Eighteen stops along a channel-surfing tour offer a variety of locally produced programming. All of it originates from television production studios tucked inside an ordinary strip mall in White Bear Lake. For nearly 30 years, a team of dedicated professionals from Ramsey/Washington Suburban Cable Commission (RWSCC), volunteers and many members of the public have produced shows for community access channels, an education channel, a local programming channel and a local government network. In addition, On Location Inside Healthcare, Sports Path, Your Business Matters, as well as Local Image TV19 broadcasts, featuring Judy Skeie-Voss.
The shows are all designed with their local communities in mind. “We are responsible for coordinating local cable television programs that reflect what our communities are all about,” says RWSCC executive director Timothy Finnerty, “and what they want to see.” Read on to meet the host of one of these shows and learn how you can get involved.
MEET THE HOST
Voss is producer and host of Local Image, an award-winning show whose mission is to tell positive community stories. This magazine-style program mixes talk-show segments with on-location interviews to highlight people and events in 12 neighboring communities. Of the more than 500 segments broadcast during the past 10 years, Voss is most energized by stories featuring people passionate about what they do.
“I once spent an entire day with a local elementary school teacher seeking innovative ways to teach math,” Voss says. “I’m also grateful to have met Keith Warner, co-founder of White Bear Lake’s Relay for Life. People like these make an awesome difference in society. I’m glad to tell their stories.”
Voss has a communications degree from St. Thomas University. She decided early in her career to remain local, working in public and government access programming before launching On Location TV19 in 2000. “I’d never started a channel or show before,” says Voss. “My job was to ensure community events were covered. I did my research, introduced TV19 and secured a new production truck for location shoots. It’s the same truck we use around town today.”
Voss works closely with photographer, editor and producer Scott Jenson. Together, they plan story ideas, line up interviews and scout locations for Local Image. Voss writes her own scripts, designed to flow from one segment to the next. After a month of planning for each show, Voss and Jenson arrive a half-hour early for location shoots to set up and choose a variety of backdrops for each segment.
A shoot at Lake Elmo Airport was a particular favorite for Voss. After the interview, a pilot asked Voss if she wanted to fly a plane. Surprised and excited, Voss accepted the invitation. With the pilot’s assistance, Voss flew a small plane over the St. Croix River and back. “It was such a treat,” says Voss. “I have video of me flying the plane to remind myself I really did it.”
Next door to the professional On Location TV19 studio is a similarly equipped television studio and a smaller one-person-show studio reserved for public access productions. Suburban Community Channels has been training public access producers and volunteers since 1984. A free introductory class offers community members hands-on training in video and media production equipment. Once trained, any member of the public can check out state-of-the-art equipment, reserve studio time and produce public access programming of their choice.
A 30-year open-door policy allows anyone who lives, works or plays in the area to submit a program proposal or learn more about video production. “It works like a library,” says Ted Arbeiter, director of facilities and tech support. “People can borrow our equipment and produce almost any type of show they want.” Visitors must be certified following the previously mentioned training and sign a waiver stating they are responsible for the content of shows they produce. Otherwise, there are few limitations and many educational benefits to public access.
“Many people learn about video production through public access and go on to bigger things,” says Voss. “I’ve known someone who started in public access who now hosts a home improvement show on a bigger channel. Public access provides a great creative outlet for people, and that makes me proud.”
Suburban Community Channels: SCC TV
Ch. 14 – Faith-based programming
Ch. 15 – Programming by the public for the public
Government Television Network: GTN
Ch. 16 – Government and civic programming for 12 cities and townships
On Location TV19
Ch. 19 – Staff-produced community events programming
RW TV 18
Ch. 18 – Additional local programming
Ch. 20 – Education-related programming