St. Paul network might aid NTV


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The executive director of the Saint Paul public access network is interested in helping its Northfield counterpart thrive.

“With the number of people who care about the city, and with the educational resources available, you’ve got a lot of potential for doing good work,” Mike Wassenaar, of the Saint Paul Neighborhood Network, told me on Tuesday.

Wassenaar said he learned Northfield Television (NTV) is operating on a bare-bones budget by reading the article about the matter posted on Wassenaar is an individual member of the Alliance for Community Media and he volunteers some of his time to help other public access stations around the nation.

“It’s important for us in Minnesota that places like Northfield actually do well,” Wassenaar said. “If they don’t do well, people start saying, ‘Oh well, this isn’t really worthwhile, so it isn’t worth investing in.’ And that can lead to changing the laws so that these types of resources aren’t available anymore.”

Wassenaar said he wanted to talk to Paul Hager, NTV’s founder and president, and come up with a few ways to improve the station, with or without additional funding

After I talked to Wassenaar, I called Hager, who said he would be willing to speak with Wassenaar about those ideas. Hager agreed that Wassenaar’s offer to help seemed like good news.

Wassenaar said he believed NTV could use more than the $30,000 a year it receives now from the city-managed Cable TV Fund to make significant improvements its facility and potentially hire staff.
Wassenaar said he acknowledges, however, the differences in size between the Saint Paul network and NTV. His network, he said, has 52,000 subscribers and receives $2.5 million in cable franchise fee revenue a year. The network also receives $800,000 a year from the fee cable companies pay for communities to produce educational and government programming.

Wassenaar said Hager’s proposed model of creating a pool of money to provide “micro-grants” to citizens to produce content for the station has worked in other communities. He said he could also share some other ideas about business models.

“It’s awfully hard to run something that only has a virtual presence,” Wassenaar said, referencing the little-used NTV station on Division Street and lack of paid staff. “You need a place for people to go to.”

As one way to attract more people to visit the station, Wassenaar said he might be able to connect NTV with larger stations in the city suburbs that could donate equipment. Wassenaar said NTV might develop its presence in places around Northfield where people regularly visit to participate in community events, such as a recreational center or at Saint Olaf or Carleton colleges.

Wassenaar said he would also help NTV explore the possibilities of asking people to support the station as members.

In one of our earlier conversations, Hager said it could be difficult asking cable TV customers for more money than they are already paying in subscriber fees to support the station.

Wassenaar said the larger community, not just cable viewers, directly benefit from the services his network provides, however. For example,
he said, the network once produced a show about a local clinic, and then gave a copy of the show to the clinic to use as an educational tool. He said the network also provides youth programming.

As another funding source, Wassenaar said, the network has sought grants from other organizations.

  • I wonder what organizations or individuals would consider becoming members of NTV?

Wassenaar said he would also be willing to help inform government officials and the general public about what a well-supported public access station can offer to a community.

  • What would it take for NTV to thrive in Northfield?

Note 12/17 9:45 a.m.: I corrected the spelling of the word “network” at the bottom of the thirteenth paragraph.

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