Think Public Access TV Is Boring? Try SOMAtv

Station Manager Joy Yagid explains why the South Orange/Maplewood public access station is not your father's public access TV.

When you say "public access television," most people may think of long boring town meetings with bad audio.

Well, we can tell you that the audio problem has been fixed. And for the record, SOMAtv is so much more than just live broadcasts of town meetings. Also for the record, the meetings in Maplewood or South Orange are far from boring.

SOMAtv, Maplewood and South Orange's local television station, is actually a PEG Station and a rare one at that. "PEG" stands for Public, Education and Government. Most towns that have public access channels have one, maybe two of the three designations. SOMAtv is all three.

Founded in 1996 and housed in Columbia High School's Columbia Cable Network (CCN) Studio, SOMAtv embodies the very nature of shared services between the two towns. It carries government meetings from both towns as well as student and locally produced programing. It is overseen by a Board of Governors made up from representatives from both towns and the Board of Education (BOE).

SOMAtv started out as SOMAcom TV to broadcast Maplewood's Town Meetings and as part of Columbia High School's Television Production curriculum. Currently, students produce a daily live newscast at 9:45 a.m. and one live PM newscast about once a month. Student-produced programming also includes a comedy series, Education Roundtable, with Superintendent Brian Osborne and remote tapings to cover local events such as Green Day in Maplewood. This allows students to earn real-world experience on everything from preproduction planning to live production skills to post production editing.

With a 24/7 broadcast schedule, SOMAtv needs more than just student programing to fill the slots. Want to catch a town meeting? South Orange broadcasts live from Village Hall at 8:30 p.m. on Mondays. Maplewood Township Committee meetings broadcast live on the first and third Tuesdays of the month at 7:30pm. The BOE broadcasts its monthly Wednesday meetings at 8 p.m. The town meetings are rebroadcast on Saturdays at 2 p.m. for Maplewood and Sunday at 2 p.m. for South Orange. The BOE meets once a month and replays the following three Wednesdays.

Need to know if there is another H1N1 clinic or when the library will have its next book sale? A community bulletin board displays local announcements between shows.

How about some local programing? Did you know that there are hours upon hours of original, local programming produced by your neighbors? Books in Action produced and hosted by Jim Horton and South Orange Public Library Director Melissa Kopecky interviews local authors like Ulysses Grant Dietz on his new book, Dream House: The White House as an American Home. Another recent program included a panel discussion with the members of the South Orange Public Library's Anime and Manga club.

Need a job? Want a new one? Tune in to watch Heather Swift on Career Corner. The show's tagline–'From career distress to career success'–offers job seekers tips and tricks to deal with the current challenging work environment. Heather interviews experts in fields ranging from HR to new media and people like Abby "Absolutely Abby" Kohut with her 15 years of recruiting experience and Eric J. Lange, Senior VP of Human Resources at the Nielsen Company.

Need art fix? Meet the Artist host Nancy Heins-Glaser started interviewing your creative neighbors in 1998. Recent shows include interviews with Sarah Petruziello, graphite artist from South Orange, and Rick Parker, cartoonist from Maplewood, and the talented art teachers from the South Orange Maplewood School District in their exhibit, Reaching Out, Reaching In, at the Pierro Gallery at the Baird in South Orange.

Feeling a bit nostalgic for the good old days? Mike Sobel's Nostalgia Alley covers the local history from Olympic Park to the Durand-Hedden House. As well as the not so local. Shows also include interviews with people like DJ Danny Stiles and topics such as Lionel trains.

Craving some classic celluloid like film noir or Alfred Hitchcock? SOMAtv broadcasts wonderful old movies that are in the public domain. Make some popcorns and catch Night of the Living Dead or Hitchcock's Number 17 on a Saturday night.

If your interests run more toward current issues than nostalgia, Maplewood Mayor Vic DeLuca's Meet the Mayor show covers topics from the upcoming property tax revaluation to what's new on Springfield Avenue. South Orangers can keep informed with the Progress Report. If you need to know what's going on in Essex County tune in to Inside Essex with Essex County Executive Joseph N. DiVincenzo, Jr.

And there is even a way to make SOMAtv even more local: Volunteer (go to the website and click on How to Volunteer). SOMAtv is always looking for volunteers. It doesn't matter if you have no past experience in broadcasting or television production. All you need is the desire to learn. SOMAtv needs camera people, floor managers, technical directors, remote crews—and all in a recently renovated studio. 

SOMAtv can be seen in South Orange on channel 19 on Cablevision, channel 22 on FiOS, channel 44 on FiOS for South Orange government meetings only. In Maplewood, on channel 22 FiOS, channel 24 FiOS for Maplewood government meetings only, and channel 35 on Comcast.

SOMAtv is on YouTube and on Facebook.









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