Princeton Community TV marks 20th anniversary

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By Philip Sean Curran, Staff Writer
Princeton Community Television is on the air, as it has been for the past 20 years.
Celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2017, the public access cable station features genres — like education, public affairs, fashion and entertainment — that station officials say make it the largest producer of independent content in the state. In 2016, it produced about 630 original programs.
“We like to say that the programming is as diverse as the community,” said Syth DeVoe, who sits on the station’s board of trustees.
“I think this station provides a tremendous resource to people, who are bringing content from other fields,” said Christine Grant, a former state Commissioner of Health and Senior Services and volunteer adviser to the station.
Princeton Community TV had humble beginnings; there were just two hours of programs per day and the rest bulletin board material. But it grew steadily, as the public today is responsible for making the content.
The station has bounced around. First located at the Princeton Arts Council, it moved to the old Valley Road School building before settling in at the Monument Hall, or old Borough Hall. On TV, the station can be found on channel 30, on Comcast, and channel 45, on Fios.
At a time when there hundreds of channels vying for attention, the leadership of the station touts the local angle of the content as what sets it apart.
“You have additional views, which just the mainstream television is never going to have the time to let people express themselves and to do what it takes to express themselves,” Grant said.
“I think it’s a waste if the airtime is not being used,” said George McCollough, station executive director. “So the more programming we can get on, the better.”
That’s where people like Tom Florek come in.
By day, he works at Educational Testing Service, but he finds time to produce two shows on the station, including Café Improv.
“I always feel that, to have a healthy community, you have to have a healthy way to exchange ideas among the people in the community,” he said. “Princeton TV is just a really great thing for that.”
There is a social element of being involved in the station, as people learn new skills, network with others and test their creativity in a media form that otherwise might have been out of their reach.
Florek credits McCollough with “creating an atmosphere where people come around and can try new ideas.”
Jane Lynn Britton of East Windsor is one of the newer faces on the air. With a background in human resources, she came to the station to pitch a show idea to McCollough. Debuting in July, she is host of “Navigating Autism,” a program to help parents of autistic children. Her vision for the station is to have it extend its reach.
“I see it as offering everything, just on a smaller, more local level,” she said. “I think locally, definitely, people are more aware of it as a go-to resource for them. But I hope that it kind of grows beyond the local and state level.”
Jenny Hartshorne started a program called “Pathways” that focuses on human-interest stories. Filming on location, she works with a co-producer and director Adrian Colon to highlight unsung people and nonprofit organizations that make a difference. She spoke of the impact her involvement with the station has had on her.
“I’m transformed by being here and being able to make a TV show and feel like it’s pretty watchable,” she said. “All I mean is that I think this station offers people in this community an opportunity to learn something that they never imagined they would be able to learn.”
For the future, DeVoe talked of wanting to do more “outreach.”
“I think we’d like to continue expanding … our membership, expanding our awareness (to) let people know that this option for them to become involved is here,” he said.
McCollough said he would like to start a radio station and see the local business community use the station’s equipment to produce web videos
“I don’t want it to be just my vision,” McCollough said. “It needs to be the vision of the public, the municipality — all the stakeholders to be involved.”
“I hope that it continues to be seen as a primary resources locally but even beyond,” Britton said of what she wants to see the station become in its next 20 years. “I think that there’s a lot of not just talent but information that comes out that can really resonate with more than just this local community.”