Mt. Blue TV makes upgrade, ready for more local programming

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FARMINGTON — An upgrade to the control room of Mt. Blue TV, community access television in Farmington and Wilton, makes production more efficient and filming shows in-studio easier.

With high-definition cameras but a control room that was still on standard definition, filming at the studio in Merrill Hall at the University of Maine at Farmington was difficult, station director JP Fortier said Monday.

“The studio was not up to the technology,” he said.

Three local shows are still filmed, but processing and editing took more than six hours for each half-hour show, he said.

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What was needed was a high-definition Broadcast Pix at a cost of over $10,000, he said. That was not in the budget so he considered business support and sponsorships. He also decided to contact George Allen and ask Bee Line Cable for a donation, he said.

The company came through and paid the full amount for the upgrade, Fortier said.

Allen was unavailable for comment Monday but recently expressed appreciation for the quality of the local station’s programming to Farmington’s Board of Selectmen.

“JP does a wonderful job,” he said. “What Mt. Blue has done is quite impressive.”

Both Farmington and Wilton have franchise agreements with the Somerset County-based cable company, Fortier said. For the right to run cable lines through these towns, the company provides them the local community access channel.

“As part of the provisions of such a license or franchise agreement, towns may require the cable operator to provide what the Federal Telecommunications Act of 1997 calls ‘public, educational, or government access’ channels on the local channel lineup, for the unrestricted use by citizens, school districts and municipalities,” according to the Mt. Blue TV website.

The cable station provides some funding for the station through the franchise agreement. These are paid by cable customers not the taxpayer, he said. Fortier will present the Mt. Blue TV budget for the upcoming year to Farmington selectmen Tuesday night.

When Fortier started working for Mt. Blue TV in 2000, he was given the space in Merrill Hall and told to start a studio. Some local programming was filmed in-house to air with coverage of local municipal meetings and events. But as the need for a studio upgrade grew, the number of shows dwindled.

Tom Saviello’s “Talkin’ Maine” is filmed every week, the Healthy Community Coalition and Literacy Volunteers also do regular programming, he said.

Half-hour shows like Saviello’s took six to eight hours to prepare and edit. With the new technology, last Friday’s show was shot at 9 a.m. By 1 p.m., it was ready for viewing on the station’s website, www.mtbluetv.org,.

Now there is a better opportunity for local programming. The labor needed is gone, and the station can be more effective, he said. But it also takes people willing to do a show.

The new high-definition switcher is also mobile, which will allow for better coverage of sports and town meetings.

High-definition cameras were repurposed from ones not being used, he said. These feed into the control room where camera angles and production is handled.

“It keeps you on the edge of your seat,” Victor Cormier, a part-time volunteer, said, showing the ability to manage filming of the program from the control room.

Since Cormier started working at the station two years ago, he has found Fortier to be “very progressive” in his efforts to provide quality programming and make the station one of the best community access channels, he said.

The station will be 15 years old in 2015. To supplement the budget, nonprofit and commercial memberships were started earlier this year. That has gone well, Fortier said.

But there is still a need for community support to sponsor and bring back shows such as Stan Wheeler’s “The Simple Gourmet,” he added.

abryant@sunjournal.com

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