The Communication Studio

Community Cable TV Channel

Channel Director & Manager, Municipal Cable Project (18 mo.)

By the early 70's cable TV systems were becoming common throughout the country. Accessible technology and the wealth of channel space seemed to hold great promise. The US government mandated that local cable TV systems must provide significant resources to the communities they served.

As an outspoken community advocate and documentarian, I was selected by the local Community Cable TV Advisory Board and Somerville Mayor's office to head up one of the first community-run and operated cable TV stations in the United States.

The Value Proposition

  • Locally-controlled, community-oriented cable tv channel
  • Accessible source for needed info and services not provided through the cable system
  • Political leverage and a functional model for negotiating with the cable company regarding services

Challenges & Solutions

Channel 84 operated from Somerville (Massachusetts) City Hall and transmitted locally-oriented programming directly over the city's cable system.

The Municipal Cable Project (5 fulltime staff, several community volunteers) produced two hours of local "live" programming nightly on a 5-days-per-week basis.

Our coverage included:

      • local news
      • governmental information and event coverage
      • health and education
      • issue-oriented documentaries
      • interviews with political and community figures
      • social services
      • cultural and arts features
      • local high school sports
      • school schedules & announcements
sketch for Channel 84 logo "We've got our eye on you."

Acting Locally

Local sports was undoubtedly the most popular service we provided. We also pioneered interactive "call-in" programs that encouraged direct access to community leaders. Eventually our coverage and community-building techniques were taken over by the cable company itself (Warner Communications).

I reported directly to the Mayor's Office of Cultural Affairs, successfully lobbied for and served as the community liaison to the local cable company.


As Director of the Municipal Cable Project I negotiated and established active programming relationships with:

  • the Boston Museum of Fine Arts
  • the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (Media Lab)
  • Earthworm, Inc. (an environmental organization)
  • the local community college (Bunker Hill CC)
  • Boston educational broadcast TV channel WGBH
  • local government social services agencies (medical, dental, health)

We produced a series of documentary, public service-like programs which focused on dealing with public health and safety, such as "the Lead Paint Program" (Somerville had an infrastructure problem with aging lead-based paint in it's housing).


Channel 84 logo

We got additional funding from local agencies:

  • Cable Advisory Board
  • the Aging Center
  • Adult Education
  • Nutrition Education Program
  • the Public Library

We also received personnel support from the Alternate Media Center in New York City. Videographer Mike Aronson produced a series of oral histories of community artisans around the Boston area.

The Team

Studio Floorplan

I trained and supervised an operating staff of seven local citizens, including several untrained "jobs program" participants and community volunteers.

One of our first tasks was to build a rudimentary Video Studio in the basement of Somerville City Hall.

We operated successfully for 18 months before a budget crisis during the recession of 1975-76 brought this innovative experiment in local community programming to an end.

Design for bumper sticker: It's a GAS (Government Access Somerville)

These two panels were designed as a fold-out.