June 19, 2019

Keep the Lights On At Community TV

To the Editor:

Full disclosure: I’m a Princeton TV member and I don’t live in Princeton — and I’m one of the reasons Princeton no longer wants to fund the cable access station. Yet by paying membership dues and fees for classes, and providing content without compensation, my use is certainly an asset, not a cost (and in line with the original bylaws; PCTV founders sought an inclusive community).

Eons ago I studied filmmaking in college. At the time, unless you had a wealthy aunt or uncle willing to front you six figures, it was impossible to make a film. After 36 years in print journalism, and being downsized as an editor in 2010, I still wanted to use my skills to make the public aware of cultural issues. PCTV, where I’ve taken professional level classes in video editing, lighting, and documentary production, has enabled me to make numerous short documentaries that have screened at film festivals, arts centers, historical societies, and on the station itself.

PCTV provides a community where I can bounce ideas off others and get important feedback, as well as use equipment and seek guidance when needed. George McCollough and Sharyn Murray have infinite patience in helping the legions of producers who come through the door.

Some Princeton Council members have claimed that cable access is no longer necessary with YouTube and Vimeo, but that is a false assertion. PCTV provides curation of its programming — unlike media sharing sites, where anyone can put up a video, George and Sharyn hone the programming. Where else can you see an in-depth interview with Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora, or a documentary about a Trenton High School program that provides prenatal education and parenting skills for teen parents, as well as daycare for their offspring, to enable the parents to stay in school and be good parents? Or a short film about how a drama program at ARC Mercer enriches the lives of those with developmental disabilities? And yes, these are not Princeton-centric topics — we’re all connected as part of a larger community. As a Princeton-based journalist, I know Princeton residents are interested in the world around them.

Princeton TV has cachet. When you tell subjects that the video will air at PCTV, they are proud to participate.

At a time when the business model for traditional journalism is broken, I would argue that PCTV’s model of community cable access — giving training, equipment, and the right to broadcast — is essential for civic dialogue in a democratic society. The current funding formula, which it is paid for by cable franchise fees and doesn’t cost the taxpayer a dime, makes perfect sense. Rather than pull the plug on this asset, let’s celebrate the cultural capital it adds to the region.

Ilene Dube
Princeton Junction