The Hippo


Sep 23, 2019








Bob Stevens hosts his show, Veterans Forum, on Londonderry, Derry and Manchester TV. Courtesy photo.

Dan Young, Matt Holland and Steve Belanger: Garage X

Dan Young is the guy you’ll work with to learn the ins and outs of filmmaking and producing a TV show at Access Nashua. But he initially became involved with Access Nashua through producing his own public access television show, Garage X on Nashua’s Channel 96.
The show is a do-it-yourself car fix-it show, with car repair enthusiasts Matt Holland and Steve Belanger (above). Young has produced just two shows, but these are more complex than most TV shows you’ll see on your public access channel. They’re dynamic, 30-minute projects shot outside the studio (take a look, at The beginning looks like something from old-school MTV, with a catchy introduction flashing the slogan, “Garage X: Real cars, Real people, Real budgets.” The show is pre-taped and pre-edited, and you can tell — there are phone scenes, outdoor scenes, repair scenes, interview scenes, fix-it scenes, and it moves effortlessly. In their first show, they work to refurbish and redesign a 1997 Ford F-150. The hosts don’t describe themselves as experts, but they talk to the experts. It’s lighthearted and fun, filled with funny dialogue and interesting shots of Belanger and Holland at work.
These shows take much longer to produce than most, and the work shows.
Steve Shaw: Music and Life
It’s the longest show name on Concord TV: Steve Shaw’s Without Music, Life Would Be a Mistake: Improvisation in Music and Life is like a talk show about how art and music affect your outlook on life.
Shaw describes his show as an improv kind of show. He features guests, with whom he talks about how music affects their thoughts and feelings. 
“I like the spontaneity. It’s neat how people learn on camera,” Shaw says. 
It’s very easy to sit in the hot seat and talk with him. At certain times, on a talk show like this, it’s easy to forget the camera’s even there, he says; much of the time, his hour-long segment flies by, and then, all of a sudden, he has only a few minutes to wrap up.
“Any time you go out of the studio, it becomes inherently more complicated,” Young said. You have to worry about snow, leaf blowers, wind, rain, car noises and sunlight. “But one of the greatest parts: It’s local content. There’s no other place to do this,” Young said.
Sharing stories — Bob Stevens in Veterans Forum
Bob Stevens is an 89-year-old veteran, and he’s still as sharp and charismatic as he ever was. He hosts Veterans Forum, which tells the stories of U.S. war vets.
You can see the show in a number of local towns; he’s on at 10:30 p.m. every night on Channel 23 in Derry, said Derry Community Television reporter Kimberly Haas. He’s also regularly on Manchester Community TV (Channel 23) and on Londonderry’s public access channel (CTV-20).
In Veterans Forum, Stevens and a veteran guest sit in front of an American flag and talk. With dark eyebrows and a short, light, “busy” beard (and a bald head, he adds, which “the mosquitos use as a landing!”), he’s a wonderful interviewer — funny, serious, patient and relatable.
Veterans Forum is a show featured across the country; veterans from all over host shows on their respective community television station. Stevens became interested in filming his own after he was interviewed on a Veterans Forum in Dalton, Mass.
“Frankly, I enjoyed it. I was a ham. I’m a good, cured ham,” he said. After he saw the playback of the show, he thought he’d try it out for himself. “I’ve been told — and I’m starting to recognize it — that I have an engaging manner, the ability to tell a story,” he said. He shot his first show in Pittsfield, Mass.
“I was given the statistic that in World War II there were 16 million guys doing their thing throughout the world. Of that crowd, there are less than 3 million still alive,” he said. “I’m an old sailor, and it’s corny but true: When they die, and they haven’t told their story, nobody will,” Stevens said.
Many veterans come on the air to tell their stories, and like Stevens, they find it cathartic. Perhaps it’s because, like Stevens says, he has an engaging manner about him. Maybe it’s because he, too, is a war vet. Many of the veterans who come on to tell their stories, though, have never told them before, Stevens said.
“Not all of us are John Wayne hero types. For many [interviews], it’s about the guy who did a simple thing. For others, it’s a bit more. But the bottom line is to get the word out to all the veterans, to come on the show and share their story,” he said.
“It’s at the bottom scale with TV production, and it’s just as good, if not better than something you’d see on commercial television sets. But then, I’m biased!” he admits. “The thing I’m happy about with my show: It’s history that’s made by people, and it’s told by the people who made it, the gal and the guy who did it,” he said.
Workshops, classes and no stupid questions
Many access centers provide one-on-one lessons in camera, editing and television production. Londonderry, Manchester, Nashua and Derry, for instance, all offer these one-on-one lessons for their residents. 
“Everyone has different needs. Some people have never touched a mouse, and some people are very adept at these things and want to get better,” said Joe Lahr, operations specialist at Manchester Public TV. “Some have a technical aversion, but boy to do they know how to talk!” he said. 
Hosting group lessons has its perks, too. Nashua Access trainer Dan Young is looking to schedule some workshops for editing, filming and media journalism later in the year. Concord holds monthly classes and occasional workshops to accommodate its group of filming enthusiasts.
I was allowed to sit in on one of these classes, Introduction to Camera. My classmates were UNH screenwriting professor Dana Biscotti (looking to make an example for her students ­— she hopes that they’ll produce their writing in multimedia) and Nick Darling, a 17-year-old Concord High School senior who is filming Concord football games for a media class. (These classes are also free for Concord High School students to take.)
This small informal class, taught by production/training coordinator Jonathan LeDuc, assured me that I was not technically incompetent — that, in fact, I could totally produce this article in a film instead of in words, if my editors wished. (All right, we didn’t go that in-depth.) 
It started with a fun video that gave basic tips for filming, such as not to cut off people’s chins. I learned the “rule of thirds,” how to “compose the nose,” and to look out for bad backgrounds (for example, make sure there aren’t any poles sticking out of your subject’s head).
Then we learned how to use the cameras that the access center distributes — how to turn the camera on, how to focus, to zoom in, zoom out, and how to adjust the settings and the lighting to best show off your subjects (and the lighting to avoid: overhead, fluorescent lighting, backlighting, and weird-colored lighting).
LeDuc gave us some tips on audio, too — basically, that if you’ve got bad audio, you’ve got nothing. Content is king, he said, “but audio is 90 percent of what you see.” “If people are interested in the content, they’ll still watch, even if the video is not as good,” LeDuc said. Use alternative sound, he advised (a microphone, perhaps), because the video camera will pick up the sound of every lawn mower, every whirl of wind and every car alarm in the area. “Air conditioning,” he said, “is the hallmark of bad audio.”
Knowledge of how to film and edit is not mandatory in order to create a basic show on most stations. The classes are open for those who are interested in becoming more tech-savvy or who would like to put a little more work into their show, but at most public access stations, the employees are there to help.
The best part of the class was that LeDuc assured that there were no stupid questions. Even when I had to ask a few times where the “off” button was on the camera.
Upcoming classes/workshops with Concord TV:
• Intro to Camera ($25) is Wednesday, Oct. 17, at 6 p.m.; Wednesday, Nov. 7, at 6 p.m.; and Wednesday, Dec. 12, at 6 p.m. 
Every center has its own personality
Most public access stations require that you be a resident or that you work within the city whose station you’re requesting to create a show on. Check with the station for its rules.
• Bedford Community Television (10 Meetinghouse Road, Bedford, 472-8288) also has the PEG format — public (Channel 16), government (Channel 22) and school (Channel 23). The website ( offers live streaming and video on demand.
• Concord TV (170 Warren St., Concord,, 226-8872) Although most of the programming is done by the public for the public, some of the programs are put together by employees at the access center. Channel 6 is the education channel, Channel 17 is for government and 22 is public access. Concord TV is described as an “on-air, community bulletin board” where local groups and nonprofits can publicize meetings and events. It’s a nonprofit organization, incorporated in 1998, to manage Concord’s community television center and its three channels. It’s located within Concord High School, but it is a separate entity. Concord TV does not have live streaming of its show, but you can download shows from the website. Right now, only the Concord TV staff-produced shows are available for download, but soon all the shows that air on Concord TV will be available to download at, said Jonathan LeDuc.
• Derry Community Television (Derry Municipal Center, 14 Manning St., Derry, 845-5518,, Derry’s media station is linked to organizations all over town, featuring channels 17 (government) and 23 (public access). There are a few key players at Derry Community Television — there’s video producer Sean Zajac, cable system coordinator Chris Martin, assistant cable system coordinator Debbie Roy and something that most community television stations do not: a reporter and video producer, Kimberly Haas. The station is very active with Pinkerton Academy, offering internships for local high school students, and as with most access centers, it covers local events, moving around in its mobile truck. Training includes classes in basic camera, basic editing, studio production, audio production, lighting directing and graphics for video. 
• Goffstown Television (, 497-8990, 27 Wallace Road, Goffstown) began in 1992. Also located within the town high school, it features a public channel (16) and a government channel (22). Right now, there are seven regular shows within this smaller access station. They station is volunteer-based, David Suitor said, and while they do offer one-on-one lessons for residents who want to learn more about creating television, the employees at Goffstown television take care of most of the technical work.
• Londonderry Access Community Television (281 Mammoth Road, Londonderry, 432-1147, is right next to the local high school. There’s a public access (CTV-20) and a government (GOV-22) channel. The website offers live streaming. Londonderry Access Center is one of the larger stations in the area, led by Erin Barry. In addition to providing residents access to filming equipment, studio usage and lessons (which are free), the access center offers summer camps and kids’ after-school programs on Tuesdays from 3 to 5 p.m. (Their latest venture is in creating Halloween movies.) “It’s surprising how many people don’t know that we’re available for anyone looking to work on a show -- it’s pretty much as local as you can get,” Barry said. TV topics have a wide range, from learning to eat right to travel.
• Manchester TV (, 628-6099, 1045 Elm St., Manchester, hosts three community access channels. Channel 16 is dedicated to art, culture and education. This includes local sports, school graduations, musical concerts and parades. Channel 22 hosts government meetings and programs about city services. Channel 23 is where local residents can produce their own shows. Manchester Public Television was created July 1, 2010, and is available on Comcast cable; live streaming is available online (it requires a download of Microsoft Silverlight). Private, one-on-one instruction is available. Representing the biggest city in the state, it’s also one of the only channels that features live public access television. These programs take place at the studio itself. “People like it when the phone rings. It means people are watching. It means that people are being stimulated enough to call, and they’re interested,” Lahr said. “It’s wonderful, because you’re actually interacting with the community while it’s happening,” he said. Access to the public TV center is $100 per year.
• Merrimack TV (6 Baboosic Lake Road, Merrimack, 423-8561, offers three local access channels, including the community channel on 22; education on 21 and government on channel 20. The station provides video equipment facilities and training for Merrimack residents and nonprofit groups who serve in Merrimack.
• Access Nashua (, 11 Riverside St., Nashua, 589-3141) is a relatively new to public TV. The town had been considering it for years, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Mayor Donnalee Lozeau put Nashua’s public access center in the budget for a trial run. After one year, the city decided to renew the contract and fund it. “Our job is to make it as easy as possible to produce a show.... They [producers] like the willingness of the team to work with them,” Dick Gagnon said. Gagnon worked for 17 years at Goffstown’s television station before he made his way to Nashua. Right now the access center features about 17 shows. This is one of the few channels that offers both online streaming and video on demand. Public channel is 96, government is 16 and education is Channel 99.

Home- Grown
A look at the gabbers of community access and how you can join in the small-screen fun

By Kelly Sennott

It’s easy to see why Manchester TV’s Executive Director Jason Cote and Operations Specialist Joe Lahr call psychic and public access TV host Norm Moody the “local Oprah.” Sporting a blue button-down shirt and a crooked smile, he jokes, laughs and gives you a hard time like you’re old pals within minutes of your introduction.

It’s 3:55 p.m. on a Wednesday when I meet him.  He’s preparing to begin his show, Norm & Friends, which runs from 4 to 6 p.m. on Manchester’s Channel 23.

Wednesday is a big day at the Manchester TV studio. From noon to midnight, all the shows are live, save a 15-second time delay. Howard McCarthy, who’s in his 80s, starts out the live segment each Wednesday with a song in The Old Lamp Lighter. Then there’s Consider Your Playing Field at 1 p.m., In My Opinion at 2 p.m. and Inside Story at 3 p.m. 
Moody greets Mary Georges after Inside Story wraps up, and wanders over to the seat in the back of the studio. The brick wall is to his back, microphone is at the ready and three cameras are pointing at him. Brett Godson sits nearby, manning the cameras.
Moody has been on Manchester TV for 11 years now. He hosts guests, offers advice and tells stories in his weekly show. People call for advice, they call to talk, and sometimes they call just to give him a piece of their mind. 
It took him three years in front of the camera before he became comfortable, after lots of encouragement from Lahr. He owes the guys at Manchester TV a lot, he says — he was homeless at one point — and he’s grateful to be able to do what he does each Wednesday.
“I like to believe that we’re helping people here. They want advice from us, and I give it with love and compassion,” he tells me before the show begins. “Every viewer is an important phone call. I always say to them, ‘You are the stars — I’m only the show host.’”
The clock changes, 3:59 to 4:00. The show begins. “It’s going to be a wonderful day!” he tells his audience. 
You can have a show, too
The wonderful thing about local access television is that anyone can create any kind of show. You just need an idea.
The challenge is figuring out how to bring that idea to life. If you want to create a show, it’s natural to feel that you need to have camera skills, editing skills, storytelling skills and confidence in order to formulate a sketch that people will want to watch.
That’s where the New Hampshire Coalition for Community Media ( comes in. Within this nonprofit organization are media groups from all over the state, all of which are dedicated to promoting public, education and government (PEG) access television in New Hampshire. They’re there to fight for your voice, to help you promote your message, your talent, your stories to your local community. Visit the Nashua, Manchester, Bedford, Derry, Londonderry or other local access centers in your community, and you’re sure to find the people you need to guide you in creating your production.
The only trouble with public access television now seems to be that not enough people know it exists, never mind that you can be a part of it. 
“People are surprised that public access television is even there — that they can produce their own show,” said Dan Young of Access Nashua. 
“We’re here to help you produce programs, and our helping is in the technical end of it,” said Manchester TV’s Cote. “We don’t manipulate content in any way, and we don’t take ownership of the content. All we’re here to do is to make sure we get their content out to everybody, and that we do this in a quality way,” he said.
And it’s available for people of all ages and all levels. 
“The younger generation has been immersed in [video technology] at a young age, and so it’s a little easier for them to catch on sometimes because they’ve been using it all their life,” said Erin Barry, training coordinator at Londonderry Access Center. But any age can learn. “We have people come in as young as 5 years old, as old as 80 .... We try not to limit people,” Barry said. The 5-year-old did, however, have to stand on a box in order to learn how to use the camera.
The rules
The content of the show is technically controlled by you, the producer. The point of public access television is to enable locals to exercise their First Amendment right of free speech, and so most access centers don’t even preview material before it’s aired, said Jonathan LeDuc of Concord TV, for fear of editorializing. 
“Our job is simply to provide the tools, training and transmission for locals to create their own television show,” LeDuc said, “...the only rule is that you can’t make money off of your video.”
But each access center has some guidelines about what can and cannot go on the air, which they’ll explain to you in an orientation. Obscene matter and material that constitutes libel, slander or an invasion of privacy or public rights are prohibited. Material must also be nonprofit or non-commercial. Cote and Lahr say they work in a “reactive” vs. “proactive” manner: Their live station features a 15-second time delay in case anything inappropriate finds its way on the air.
And many community television centers allow residents to sign out camera equipment after an orientation. But if you do sign a camera out, you’re expected to put something on the channel. You can’t just take the camera out “and go to your brother-in-law’s wedding,” Lahr said. 
It’s something special, Cote said, that local residentss are able to produce content on public television with so few limits, that they have this freedom of speech and this outlet to express it. Many countries, Cote points out, don’t have anything close to this. 
“We want to get voices out, so that voices will be heard, so that people in the community will realize it’s not about the one message, it’s about all the messages. ... It’s not about the studio, it’s about what goes out on the channel, and about the opportunity that’s involved, for the average person to be able to come out and be part of the dialogue without big spending or advertising ... it’s a great democratic leveler,” Cote said.
What is ‘good’ public access television?
So now that you have an idea for a show and you’ve learned how to use the camera, you’ve come to the most important part: How do you make your show worth watching?
Nashua Access Center’s Dick Gagnon describes good public access television as television “not shot in front of the blue curtain.” (Or, in some centers, the white curtain, maroon curtain or brick wall.) Shows should have a good opening with graphics and good editing with smooth transitions. 
It’s also important to set a certain tone for each show. This can be done with creative use of sets, music and good tools. 
It’s always refreshing to see shows that go outside the norm — that are filmed outside or that require advanced editing and research, Gagnon said. 
“The extra work shows, and it adds variety,” Gagnon said. He and Young work individually with each producer to give character to their shows, to help them figure out how to tell the story through scenes, narration, sets and multiple shots.
The goal, Gagnon said, is for people to watch and say, “Wow. This is on public access?”
People don’t know just how good their shows can be, Gagnon said. Public access is  not funded like commercial television, but, “you don’t have to be fully funded to make your show fully professional,” Gagnon said. Access Nashua is decently funded, but it’s not necessarily the money that makes a show good. It’s the work that goes into it.
Lots of times, what you’ll see here is just as good as what you’ll see on commercial TV, Gagnon said, sitting on the sofa chair next to the giant green screen at the Nashua Access Center. He’s adept at working one on one with each hopeful producer. They usually spend the first part of their meeting talking, brainstorming about the show, coming up with ideas. He and Young are very determined that you get the look you want for your show, whether it be in the studio, outside in the snow or in a fully functioning kitchen.
But there is one big difference between public access television and commercial television: You might personally know the people on your public access channel.
You should see this
Whenever Gagnon travels, he likes to check out the local  community access channel. He does this for a couple of reasons. It enables him to measure how well Nashua compares to other public access centers, for starters, and it also helps trigger new ideas. 
“In the past 10 years, I’ve traveled a lot for conferences, as well as for another company I’ve worked for, even on vacation. But a lot of times, what I’ve caught on the local channel when I was in New York or out west, in Minnesota, I honestly wasn’t that impressed,” Gagnon said. The access center in California he learned about at a conference with a $5 million budget was a bit ahead of what New Hampshire has, but for the most part, “I really think that New Hampshire is more advanced than a lot of Midwest and West Coast states,” he said. 
It’s true that political topics are common on local access television — but wait before you flip the channel because you’re beyond tired of politics. 
There are no political ads on public access television. Instead, the political shows offer the opportunity to see more than 30 seconds of each local candidate, which is about what you’ll see on major news networks, said Mary Wing Soares.
Soares is a Londonderry resident who created one of these shows through the Londonderry Access Center. Her experience began when she took on the role of producer on a show that was already established. She also filmed shows at the library, helped film Londonderry Olde Home Day and recorded other events around town. Once she had a year under her belt, she created a few more shows, one of which was a roundtable discussion with candidates for local office.
“I saw that this hadn’t been done in our town before,” she said. “We’re very structured in our conversations with politicians, but I wanted to create a roundtable discussion — one in which we felt comfortable interrupting one another,” she said. 
“I’m interested in our town and our town politics. I like that these shows exist and that these shows are re-broadcasted. I also like the ‘about town’ kinds of shows, the kind that highlight different businesses, things that are happening in the town,” she said. 
Many folks become involved because they were invited to appear on another show as a guest, Gagnon and Lahr both said.
“You come here, you’re invited to be on a show — it could be something you didn’t really know about, and then, all of a sudden, you had a great time, and you want to do your own,” Lahr said. 
“Once people come and they find a place here, it becomes part of their life,” Lahr said. “It’s not for everybody, going on TV. Making yourself semi-famous is not for everyone, but for the people who do it, it becomes part of their very core. ...They’re passionate about something, whether it’s politics, God, the city, entertainment, sports.”
It’s not just on-air talent that’s needed — most access centers feature just one or two full-time employees, if that. Many of these centers rely on the interest they generate. Londonderry boasts nearly 100 volunteers and 34 different shows. The more people are involved, the more people will watch, and the more people watch, the better the shows will be.
It would be nice if each access station had enough interest and participation to run local shows 24/7 on its public access channel, but not every town is as big as Manchester or Concord. So some stations opt to use “filler” shows, said Goffstown Television’s temporary coordinator, David Suitor. The melting pot of public access shows at, the website of the New Hampshire Coalition for Community Media, has system downloads that local stations can use ­— for instance, Goffstown used to regularly download the Londonderry Access show Political Chowder, Suitor said. He also uses websites like and the national website (although they’re useless to locals; you need an account to maneuver around them freely). Gagnon of Nashua has run Windham’s cooking shows on the Access Nashua station, he said, and he enjoys Keene’s public access station, Cheshire TV, as well.


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