Come Monday, Cincinnati’s CET will unveil what the Public Broadcasting System says is the first public television station to devote one of its new digital channels to 24/7 arts programming.
The immediate impact of CETarts — digital channel 48.3; Time Warner Cable Cincinnati channel 987 — will be to offer expanded broadcast of PBS shows CET already features on its primary channel. Those include Great Performances, American Masters, Masterpiece, Independent Lens, Austin City Limits and more. and it will allow room for some arts series CET now has no time slot for on channel 48, such as Sierra Center Stage, Jubilee, Classic Gospel, Theater Talk, Woodsongs (a Folk music show out of Lexington) and others. Overnight programming will consist of vintage classical music and opera performance clips provided by classic arts Showcase.
Those are the short-term plans. CET wants to get something up and going now. CETarts replaces CETWorld, a channel featuring international news and public-affairs programming provided by PBS. (CET’s partner in Public Media connect, Dayton’s ThinkTV, already carries World on a digital channel, although it’s not yet offered in Cincinnati by Time Warner cable.)
But in the long term CET wants to develop some local arts programming for the channel and already has meetings scheduled with various organizations.
“The PBS programming forms the backbone of this,” says David M.
Fogarty, President/CEO of Public Media connect. “But it gives us an opportunity to partner with the arts and cultural community here and use what we have available to bring their message to the public as well.”
CET already produces local content for its online CETconnect.org, where you can watch videos of, say, the rosemary clooney House Museum in Augusta, Ky., or an interview with principals behind UC College-Conservatory of Music’s production last year of You Can’t Take It With You.
Having a TV channel just for the arts increases programming possibilities.
“We have a hosted channel featuring cultural programming within the broadcast day that has significant amounts of time, including between programs, to allow us to message to the community about arts/cultural organizations — what they’re performing, what their exhibitions are,” Fogarty says. He says he has specific ideas, such as having someone from Cincinnati Opera introduce and provide context for a PBS opera broadcast or a CSO representative talk about a symphonic performance. (I suggested someone from an art museum discussing an “art object of the week.”)
I asked if only non-profits would be eligible to produce content. Could, say, a local coffee house or concert venue seek to produce a “Live From…” music series? Fogarty says CET’s policies don’t inherently exclude that, but “the issue for us is the editorial quality of the program. We do not sell airtime.”
The challenge will be how to help arts organizations — or private content providers — develop programming with production values, be it local concerts or visual arts performance pieces. Those need funding (and a level of artistic accomplishment) to meet CET’s quality standards. (There are also legal issues with performances of copyrighted material.)
“Typically, in that circumstance, it’s a partnership that goes out and looks for (financial) support,” Fogarty says. “Television is a demanding medium with some special requirements from rehearsals to lighting. For that reason, it’s typical that there is not a lot of television production by local arts organizations. We’d love to do more, so i hope this will inspire some of that.”
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