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1. What is local access television?

Federal law provides that states or local communities may require a license or negotiate a non-exclusive cable franchise with cable TV operators wishing to market their services locally.  As part of the provisions of such a license or franchise agreement, cities and towns may require the cable operator to provide what the Telecommunications Act of 1997 calls “public, educational, or government (PEG) access” channels on the local channel lineup, for unrestricted use by citizens, school districts and municipalities.  In Massachusetts, many such existing agreements also require that certain equipment and funding be given to the towns.  The laws provide and court cases have upheld that such channels provide equal access to all potential users, and that they are public electronic forums for free expression.

2. Is there only one kind of access station in Massachusetts?

No.  There are almost as many different types of access centers as there are cities and towns, since they are set up to meet individual community needs.  Potential users are best advised to contact their city or town hall and ask for information on who to contact about the local cable access center, studio or station.

3. How do access centers operate?

There are three basic operating structures for access centers:

    * Operated by an independent non-profit corporation

    * Operated by a municipality or by a school

    * Operated by a cable company

Also, under these operating structures, the access center may be only a “public” access facility where individual citizens or groups have equal access and produce their own TV programs.  It may be only an “education” access facility, usually affiliated or located in a school primarily used for educational purposes.  It may be only a “municipal” or “government” access facility usually housed in a town building and operated for municipal communications purposes by the city or town. Or, finally, an access center may be a multi-purposed facility.  Many access centers in the Commonwealth are responsible for all types of access, “P” “E” and “G.”  Sutton Community Access Television is this type of facility.

4. What do access centers do?  Do they produce TV shows for all these users?

No.  This is perhaps the most misunderstood role of PEG access operations.  Access centers are TV studios, but unlike broadcast stations, they are not usually staffed with TV producers, camera operators, and technicians.  An access center is more like a combination school and equipment library where individuals and organizations are trained how to use TV production equipment, how to make TV shows, and then are provided the free use of equipment and cable channel time to produce and air their shows.

In Sutton, programming for the Government (Channel 11) and Education (Channel 12) Access Channels is provided subject to the discretion of the Town Government and School Departments respectively. Routinely, Town Government and School Department meetings and events are recorded and played back on Channels 12 and 13.

Sometimes, a Town Resident or an Access Producer may tape an event, program or meeting that they feel is appropriate to play on Channels 12 or 13. If so, they must get approval from the proper representatives of the Town Government or School Department in order for that to happen. Occasionally, programming that is produced outside of Sutton is sent in for consideration for playback on the Government or Education Channels. The content of each program is considered and approval from the appropriate body is given before any outside programming is played on Channels 12 or 13.

Programming for Sutton's Public Access Channel (Channel 13) can be provided by volunteer Access Producers, who have taken the SCTV Production Course and are authorized to use SCTV equipment and facilities.  In addition, any Sutton resident, town employee, or local business owner may submit programming for Channel 13.  Programming must be submitted on an appropriate media format (see FAQ #6) , and a Cablecast Request Form must be signed stipulating that the programming adheres to Public Access rules and guidelines, and that the person who filled out the form will take responsibility if any issues with the program's content arise.

For more information on submitting programming to SCTV, please contact the office.

5. Why don’t access centers just produce all the programs?

Most independent or municipal access centers are funded by a small cable license fee (usually from 1 to 5% of the local cable company’s revenues) which pays for facility upkeep, utilities, and a small part-time or full-time staff – usually 1 to 3 people, although some urban centers have several more.  And it is these employees’ job to manage the public resources, train people in TV production skills, and facilitate the telecast of programs on the local channels.  It is neither possible nor appropriate for them to be in the TV production business, for access TV is “Do It Yourself” TV.

6. If access centers don’t produce shows, how do important programs get on the air?

The SCTV staff assists with the recording and broadcast of much of the government and educational programming.  Community volunteers who either want to hone their skills in TV Production, or have an interest in the program topic or content can also do much of the programming produced at access centers.  So, parents of athletes often produce high school football games.  The League of Women Voters may cover a town meeting.  A town department may find an interested worker in the department to prepare information for a department program or service that needs publicizing. 

Many access centers recruit college and high school interns to help produce programs.  Several state and local elected officials already produce shows in their districts using such volunteers, as well as getting help from their communications or public information staffers, and supporters.  These and other community-based resources are the primary means of getting programs or events videotaped in local access centers.

7. What is Sutton Community Television and what channels are SCTV on?

Sutton’s first work with cable television began in 1998.  Like many public access operations in Massachusetts, Sutton Community Television (SCTV) is responsible for coordinating all types of access television - public access, educational access and government access – also known as “PEG”.  The Town of Sutton Cable Advisory Board established the Sutton Community Television (SCTV) organization for the purpose of developing, overseeing, and ongoing development of equipment, facilities and personnel required to foster the creation of TV programs to be aired on Sutton Public Access stations.  SCTV is essentially a TV studio and a resource center, but unlike commercial broadcast stations, it is not staffed with TV producers, camera operators, and technicians. Sutton Community Television provides programming on three distinct cable television access channels in the Town of Sutton.

Charter Communications broadcasts the local Sutton stations as follows:

Channel 11 (SGTV) broadcasts town government programming. 
Channel 12 (SETV) features school/education programming.
Channel 13 (SCAT) provides community/public access programming.

Verizon and the Town of Sutton signed an agreement on July 15, 2008.  The contract allows Verizon 180 days to offer access to the local Public, Education and Government stations.  We are looking forward to PEG programming to be available in early 2009.

 8. Where are the Sutton Community Television facilities located?

The Sutton Community Television facilities are at the following locations:

Sutton Town Hall
4 Uxbridge Road, 2nd. Floor
Sutton, MA  
Sutton School Complex
375 Boston Road
Sutton, MA 01590
508-865-8735 phone
508-581-1671 phone

The Coordinator is typically available Monday through Thursday, 9:00 a.m. -2:30 p.m. and Tuesday evenings from 6:00-9:00 p.m. at the town hall location.  Appointments can also be made.

If the matter is urgent, please contact the offices of the Town Administrator at 508-865-8720.  Studio hours are available by appointment during non-school hours.

 9. Are there any restrictions as to what can air on Sutton Community Access Television?

Sutton Community Television is a public access TV station so it is an electronic forum for free expression by the residents of Sutton.  Sometimes, viewers may not like what they see but the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, and its guarantee that "Congress shall pass no law abridging the freedom of speech..." and Congress has embodied that protection in the laws that control cable television.

Basically, any resident of Sutton is free to say or do anything he or she wants on their own SCTV program, provided that they can assure us that their program does not contain any illegal content. This illegal content is defined, in part, by the cable television access agreements with Charter Communications and Verizon.  Sutton Community Television has agreed to maintain a public forum for the free expression of ideas -- even ideas others might despise! -- as long as SCTV prohibits all of the following types of content in programs:

(i) direct solicitation for goods, services, or funds;
(ii) advertising designed to promote the sale of commercial products or services including advertising by, and on behalf of, candidates for public office;
(iii) a lottery or any advertising or information concerning a lottery; and
(iv) any obscene or indecent material.

Since Sutton Community Television began operations, we have encountered rare situations where a citizen is unhappy with the content of a Public Access program.  Our belief has always been that the answer to programming which you do not approve of is to make programming of your own. We encourage you to consider taking our next Television Production class to learn how to do so. Or, if you are not interested in learning the technical aspects of television production, and would simply like to explore hosting a program of your own to refute the views and actions you were unhappy with in the program in question, we welcome you to contact the SCTV Coordinator who may be able to assist you with the process.

Sutton Community Television cannot censor programming. However, SCTV does have the right to control cablecast time and frequencies of airing. Sutton Community Television takes copyright infringement seriously and will not air anything that uses other peoples work without their permission -- this includes music, video, pictures, graphics and artwork.
 

10. How do I submit a program to air on Sutton Community Television?

Programming for Channel 13 can come from Sutton residents, Town of Sutton employees and Sutton business owners. To request that a program be played on Channel 13, a Cablecast Request Form must be signed. These forms are available online or from the SCTV facility at 4 Uxbridge Road, Sutton, MA 01590 or by calling 508-865.8735.
 
11. What video formats will Sutton Community Television accept for playback?

DVD’s are preferred but VHS, SVHS, MiniDV and DV are also acceptable formats. For other formats please contact the SCTV studios.

12. Who can borrow equipment and use the facilities at Sutton Community Television?

Any Sutton resident age 18 or older who has completed the SCTV Video Production Course may borrow equipment. The equipment may only be used in conjunction with a program being created for Sutton Community Television. Sutton Community Television equipment may not be used for personal or commercial use. Sutton Community Television has a written sign out system that facilitates borrowing SCTV equipment.

Sutton residents age 18 and older are welcome to take the SCTV Video Production Course at no charge. The courses may be held each spring and fall at the SCTV studios based on interest.  Other training arrangements will also be considered.  Completion of the course allows you to use SCTV equipment and to make your own programs.

Sutton Residents ages 12 to 17 may also take the video production course, provided they adhere to the guidelines established by the Cable Television Oversight Committee. For more information on Access Television participation for minors, please contact SCTV at 508-865-8735

13. Who can use the Community Bulletin Board? How do I submit notices for the Community Bulletin Board?

Submitting notices for the Sutton Community Television Bulletin Board is easy. There are two options:

Just follow the directions on the form provided on our SCTV website:

or,

Email your bulletin board announcement to Sutton Community Television at:  with a subject line - "SCTV Bulletin Board"

For any questions about the Sutton Community Television Bulletin Board, call the SCTV offices at 508-865-8735.

Any town, state or federal agency and any nonprofit organization in the town of Sutton can use the Community Bulletin Board.  Please remember the basic information, Who, What, When, Where and How and please include a contact name and phone number. Submitted by the general public and non-profits (clubs, houses of worship, etc.) will appear on the Channel 13 Bulletin Board.   Notes involving Grafton Schools or events related to education will typically appear on Channel 12. Notes from the town or state government will appear on Channel 11.

Please remember that the more extraneous information you include in your posting, the more difficult it will be to post on the bulletin board in a concise manner that is easy for everyone to understand. Please be aware of the potential issues and keep your postings brief and to the point.

 14. Can I see Sutton Community Television programming outside of Sutton or on satellite?

Can I get a copy of a program I watched on Sutton Community Television?  Sutton Community Television can only be seen in Sutton and is on carried on the Charter Communications cable television system.  It will also be available on Verizon PEG stations in early 2009.  Some of the programs are available via download on this website at the Sutton TV Online link. 

To obtain a DVD or VHS copy of a program you have seen on Sutton's Public Access channels, please contact the SCTV studios.  Copies are available for $10.00.  Copies of Government Channel programs will be provided under the Town's guidelines for copies of Public Records.  You can learn more about them at the following link: