Julienne Turner, MVTV’s new executive director, has spent the last seven months learning about the Island and preparing for license renewal negotiations with Comcast, the Island’s cable provider, which is required to fund MVTV, the Island’s community access television station.
Ms. Turner has completed her research and huddled with consultants, lawyers and with the Cable Advisory Board, which represents the six Island communities in negotiations to hammer out a new 10-year license to replace the agreement, which expires on June 30.
Under the existing agreement, Comcast provides 5 percent of its Island cable TV revenues, historically about $400,000 a year, to fund public, educational and government (PEG) channels 13, 14, and 15 here.
MVTV operations are overseen by a 13-member board of directors, including Denys Wortman, board chairman. Elected members include Ann Bassett, Jack Scanlan (treasurer), Wayne Greenwell and Jonathan Revere. Town-appointed board members are: Francine Kelly (Oak Bluffs), Rob McCarron (Tisbury), Geoffrey Parkhurst (Chilmark), Richard Skidmore (Aquinnah), Gail Tipton (West Tisbury) and Peter Vincent (Edgartown). Bob Tankard is the school superintendent’s appointed representative. The board meets in public session at 4 pm on the first Tuesday of each month at the MVTV facility located between the football field and Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School.
Last week, Ms. Turner took a break from the nuts and bolts of her job to speak with The Times about her vision to expand the nearly eight-year-old broadcast service into something she calls a “media center” to serve diverse Island needs and interests.
“A media center acts as a hub of community information and is proactive about reaching under-served elements of a community, to help get their message out,” she said. “The center must incorporate all the core values of the community.”
Ms. Turner is a 12-year veteran of community access television, most recently as director of Concord, N.H.’s community access system for almost four years. Previously, she worked in community television in Oregon and in Hawaii.
“Media centers are designed to be fluid,” Ms. Turner said. “They aren’t systems as much as a process that changes according to community needs. What works in one town may not work in another. We can refine our specific needs but we need a hub. We’re building a hub of space and people to deliver on the identified needs.”
Ms. Turner also has ideas for using the Internet. “The Internet is obviously growing in influence,” she said. “Anyone can produce a program, put it on YouTube and it will get lost. But a website that operates like another MVTV channel without the cable connection? Our own MV YouTube is accessible by iPhone and laptop. We have a different audience online than on cable. It’s not only generational but younger people feel more comfortable on laptops and iPhones than they do watching TV. The point is to have multiple distribution methods with up-to-date ability to adapt to new ways of electronic distribution of information.”
The outlines of a plan are emerging for Ms. Turner, who wants to create a larger cadre of tech-savvy people who can help community groups produce programming in their own voices. She is working with media classes at the new YMCA and last week hosted a producers’ roundtable at the station. Her priorities are set, based on a just-completed resident survey. The ideas spill out as she discusses the Island’s programming potential.
“Island people want to see a lot more local programming — events, festivals, parades, elections,” she said. “They’ve asked for a video voter guide, municipal information including emergency programming, ten-minute vignettes on town departments and schools, issue-oriented live call-in talk shows.” Video on-demand (VOD) is available on the MVTV website now, but is limited to government meetings.
Ms. Turner is also a realist who knows that MVTV’s cramped quarters adjacent to Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School limit the number of activities, especially without a bathroom. Mr. Wortman has vowed to add a bathroom and expand the facility using $400,000 in Comcast fees squirreled away over a decade.
MVTV’s proposed break-even 2011 expense budget is $461,500, with $305,850 in payroll expenses including salaries. MVTV employs three full-time and one part-time employee. Ms. Turner is paid $75,000 as executive director. MVTV also hires videographers to record town government meetings and events.
The 2011 budget is about 5.7 percent higher than in 2010, the last completed budget year. The budget includes a 45-percent increase in payroll expense. Insurance costs have doubled to about $33,000. Planned capital spending has been reduced 56 percent and nearly $42,000 in video production costs have been eliminated.
Revenue source projections include $456,500 in Comcast fees and $2,500 in membership fees. Membership cost for residents is $25 a year.
Over the next 10 years, MVTV has requested $1,418, 235 in capital funds, including $500,000 in facility expansion costs. The board has set aside just over $400,000 over the past 10 years to defray the facility expansion costs.
Of the remaining $918,000 in capital spending proposed over 10 years, the most significant amount, $357,000, is earmarked to upgrade the six towns’ government facilities and to improve cable casting, video on demand, and web distribution broadcasting tools.
Ongoing license renewal negotiations are expected to provide some portion of the capital requested to be provided by Comcast under the license agreement.
“The MVTV organization is understaffed for a community of this size and projects we are currently doing but it is staffed properly for the space we have,” Ms. Turner said, noting, “We have demand for simultaneously editing of multiple programs, broadcasting a show, hosting training sessions and community group pre-production meetings. The broadcast studio has to function also as a classroom and a board and meeting room.”
As for the future, Ms. Turner said, “We could invest in cameras with 24 frames-per-second capability, boom poles, and lighting. “The opportunities are limitless once we get a strong foundation in place. Especially with the array of talent on this Island.”