Facelift in progress for FACT headquarters

Renovation to create a more productive environment for local access TV station

BELLOWS FALLS — Falls Area Community Television (FACT) is getting a new look and better functionality, thanks to the 5 percent franchise fees cable towns collect and earmark for public access television.

Executive Director Jacob Stradling said the renovations will bring “greater appeal from the door. It wasn't immediately clear (we are) a TV station.”

Renovations are budgeted at around $26,000, Stradling said, but the cost might push $35,000. Funding comes from donations and cable provider franchise fees.

Stradling said the biggest change will be in separating the studio, where shows are taped, from the control room.

“I used to have to turn off my phone during a show, and I couldn't really get any work done,” Stradling said.

The control room now will be separated from the studio by a window, and Stradling will be able to conduct business even as a show is being produced.

He said he really wanted to change how people view the station.

“We're also creating a waiting area where people will be able to come in and browse the Internet or watch our shows,” Stradling said. “We want more people to come in and visit.”

He said visitors will have their choice of flat screens to view programming. “We're going to have TVs all over the place.”

Stradling said he wants and expects the waiting area to have new furniture in a comfortable setting. He said the waiting room would be akin to a “library setting, where people come to learn, hang out, and learn about media. The more people who come in for whatever reason, the more people I might start a conversation with, give them a tour of the station, and get them interested enough to start their own show.”

The station's state-of-the-art digital editing suite will remain unchanged but for a new coat of paint on the walls and the installation of a new glass door.

He said he would consider the project a success if 10 new people show up to do 10 new shows, and five new people each start producing content remotely.

Stradling said FACT is able to offer these services because “Vermont has the best public access laws in the nation,” mandating cable networks dedicate 5 percent of their subscriber fees towards public access channels.

“The people who have cable (such as Comcast or VTel) pay for it (about $3 a month). This is truly the people's TV. They pay for it. (The funds) can't be used for anything else.”

Stradling cited Springfield (SAPA-TV) as a perfect example: “The allocation fees went into escrow and couldn't be touched. By the time they started their station, they had something like several million (dollars) to work with,” he said.

That arrangement may change, he notes, if regulations governing cable networks change, which the industry supports: Stations want to be more competitive with unregulated satellite TV deliverers.

Stradling said the renovations should be completed by March 1, when the station will start preparing for the second annual No Film Film Festival with a registration deadline of May 29.

Will staff combine a grand opening with the festival's award ceremonies? Possibly. “Stay tuned,” Stradling said.

With renovations in progress, a temporary office has been set up in the same building as the River Valley Credit Union just across the parking lot at 1 Hospital Court, where Stradling can be reached. “Just call the station,” he said.

FACT is continuing basic operations and programming unfazed, is continuing to loan out video equipment, and is continuing to cover municipal meetings, with broadcast on channels 8 and 10 and www.fact8.com.

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