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QPTV’s control room

While in New York City in early December, I had the good fortune to visit QPTV, the public access station that serves the borough of Queens. Clifford Jacobs, QPTV’s Programming and Access Services Manager, kindly gave me an extensive tour of the facilities with a final stop in President and CEO, Daniel Leone’s office.

QPTV is much like RCTV, except in size, complexity and even diversity. Its four channels serve an audience of over 500K residents speaking 200+ different languages.  It also has more than 20 employees and currently occupies several floors of a building in Flushing, Queens owned by Time Warner, the cable company that carries the QPTV signal. Queens Public Access TV is a non-profit organization,

QPTV's green screen studio where staff creates PSAs

QPTV’s green screen studio where staff creates PSAs

Employees of the station create approximately 10% of its programming, and producers (defined as those who use the facilities to create shows) and providers (those who submit shows) create the balance of programming seen on-air. Both producers and providers must be residents of Queens (as demonstrated by ID and 2 pieces of mail they submit at the time of contract signing), or their work must be sponsored by a Queens resident presenting such ID.  A  lottery system is used to determine the time slots in which each show will run during QPTV’s on-air times between 10 AM and 12 Midnight. Adult-oriented content is shown only after 11 PM.

As at RCTV, limited-size TV production and editing classes are offered in both Spring and Fall for a modest fee.

Clifford Jacobs shows QPTV's tapes preserved in its archives

Clifford Jacobs shows QPTV’s tapes preserved in its archives

QPTV is in the process of upgrading its systems to digital and while I was their, a number of engineers were hard at work, in the process of the upgrade.

I was interested to hear that QPTV made the decision not to carry their programming over the internet, at least at this time, due to concerns over regulations in other states as well as the fact that the revenue they receive to offer public access services is identified as “for cable transmission only.”

The purpose of public access television is to preserve free speech and democratic ideals, in spite of the fact that the organization’s Board of Directors, its management and/or its staff may not agree with the message being disseminated. QPTV is a strong proponent of this mission, and just as RCTV does, the organization actively supports its producers’ and providers’ rights to share their ideas and messages. I was fascinated to learn from Cliff that their mission has caused some “interesting” situations to occur in which the FBI and Homeland Security has shown up at their door, intent upon learning more about people and organizations submitting work. In cases where the content of a show was considered by most viewers to be objectionable, it was the viewers who put pressure on the producer or its local sponsor to withdraw the show.

A Visit to QPTV in Flushing NY | RCTV Media Center