‘PhillyCAM’ Opens New Facility

PhillyCAM is the result of a three-year grassroots effort to get elected officials to create the nonprofit that would administer the public access station
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Within two years of becoming active, PhillyCAM—Philadelphia’s public access television center—has begun operations at a renovated facility in which members can produce shows that “express their opinion and perspectives,” says Mayor Michael Nutter, D.

“Public access television is a valuable asset to any community. It is an open forum which encourages public discourse,” Nutter said. “This new, permanent location will allow Philadelphians to utilize the PhillyCAM system to express their opinions and perspectives.”

PhillyCAM is the result of a 30-year grassroots effort to get elected officials to create the nonprofit that would administer the public access station, Gretjen Clausing, the station’s executive director, tells Government Video. “This is a huge step forward for us,” she said. “Now we are able to centralize our operations, maximize our offerings and grow.”

PhillyCAM began operations in 2009 at “a basic startup location” at an arts laboratory known as the Painted Bride Arts Center. PhillyCAM was there for about 18 months and during that period the station recruited members and conducted training workshops, Clausing said.

During its stay at the Painted Bride, PhillyCAM also produced a number of “special programs,” Clausing said. Those programs include covering community forums; local arts events; and for the primary election during the spring of 2010 for offices in the city, PhillyCAM produced a video voter guide in which 30 candidates recorded five-minute messages. “We played those messages a couple of times daily,” she said.

While operating at the Painted Bride, PhillyCAM was overseeing the more than $1 million renovation of the former photography building into the station’s new home, Clausing said. Because it was a photography building, there was a preexisting photography studio, but it had to undergo some renovation focused on sound proofing the facility, she said. The completion of the renovations prompted PhillyCAM to hold “a grand opening of our permanent facility” on Feb. 8.

The new PhillyCAM facility is located at 699 Ranstead St., about a block from the Liberty Bell, and next to the Philadelphia Museum, and it offers two television studios, public meeting spaces, computer labs and equipment check out for public use by local residents.

PhillyCAM now has over 350 active members, and hopes to reach 500 by the end of 2012. It is also broadcasting 65 original series on a weekly basis on two cable channels and online. Now that PhillyCAM is in the new facility, its priority “is getting new members,” Clausing said. “We have a commitment to highlight the work of Philadelphia’s non-profit and community-based organizations, so we’ll be working directly with them to help them produce 30-minute programs.”

Among the guests at PhillyCAM’s grand opening was Sylvia Strobel, executive director of the Alliance for Community Media, a public access television advocacy group. Strobel said, “PhillyCAM is well positioned to fill the needs for local news, information and programming of critical importance to the citizens of this great city.”