Flip to Channel 19 on cable, and you’ll find local programming that was established by a 1999 franchise agreement between the City of Bayonne and Cablevision (now Altice USA). The agreement required that the cable provider produce local programming. Six years later, YouTube was founded, which was later bought by Google, and portended a radical shift in how content is created, consumed, and monetized.
Cable providers all over the country have been shuttering their public access television studios that once provided locally produced content. Bayonne is the latest with the recent announcement that the studio at 685 Broadway will close on October 1. It’s the last public access television studio in Hudson County.
Space and equipment for studio volunteers to create local content have been available for the past 25 years. Altice, a Dutch company that acquired Cablevision in 2016, will now concentrate that space at a studio in Newark.
“It’s totally inconvenient,” said Dianne Brennan, a Bayonne real estate agent who has been hosting her show, “Bayonne Today” for more than eight years. “Not only inconvenient for me, but my guests.”
Filming for the shows is already scheduled in the late afternoon and early evening at times convenient for both producers and guests who are getting home from work.
“My guests are not going to travel into Newark to go to shows there,” said Greta Martin, who hosts the show, “America, View from the Top.” “And I don’t expect them to because I don’t like the idea of me having to travel there with all the equipment that I need.”
“I’m not a quitter. This is just another turn in the road.” – Dianne Brennan
According to Adam Semanchik, who has been producing local programming at the station for 14 years, producing shows independent of the studio would take much more time and cost the unpaid volunteer content creators a lot of money.
“Each show would take an hour and a half as opposed to a half hour to make,” he said. “The turnaround time for cablevision is about two weeks before it can be put on the air, and it has to be mailed to them, and you have to schedule a time slot for the airing of said show.”
Semanchik said the added labor costs may be too much for some producers to handle.
There is undeniable value in noncommercial public access programming, particularly for people without internet access. It’s one of the rare places where residents’ conversations and ideas can be shared solely among fellow community members without advertising bias.
Nowadays, the internet is seen as the best place to publish independent content where most people will see it. Hosts like Dianne Brennan plan to take that route, embracing the challenge.
“This just pushed me into being more creative,” she said. “I’m not a quitter, so for me this is just another turn in the road.”
Brennan plans to get her own equipment and take her show on the road, and on the internet. The advantage of having the studio was the free use of video equipment and reduced editing time with the use of that equipment. The downside was a low-quality product and inconvenient post-production air times. Without the studio, Brennan can broadcast live on the internet and send her tapes in to be broadcast later on Channel 19.
Public meetings, such as the Bayonne Board of Education and City Council, will still broadcast on the channel, albeit with poor sound and video quality. Those meetings are viewable live only to viewers who are willing to turn on Channel 19 at those times, but younger generations are watching less and less live television. Those same public meetings are not broadcast live online by the city.
Rory Pasquariello can be reached at email@example.com.