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Wednesday, May 12,2010

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Lansing close to giving out grants for cable access, moving forward on a cable access studio

by Neal McNamara

Luckily, the city of Lansing is getting its Pro-Cyc wall for about $5,000 less than the retail price. Instead of buying the piece of equipment directly from Pro-Cyc, Lansing was able to scoop up a floor model used by the company only once for a broadcasters conference in Las Vegas.


A cyclorama wall is, of course, a backdrop for a television studio, used to make it look infinite. Lansing’s pending purchase of the cyc-wall is the first piece of equipment being sought for the city’s planned community cable access studio at the I-Tec facility at the Holmes Street School.


Lansing’s efforts to create a cable access center and to give out grants to residents who want to create program has progressed quickly since a plan came forth in March. Under the plan, the city would create an Office of Community Media that would oversee local government and public access programming.


At a Cable Advisory Board meeting planned for Wednesday night, board members are expected to approve a set of rules governing $250,000 in grants for cable access producers. The grant money — and $350,000 for a studio — comes from PEG fees (which stand for public, education and government) paid to the city for use of infrastructure by cable providers. Lansing receives PEG money from Comcast, AT&T and Arialink. In the fiscal year that begins July 1, the city is expecting to collect $700,000 in PEG fees.


Cable Advisory Board member Matt Penniman said that there would be three different types of grant to apply for, all with a different funding level. Penniman stressed that the rules are just a draft until approved (they must be approved by the board, the city administration, and the City Council), but the three types of grant include up to $10,000 for an individual producer, $25,000 for an organization that produces programming, and $50,000 for an organization that would lend equipment to individual producers.


Penniman said that the Capital Area District Library has expressed interest in being a lending organization. The Impression 5 Science Center has also expressed interest.


If the board approves the grant rules Wednesday, Penniman said, it would send out requests for proposals. The board would ask that the applications be sent back by June 9, and hopefully they would be approved by City Council by July. Solicitations for proposals will be advertised on social media sites and the city’s website.


“I would encourage people to watch the Office of Community Media on Facebook and Lansing Media Center on Twitter: both will have updates as the (requests for proposals) are released,” Penniman said.


As far as what the board is looking for in applicants, it wants producers and organizations that will “contribute to the quality of life in Lansing.” He said they would like a healthy mix of individual producers and organizations. Anyone who receives a grant would be required to produce a certain amount of programming per month for two years — after two years, they would own any equipment that was purchased for them with a grant.


The next step for the board, Penniman said, is to come up with rules for a Lansing cable access facility. A set of rules was created in October 2008 that may need to be updated.


Dominic Cochran, who runs Lansing’s City TV, said that no other purchases have been made yet for a new cable access studio. The plan to create an Office of Community Media is part of this year’s budget, which will not be approved by the City Council until May 17. That budget will not take effect until July 1. However, both Penniman and Cochran are optimistic about getting local cable access will be back by the end of July.


“We want to be up and running by the end of July,” Cochran said.

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