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Column: CATV strengthens communities, democracy

  • Hartford Selectboard member Alan Johnson raises his hand to be recognized in the chamber by chair Dan Fraser while meeting remotely as CATV Tech Coordinator Thomas Bishop watches in White River Junction, Vt., on March 25, 2020. Changes to the state's Open Meeting Law allow for boards and commissions to meet from different locations due to COVID-19 concerns. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to

For the Valley News
Published: 6/23/2020 10:20:13 PM
Modified: 6/23/2020 10:20:12 PM

Posting on social media may help us foster awareness, but it often falls short because we can be in an “affirmation loop,” connecting only with like-minded people. This communication loop weakens the quality of a conversation around an issue, diminishing the chance for change. We need communication tools that help us and our neighbors uncover and examine different views about issues we face. When we do this, we learn, we educate. We find solutions. We improve our communities.

This is why Community Access Television has existed these past 27 years — to provide you with a platform for local, meaningful conversation, debate and education, a platform to voice your passions. CATV provides cable TV and internet distribution platforms that are locally focused to get your information to your neighbors who may not know about it, or who may have different views. Communicating locally effects real changes at the local and state level. This vital, independent work strengthens our democracy.

CATV is almost entirely funded by cable subscriber fees, not by taxpayer dollars. If you are a Comcast or VTel subscriber, look closely at your monthly bill and you will see that a small percentage goes to support “PEG” — public, educational and governmental access channel fees. That’s us. Being funded this way takes away the need to fundraise so local media centers can work without bias while applying all our energies to bringing the community varied local content.

Lebanon’s decision to pull out of CATV hurts us all. Lebanon’s cable subscriber dollars didn’t just cover the cost of recording a meeting. Those dollars helped pay rent, pay salaries, cover equipment, offer community media skill training, and strengthen us as a community by recording and airing all the community shows that are important to us, such as graduations, school board meetings, local political discussions, health and environmental education, etc.

And so with your help, we pivot. First let me thank each of our other four town managers for their immediate and generous words of support, gratitude and commitment to CATV. We have cinched our expense belt tightly and have decided to move the CATV offices and studio to reduce expenses further. Because community stakeholders value CATV’s mission, we are close to securing an outstanding location that will provide critical financial relief and benefit the youth and community at large in the Upper Valley. But because of Lebanon’s sudden defunding, we are not able to close the financial gap without hardship.

It’s our hope you value our services and our existence as an independent media center enough to make a donation to CATV, even a small amount. The need is real. Help us to get through the pandemic, as we will help you. We invite you to watch our channels on cable or the internet, to create a show, to use equipment or benefit from media training — all to encourage diverse and meaningful conversations that spark societal and system changes. Democracy succeeds when our citizens are informed and engaged. We honor your voice, your media and your community.

Peggy Allen, of White River Junction, chairs the Community Access Television board of directors.

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