Vermont Community Access Media
Vermont Community Access Media (VCAM) is Chittenden County, Vermont's public, educational, and government access (PEG) cable television station and digital media resource center, seen in the Burlington area on Burlington Telecom  and Comcast channel 15.
Its mission statement is: "VCAM promotes free speech, civic engagement, government transparency and public dialogue by enabling easy access to the expanding world of media. VCAM does this by providing the public training in and access to the tools and techniques of digital video, and by producing and distributing locally relevant noncommercial content via digital media outlets."[this quote needs a citation] VCAM Statement of Purpose: (from VCAM's Articles of Incorporation)
The specific purposes of this corporation are:
- To foster free speech and public dialog by making easy, low-cost access to the electronic media available to all citizens of the VCAM service area for nonprofit and noncommercial purposes;
- To support, the production and distribution of noncommercial community-based media programs by providing individuals, organizations and institutions on a non-discriminatory basis the necessary resources to produce programming for the noncommercial access channel(s) including production of studio and video equipment, training and channel time;
- To encourage the broadest possible community involvement in the electronic media, especially by encouraging use of access channels among a wide range of individuals, organizations and institutions within the service area of the corporation;
- To facilitate the use of the public-access channels as a public forum which promotes a free exchange of ideas and information;
- To assure that no censorship over program content of the public access channels exists, except as necessary to comply with applicable laws, legal obligations, and the principles of nonprofit and noncommercial programming.
- To ensure that no individual is discriminated against with regard to services, access to information or any activity of Vermont Community Access Media because of race, national origin, gender, age, sexual orientation, religion, physical disability, political affiliation or economic status.
- To solicit additional funds and resources for, and serve as a vehicle for the funding of access activities in the area served by the corporation.
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Channel 15 began as humbly as any access channel might. A group of concerned and interested citizens approached the cable operator, at that time Cox Cable, to ask for equipment and airtime. There was no equipment, aside from an old 3/4-inch Sony VTR tucked away in a closet. But, there was channel space available on Channel 8, an ABC affiliate from Poland Springs, Maine. Using only time made available by non-duplication protection, a limited amount of programming was cablecast. Of course, this sparked some interest in the community and led to more inquiries and more programming becoming available.
As the need grew, it became apparent to Cox Cable that a more structured and formal approach would be needed. Studio space was carved out of a corner of the warehouse and garage and a full-time channel coordinator was hired.
Once it was built, they did come. One full-time staff person began work in February of 1985. By March, large-scale productions, such as the annual Essex Rotary All-Star Hockey Classic and note-by-note coverage of The Burlington Discover Jazz Festival, were undertaken. In September, the first regular series, Performing Arts Preview, was produced in the public access studio and joined the other regularly produced series, BHS HiLites, which was submitted weekly by Burlington H.S. students. This was quickly followed by Delaney on Vermont, with State Senator Dennis Delaney, The VNA Presents, a home health care program, and Movin’ Up the Mountain, produced by Community Bible Church.
The volume and diversity of public access programming was stimulating to other, similar groups and soon Channel 8 had several inspirational programs, ArtWorks, an art exhibit program as a complement piece to the Performing Arts Preview, a large amount of coverage of local political activities and a number of talk shows, including Loophole, a program that showcased the work of local filmmakers and video producers.
To increase awareness of public access television, build viewership and stimulate community awareness, the public access channel teamed up with the Essex Education Center’s student video club to create the Summer Video Institute. A select group of students received intensive training in the workings of all the remote and post-production equipment and then used that training to create short-form promotional programs for area non-profit organizations (The majority of the students who participated in the Summer Video Institute went on to study mass communication in college and several now work in that field).
With a trained core of volunteers and a growing interest in unique local programming, public access was ready for the next television challenge—live programming. Teaming up with noted local journalist Peter Freyne, public access produced a series of live Select Board candidates forums. Each night, candidates from a different ward would answer questions from a panel of local journalists and then field phoned-in questions. Live programming sparked the interest of many in the community and to this day, Channel 15 boasts of a large number of “interactive” live programs.
The next milestone in the history of VCAM came in October 1987. As part of the rebuild of the cable system, public access received a dedicated channel, moving from Channel 8 to Channel 15, which was made available for public access programs 24 hours per day.
At this time, the channel staff consisted of one full-time and one part-time employee. The facility was available to producers 12 hours per day Monday-Friday and for 5 hours each Saturday. Regular training classes were held each month and programming grew from a nightly line-up of a few hours to a regular schedule of airtimes from 2pm-11pm.
In spring 1993, Channel 15 moved into a new home on Kimball Ave. in South Burlington. The new studio was twice as large as the original and was accessible to people with a variety of physical abilities.
Also, in 1993, the playback on programming on Channel 15 was computer automated, thus allowing for programming to be played even during those hours when staff was not working. Quickly, an interest in “late night” types of programs mushroomed and many “David Letterman” clones appeared.
In a concerted effort to be responsive to viewers and the community, the advisory board utilized this technological advance to create specific times—no earlier than 10 pm and no later than 6 am—for the airing of programs that might be questionable for younger viewers.
The 1990s saw many more technological advances at channel 15 including the first foray into the blossoming world of digital video.
In the spring of 2000, channel 15's first channel coordinator, Lori Murphy, left the channel to run a statewide television channel for Adelphia Cable. Later that year, Rob Chapman, a former channel 15 production technician, returned to Vermont to take the reins of the channel.
In June 2001, the channel 15 Advisory Board formed a community-based non-profit called Vermont Community Access Media. In October, VCAM took over management of channel 15 from Adelphia Cable and hired Rob and the rest of the channel 15 staff. In December, VCAM moved out of the Kimball Avenue studio and into a new space in the South End of Burlington.
In May 2003, VCAM began broadcasting government access programming on channel 17 in the former Adelphia Small Cities communities.
In 2012, Seth Mobley was promoted to Executive Director after Rob Chapman left the position.
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