media and cable access television has been changing greatly over the past 20 years but Wisniewski has been keeping up.
“There have been sort of two models for doing access TV,” Wisniewski said. “The old one is, we teach you how to use the equipment, you come in and run all of the stuff, you get the people to be in your show, etc. That requires a lot of learning. But there is another model that some access centers are starting to adopt where all you have to worry about is the above-the-line part of the job. You get the people you want to talk to and know what they are going to say. You do all of that and we will do the technical part that puts it on the air. I think that is a better model. We need to turn out more product and get people more involved.”
The station has been using social media more often and has also obtained a state-of-the-art digital encoder that can send a high-definition signal back to the studio from just about anywhere. The new encoder is also expected to put SCTV on Facebook and YouTube live in the future.
“This works on Ethernet, Wi-Fi, internet and even cellphones,” Wisniewski said. “So, it is a real boon to our business. We need to be wherever the technology is going.”
The ability to utilize cellphone video can put viewers directly on the scene of live events such as snowstorms.
“We are looking at putting some new cameras and other equipment out on the beach,” Wisniewski said. “We could cover storms, we could see all of that right from there. But nothing beats a human being in their neighborhood talking about what is going on right now. We are trying to tie all of this together.”
Wisniewski said bringing all the pieces of the puzzle together will be easier to do once SCTV is set up in its permanent studio. But for the time being, Capolupo’s space has been a terrific place to work.
“This is a big step forward for us,” Wisniewski said. “We are just getting going but it is a big shot in the arm.”
Information from: The Daily News of Newburyport (Mass.), http://www.newburyportnews.com