Community television will soon make its debut in Hamtramck

By Alan Madlane
Hamtramck is getting a new local public access TV station. Greg Kirchner over at the Hamtramck Public Library is in on the creation of said station. We emailed him some questions about it, and he emailed back some great answers.
Here they are.

The Review: Why a television station now for Hamtramck? Is this a first for the city, or not?

Greg Kirchner: Why not? At one time, the city had a daily newspaper (Polish Daily News), two or three weekly newspapers, and also daily radio programs. As time passed, they all went away, except for The Review.
Hamtramck needs a mass media outlet that can get information to its residents on a daily basis. I do not remember any TV stations operating from Hamtramck with local news, or one providing access to local organizations or government institutions.
Any TV outlet needs a wider financial support base. Only a small-scale broadcasting system, such as one like we are setting up, can accomplish that goal.

The Review: Why do it through the library? Will you have your own area or spare room there to store equipment, edit pieces, etc.?

Kirchner: The library started an audio-visual department in 1998. It operated with a single Hi-8 video camera and a couple of VCRs.
By 2010, we started using a computer to edit video. In 2021, when the ARPA grants became available, the library decided to apply, with the intent to expand the audio-visual department, and to utilize Hamtramck’s government channel 12 for more than just council meetings (which aired a two-hour broadcast twice a month).
When the city decided not to share the channel, efforts were made to secure another channel for local broadcasts.
After several meetings with Comcast, we finally received the rights to use channel 19. We do not have the space, or money, to build a large studio or a sound stage. Maybe someday.
We do have much more equipment to record and edit footage, and then broadcast it later from computer files. We will also find a corner to set up a green screen and a news desk for daily informational service. Eventually, we intend to broadcast 24 hours per day.

The Review: Can you tell us more about the process of getting to use channel 19?

Kirchner: Comcast channel 19 is an educational channel. It was not being used currently, and by us making a commitment to provide content of at least eight hours per day, Comcast agreed to assign it to our library as a community broadcast channel.
Every few years — last time, it happened during the Obama Presidency — the federal government provides grants totaling $250,000,000, including up to $1,000,000 for over-the-air community broadcasting stations on an FCC assigned frequency.
With the experience we gain broadcasting cable channel, we might be ready to take advantage when these grants become available again.

The Review: Besides basic community info, what else might you show on the channel? Will you have, for example, live music, or theatrical performances, or teleplays?

Kirchner: Some of the content we would like to broadcast includes: council meeting highlights; commission meeting highlights; library programs for adults and for children; story times for young kids; events sponsored by local organizations.
Also, school events; sports events; social gatherings; informational videos prepared by governmental entities; opinions expressed by residents and business owners; debates and discussions on local issues; performances by local musicians and artists.
Additionally, one or more game show(s); local news; a calendar of events; speeches by political leaders; lectures by intellectual personalities; interviews with both locals and visitors; and more.

The Review: What will be the focus of the station as it presumably grows a bit of audience, moving forward? Any plans to expand it in any way, and if so, into what areas?

Kirchner: The focus will be to serve as a communication hub for our community; to promote Hamtramck; to bridge the divide between different ethnic groups; and to start a dialogue between residents with wide spectrum of opinions and habits.
It is difficult to predict how successful our efforts will become, but we (feel that we) need to try. In many ways, we are not so different, and finding common interests might bring us closer together.

The Review: Feel free to add anything else that you’d like to to the discussion.

Kirchner: It is our hope that we can develop a close cooperation between the city’s only weekly newspaper and our broadcasts. We would like to list a schedule of programs for the coming week in The Review, since there will be no printed TV guide for our station.
We would also like to share content and resources on file. In time, it is my hope that a community group will be formed — to serve in an advisory capacity at first, and then, in the future, to branch off from the library as a fully-fledged broadcasting network.
As we get started, our signal will be available to about five million cable subscribers in the Southeast Michigan area, with the possibility to expand nationwide to 21.5 million Comcast subscribers.
We hope, someday, to develop cooperation with other national networks to promote Hamtramck worldwide. It will take a while to develop quality programing. I hope we will succeed.

In a June 14 update to this interview, via email, Mr. Kirchner mentioned a few updates:
o The fiber optic dedicated line has now been built up to a point reaching as far as the library building itself.
o The junction box that allows connection to the Comcast network has been installed inside the library.
o On June 9, a Comcast technician picked up the new station’s signal encoder, which will now be programmed, returned and connected to the network by a scheduled date of June 23.
o Once the system is activated, the staff will begin a week or two of beta testing the equipment and then, after that, some time early in July and assuming everything functions correctly during those tests, then the station shall go live.
Posted June 17, 2022

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