It's Wayne's World. It's party time. It's excellent.
No, it's not. It's public access television, it's "TV you control," right here in Eugene, Oregon.
It's the Antiman, the guy with the video camera in his car, the guy with the "Don't Tread on Me" flag behind him, the pro-pot panel, Jesus Jam TV, bad lighting, bad camera angles, naked men and women sitting in Jello, evil gynecologists making their move and anarchists making, well, anarchy.
"It's all about freedom of speech," says Larry Dobberstein, vice president of Community Television of Lane County, which airs 24 hours a day, seven days a week on Comcast cable channel 29. "It's all about alternative media. It's all about being free from corporate interests so people can get on the air what they want on the air."
No, you won't find Wayne and Garth of "Saturday Night Live" and movie fame broadcasting live from the basement of Wayne's parents' house, but you will find just about everything, and everyone, else broadcasting from CTV's studio at Sheldon High School. This is where CTV trains local folks to produce their own television shows.
"This is where the magic happens," says Dusty Stepp, holding tongue firmly in cheek, as he stands in the middle of the Spartan studio on the first day of March.
Stepp, 28, is none other than the Antiman himself. He also plays gynecologist Glen Reiber on the CTV soap opera, "Rough Crossing," which airs at 2 p.m. weekdays. His hourlong talk show, "Tales from the Antiman," has been on CTV for three years. He and co-hosts Greg Swires and Mike Albin discuss politics, religion and culture in a format that's a little bit right-leaning and a little bit wacky.
"I learned a long time ago that you have to play the devil's advocate to keep a conversation going," says Stepp, explaining his nickname and the gist of the show. Stepp, who earns a living working full time doing in-house marketing at Sears, has no idea how many viewers watch his show - which airs at 9 p.m. Mondays and several other times throughout the week - but he guesses maybe 1,000 and says people sometimes recognize him on the street.
"I haven't had anybody really attack me yet for anything," he says, half seriously. "But I guess I would consider that a success if they did."
Growing up in Pleasant Hill, Stepp says he often was told he was "anti everything." And he spares no one and no thing on his comedy-laced program. He takes shots at such local institutions as The Register-Guard, KEZI anchorman Rick Dancer, University of Oregon athletics and even other CTV shows, such as "Cascadia Alive," produced by local anarchists.
Creativity and controversy
If Stepp's show pushes the limits of taste and decency, "Cascadia Alive" shoves them right over the edge.
This is the program whose producers received a call from the Secret Service in 2001 after running a music video, "Bush Killa," by the rapper Paris that showed a gun being held to a photograph of President George W. Bush. This is the program that recently aired several people sitting naked in Jello just to show that nudity's OK. Because the show airs after 10 p.m., that was actually within CTV's guidelines, but because it was airing from Eugene School District property, it was not within the district's guidelines, said Tom Cleveland, past president of CTV and a longtime volunteer.
Incidents such as these are few and far between, Cleveland says, and the benefits of having a public access channel in Lane County far outweigh the possible negative impacts. The station airs some 1,200 shows a year, and 85 percent of those are locally produced, Cleveland says. And Eugene being the place it is, there is no lack of color.
"I think there is more variety on our station than any other station in the state," he says. "And that's good. It shows the creativity of our community."
If you want to put a show on the air, you simply fill out a "cable cast request" form and away you go.
With the deregulation of cable television, there are no Federal Communications Commission guidelines to follow, only guidelines established by CTV. Shows cannot be produced for commercial profit nor show anything "obscene," as defined by the U.S. Supreme Court. And anything "indecent," such as nudity, must be shown during the "safe harbor" hours of 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., Cleveland says.
Other problems, however, can arise, such as the issue with "Cascadia Alive" filming nudity on school district property. And the city of Eugene threatened to pull funding a few times, before budget cuts, because of "Cascadia Alive's" airing of the "Bush Killa" video, and other controversial subjects, said Robin Terranova, one of the show's producers, who goes by the name "Rot'n" on the show.
"Cascadia Alive" is one of the few shows on CTV that is actually "live," and not taped. It airs at 10 p.m. Wednesdays, and then, like most shows, is shown on tape several times during the week. Producers want the impact of live television, Terranova says.
"I know most anarchists would rather smash a camera, but it's a good way to get our message across," Terranova says. "And to do this, we're going to have to use the system."
Television is part of the "death culture," the machine known as civilization, that anarchists are trying to destroy, Terranova says, so airing the program is, in a way, at odds with anarchist philosophy.
"I work on the show because it's an outlet for expressing my views," Terranova says. "I understand its limitations - TV is part of the spectacle that limits society. But it is a really effective way to reach people who wouldn't necessarily pick up our magazine (`Green Anarchy') or come up to us on the street."
Everybody (should) get stoned
If "Cascadia Alive" is all about hemorrhaging the death culture of society, "Cannabis TV" is all about hemp.
Marijuana. Weed. Ganja - and all that is good about the "ganj."
The 30-minute show airs at 8:30 p.m. Wednesdays and viewers hear the opinions of a panel hosted by Eileen Erdelt of Eugene. The panel also includes a man with a paper sack on his head known as "Dank Bagman." Although this brings a comedy effect to the show, it's somewhat unintentional, Erdelt says. Dank wears the bag and keeps his real identity a secret because his wife wouldn't exactly be thrilled with the public knowing her husband is a marijuana activist, she says.
The show usually opens with the music of Bobby Six Crows and the Riggin' Warriors, a local band, and the panel sits in front of a tie-dyed flag with a marijuana leaf and the words "Legalize It."
The panel aims to "tell the truth" about marijuana that the government doesn't tell you. "Hemp, cannabis, is actually a very valuable crop and can be used for many, many things like paper, fuel, food, textiles," Erdelt says during the show that aired on Feb. 18. "We can even make plastic-like substances out of it for building buildings and furniture."
She then asks Eric Grossman, a UO student and the other panelist on this particular episode, and Dank, if pot is dangerous. Only if you get arrested, Danks says.
Marijuana is not the dangerous drug the government says it is, according to Erdelt. "It's a healing plant," she says. "The reason the government wants you to feel that way is it's a threat to petroleum" and other industries, says Erdelt, who believes one day soon Willamette Valley fields will be flowing with legal pot plants that will be a boon to Oregon's economy.
While Erdelt fights for your rights to smoke the ganj, 78-year-old Bob Fauvre has been fighting for all of your rights for 20 years or so. Fauvre says his show, "Libertarian Options," is the nation's longest running libertarian show. Taped at his Santa Clara home, Fauvre usually reads from newspaper clippings and other sources about such things as unlawful income taxes, gun control and other government intrusions.
"I just set it up on a table and point it at me and turn it on with a long stick," Fauvre says of his video camera. Then he drops the tapes off at CTV. His half-hour show airs Tuesdays at 11 p.m. Fauvre sits in front of a flag that contains an image of a rattlesnake and the words, "Don't Tread on Me." It's a replica of the flag that Admiral Esek Hopkins, the first-ever commander of the U.S. Navy, flew on his ship in the 1770s, Fauvre says. The rattlesnake has 13 rattles, one for each of the original U.S. colonies. The message?
"If you fuss around with a rattlesnake, it'll bite you," Fauvre says. "I think I've got quite a following. I have no way of testing it, though."
There is plenty more to choose from on CTV. There's the "Green News Network," auto racing at the Cottage Grove Speedway, "Arts Journal," the "Healing Connection," "In the Public Interest" and "Oregon News," produced by the UO's School of Journalism & Communication.
And, of course, there is "Rough Crossing," the soap opera produced by 22-year-old Ryan Koch of Eugene. And you thought cheesy soaps were made only in New York and Los Angeles. Everything is shot on location, mostly in Portland, even though the setting is Salem. Go figure. "I just like the town," says Koch, who also stars as the character Kyle Black on the show.
"I love it," Koch says. "It brings out my creative side. It gives me the chance to write and act, the two things I love to do."
Dan Holt of Cottage Grove has been running his series, "Exploring Oregon," on CTV for a few years now. His goal? To film every nook and cranny of the state.
Holt, 62, holds a video camera in one hand while steering with the other. "It's just fun, I enjoy traveling," Holt says. "It's more of a hobby, I guess, than anything else."
Although he enjoys taping his jaunts for viewers, Holt is unable to watch them on television because he doesn't get cable. He hasn't seen any of the other shows on CTV, either. "No, I really haven't," Holt says. "I'm not much of a TV person."
TV YOU CONTROL
The city of Eugene and Lane County were each contributing $7,500 annually to CTV but discontinued that last year because of budget cuts. Now, CTV finds itself having to raise every dollar for its existence through fund drives, grants and donations. The station also charges an annual membership of $10 for use of its facilities and offers classes in production and editing. If you would like to make a donation to Community Television of Lane County call 341-4671 or send your donation to: CTV, 1430 Willamette St., No. 321, Eugene, OR 97401.
IT'S THE LAW
Federal law says Comcast and other cable companies must provide channels for public access, government and educational viewing. The first public access station in Lane County was established in 1983 on West 12th Avenue in Eugene. The Cable Access Corporation was a nonprofit organization established with funding from the cities of Eugene and Springfield and Lane County. It aired mostly public access shows and shows run by the University of Oregon, Lane Community College and the Eugene School District, as well as meetings and committees of the three supporting governments.
The Cable Access Corporation struggled early on and merged in the mid-1980s with Metrovision, operated by the Lane Council of Governments, which still airs Eugene City Council and Lane County Commission meetings on Comcast cable channel 21. Public access television continued to be operated by Metrovision until 1997 when interest waned and it was almost disbanded. The Coalition to Rebuild Community Television, a nonprofit organization, was formed and that led to the birth of Community Television of Lane County in 1998. The station has been up and running from Sheldon High School since January of 1999. Metrovision is now called Metro Television, and LCC and the UO picked up educational coverage which now airs on Comcast cable channel 23.
Eileen Erdelt talks with "Dank Bagman" during a segment of "Cannabis TV," a show that advocates legalizing marijuana.
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|Title Annotation:||Television; Lane County's public access channel provides a forum for just about anybody and anything|
|Publication:||The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)|
|Date:||Mar 14, 2004|
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