At the March 11 meeting of the CTAC board, a new name for public access television was announced along with a new operator. Instead of “CTI-22” running channel 22, now it will be known by the letters KPAO — or Public Access Omaha, (pronounced K-Pow, like a cartoon punch) – operated by Jim Nelson Media.
The station’s new website, www.pubicacessomaha.tv , is up and running and includes the programming schedule as well as contact information for the CTAC board members. The board unanimously voted to award Jim Nelson of Jim Nelson Media Services the contract to run KPAO. As Program Manager, Nelson will be paid $30,000 a year in addition to receiving free rent at the new facility. He will be allowed to use the studio for his own productions for 10 hours per week.
“I love this industry,” said Nelson. “I’ve been in Omaha a long time and I see a lot of potential here.” He pointed to the fact that the first African-American owned film studio was in Nebraska, and it was founded the year after D.W. Griffiths made “Birth of a Nation.” “When somebody tells your story and they imply that this is how you are, it’s only natural that you want to say, ‘Wait a minute, that’s your opinion. Let me give you my opinion.’ People need that. People want that opportunity. And they often want to tell more than what the other story says.”
The contract states the Program Manager must “have the studio open, during the hours of operation determined by the Corporation and perform off-site services for a total time up to 40 hours in any calendar week, which may include one weekend day and two weekday nights until at least 8:00 p.m.” Nelson is also tasked with training citizens in “video studio production, editing, on-air hosting, directing, camera operation, lighting principles and techniques, audio, and any other necessary or desirable aspect of video production.”
Nelson already teaches TV studio production at Metro and is looking forward to working with the community. “People need assistance,” he said. “I didn’t learn how to do this by myself. Someone opened the door for me and helped me.”
According to Tom Mumgaard of the city’s law department, it is anticipated that the board will eventually hire Chris Craddick, who currently runs the public access studio at Cox’s headquarters, to assist Nelson with production and broadcasting.
The location for the new facility has not been finalized, but the board narrowed the field of possibilities down to one location at 4725 F Street in the Signworks Building. The decision to continue negotiations with only that location was opposed by Frances Mendenhall and Bill Gaughan. Mendenhall pointed out that it was a 16-minute walk from the nearest bus stop on 42nd Street. Gaughan agreed with her that the Omar Bakery building at 42nd and Nicholas was more conveniently located for residents of both north and south Omaha, and was closer to a bus line. The board felt the Omar building had too much potential for noise from a nearby cement plant and would cost more to renovate than the Signworks location.
On Sunday, March 31, a quarter of a century of tradition will come to an end when CTI-22 stops broadcasting from its studio in north Omaha. Trip Reynolds, CTI-22’s CEO, has filed a federal lawsuit against Cox alleging discriminatory treatment when compared with The Knowledge Network. Neither Reynolds nor Cox would comment on pending litigation.
Tom Mumgaard explained in an e-mail that new equipment is being “installed in the Civic Center so the signal can go out into the cable system over the same route now used to transmit the live City Council and County Board meetings.” Channel 22 is not expected to go dark on April 1st.
“People can record their programs wherever they choose and we’re working to make a temporary Corporation studio available. Until we have either a permanent or temporary Corporation studio, all production must be privately arranged and recorded. If we can achieve this plan, the only change the viewer will see on channel 22 after April 1 is the absence of live programs. Live programs must wait until a permanent studio is constructed and linked to Cox’s facility,” he wrote.
Mumgaard indicated by phone that the existing cable connecting CTI-22’s studio to Cox is still capable of transmitting live programming. “But the CTAC board would have to approve it,” he said.
Willie Hamilton and City Council candidate Tariq Al Amin broadcast live shows on CTI-22. They both agreed that shutting down the north Omaha studio was not in the interest of the community and are planning to approach the CTAC board to allow the facility to provide some of the live programming on KPAO. “It would be a travesty to shut that studio down,” Hamilton said.
The next CTAC board meeting is Monday, April 8 at 4 p.m. at City Hall.