Upstream TV is ready to go public.
Upstream TV members have been meeting in the last two years in the hopes of establishing a public access television channel in Bemidji.
A public access channel would provide a forum for community members to showcase their interests or points of view on a local access television channel.
"We see this as a great community tool," said Mike Bredon, the executive director of Upstream TV.
Bredon led a presentation Monday to the Bemidji City Council in which Upstream TV asked for the council's support. No action was taken. City Attorney Al Felix was directed to review a proposed indemnification agreement and report back to the council at a later date.
Bredon told the council that more than 100 cities in Minnesota have public access channels.
"Most are in cities that are smaller than ours," he said.
Upstream TV hopes to make available a channel through which community members could produce their own shows or content for broadcasting.
Bredon said Paul Bunyan Television has agreed to lay a cable at no cost. The cable, which would basically operate in reverse of a standard VCR cable connection, would allow the taped programs to air.
Upstream TV would pre-screen all submitted content to ensure it meets Federal Communications Commission standards, Bredon noted.
Once the public access channel has been established, Bredon said, Upstream TV would approach Midcontinent Communications, too, to facilitate a connection.
Vincent Vohnout, an associate professor of technological studies at Bemidji State University who is working with Upstream TV, said BSU students are excited about the potential to have a channel available on which they could showcase their work.
"This is a great opportunity," he said.
Vonhout noted that students have gone on to work for Disney or Pixar studios for computer animation, and public access could allow them a medium to display their talents.
"This is a way for them to bolster their resumes," he said.
Kathryn Lavelle, outreach and education coordinator for the Northwoods Coalition for Family Safety, also supports Upstream TV.
Lavelle said a public access channel would help nonprofits because it would provide them a voice.
"We don't have a lot of funds to get things out there," she said. "Having a public access channel would help us get our message out to the community."
Upstream TV did not ask for a financial commitment from the city.
Bredon said the group plans to seek grants to assist with obtaining cameras and other equipment, once the public access channel is established.
City Councilor Ron Johnson said the city has a timeline of goals in place in which it has planned to, eventually, get into the public access realm.
The city currently has agreements in place through both PBTV and Midcontinent through which the city operates a government access channel, on which City Council and other governmental meetings are broadcast.
"We're at the point right now that we're just trying to get our government access into the digital age," Johnson said.
Funding for the government access equipment is provided through Public Education Government, or PEG, fees, and through franchise fees.