Waubonsee Voices

Be a Part of Local Public Access Television 

headshot of Mike Rennels
Mike Rennels

Cable television is known for its wide variety of channel choices. Some transport you to faraway places while others, especially Public Access channels, help you learn more about your own local community. 

The vision of Public Access television featuring locally created programming began to take shape in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Today, after many legislative twists and turns, the concept of non-commercial Public Access television has matured into a worldwide opportunity for localized programming individually serving communities that support such an effort.

In 2002, the communities of North Aurora, Oswego, Plano, Sandwich and Yorkville sought to provide the opportunity for their residents to participate in Access television. Waubonsee Community College joined with those communities to form the Southwest Fox Valley Cable and Telecommunications Consortium (SFVCTC), which negotiated a new franchise with the cable company that included provisions for three Access channels: Public, Educational and Government, or PEG access as it has become known.

PEG Access is funded by cable subscribers, not tax dollars. The participating communities receive a franchise fee from the cable company and provide a portion of that fee to the operation of their PEG channels.

With channels and funding in place, the stage was set to begin PEG programming. In 2003, I was hired to operate the Public and Government channels, collectively known as FVTV (Fox Valley Television), as well as provide training for citizens interested in producing shows. Waubonsee’s Educational Television and Video Production Department would program the Educational Access channel.

By joining the SFVCTC, Waubonsee provided the Consortium communities access to its professional-level television studio, where mass communication students were already learning the craft of video production. In addition, FVTV purchased remote camera equipment, non-linear video editing computers, and playback equipment to program and send the channels to the cable company for distribution.

Training in the use of all this professional video equipment is provided through Waubonsee’s Community Education Department. In four classes, students learn live studio production, remote camera usage, lighting, audio and the basics of digital video editing. Upon completion of the courses, students are certified as Public Access producers, with free access to all of FVTV’s equipment and facilities to produce programming for the Access channels.

FVTV’s programming airs 24 hours a day on Comcast cable. Channel 10 is the Government Access channel, with city council meetings, talk shows featuring local officials, and notices of community events and resources. Channel 17 is FVTV’s Public Access channel, featuring community-produced programs, high school sports, festivals, parades, music performances, cooking programs and any other topics that our Public Access producers want to cover. All of FVTV’s programming is also streamed live on our website, www.FVTV.info.

If you’d like to learn more about FVTV or how you can participate as a Public Access producer, visit our website or watch for Waubonsee’s summer noncredit schedule to arrive in your mailbox in March. The next four certification classes will be offered May 23, 30, June 6 and 13 from noon to 4 p.m.  

FVTV is truly your channel and needs your participation. As our slogan says—FVTV, It’s what YOU make it!  

Mike Rennels is the Public Access Programming Manager at Waubonsee.