Charlie Stogner is on a mission to give television a local face so that communities have local programming. Billing his StogTV as “your local TV channel,” he’s using the federally-mandated local access provision to build a network of community-based television.
“It will be like the weekly newspaper in town and much like TV was in the 1950s,” he said. “It’s giving local people news about themselves and what’s going on in their communities.”
His interest dates back to when he and the late Ronnie Slaughter, whom he calls a cable pioneer, tried to devise a way to utilize the local public access channel. They found a newspaper article that mentioned leased access.
“Although Ronnie had owned and operated cable systems at the time the law creating leased access was passed in 1984, this was the first he had heard of it,” Stogner said. “We researched until we found information and then determined this was a viable way to have profitable cable TV programming. Ronnie has since died, but I continued until StogTV developed to where it is today.”
He adds that another cable pioneer who played a role in convincing him this type of thing could be a profitable venture was the late Alan Torrence. Both he and Slaughter built and operated cable systems as far back as the middle 1970s.
“I now often refer to leased access as taking advantage of a little known U.S. law that mandates all cable sites must set aside a percentage of their channels for use by programmers unaffiliated with the operator,” Stogner said. “The rates are established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).”
A veteran of print, radio and television media, he envisions local access TV becoming bigger. “As we begin airing shows in the various markets and promoting the use of the channel for anything and everything you can associate with TV shows, I’m comfortable we’ll soon have 24-hour, seven-day-a-week programming on most, if not all, StogTV sites,” he said.
There is no additional cost to cable customers and the feedback so far is positive. “What shows we’ve aired at various sites — Jackson, Pearl, McComb/Brookhaven, Hattiesburg and Vicksburg — over the years have been well received by local viewers,” Stogner said. “Our shows tend to show local people involved in activities. Of course, they like to see themselves and others they know. This is very much of a TV version of a good weekly newspaper.”
Biloxi will be the next city going on the network and wireless operators are now connecting others. A tower is being erected in Jackson that will be capable of delivering a signal to do live TV. The Jackson channel will also be the wireless Internet service provider for the area wide network.
“It’s a weird marriage,” Stogner said. “We will put programming point to point and send it over the Internet; then it’s redistributed on cable. David Howery has just started with us as production and operations manager. He’s a very sharp individual and he’s developing and managing our data.”
StogTV plans to have local managing partners at all its proprietary sites where it will focus on local content. It expects to cover the upcoming political elections at those sites.
“I’ve got 15 affiliates on 33 cable systems in nine states,” Stogner said. “We’re establishing access on 40 Mississippi cable sites that have at least 3,000 subscribers. Anything less than that does not generate enough revenue to cover it.”
He says part of the beauty of the system is that it can be as remote as radio without requiring a broadcast truck.
A wide variety of content can be aired including business showcase, real estate programs, news, political programs, tourist information, restaurant reviews, foreign language programming, music, high school sports, photo classifieds and community events. Programming of an obscene nature can be restricted or prohibited by the cable company. Commercial advertising can be placed within or around the programming.
A single program can be shown on leased access or a number of shows comprising several hours of the day can be aired.
Contact MBJ contributing Lynn Lofton at email@example.com.