Chris Morgan: Behind Public Access TV
Have you ever missed a local event such as a high school game or town meeting only to catch the replay on Valley Shore Community Television (VSCTV)? One of the people responsible for making sure you don’t miss a moment is former VSCTV public access coordinator Chris Morgan.
VSCTV describes itself on its website as “a local nonprofit organization responsible for providing public, educational, and government access to the towns of nine town Clinton cable franchise area.” It serves the towns of Durham, Haddam, Killingworth, Chester, Deep River, Essex, Old Saybrook, Westbrook, and Clinton.
Chris says that besides the shows produced at the studio located at 1587 Boston Post Road in Westbrook, equipment is also available for volunteers to take out and film sports games or town meetings.
Describing what he does as public access coordinator, Chris says, “I wear a lot of hats.” He says he’s done everything from manage the day-to-day work to programming, scheduling, public outreach, and equipment rental sign-outs.
“Almost all our shows we have are volunteer-produced, so we walk them through the basics and it’s a lot of outreach to find more volunteers,” he says.
Chris has been with VSCTV since the studio began in 2013, but after 10 years on the job, he will be taking a step back and working part time for the studio. “I’ll help with whatever they need,” he says.
His involvement with the studio started before VSCTV even opened its doors.
“I was still in college, so I wasn’t involved in the planning when VSCTV took over public access from Comcast back in 2013 but I was kept in the loop,” Chris says. “I’d been around public access since high school and I started with VCTV in July 2013,” he adds.
Chris recalls how, over the course of that summer, the new studio took shape. “We inherited some old equipment in Clinton, and we moved that stuff over here and got some new equipment too. Then we started in July,” he says.
Working at VSCTV for just under a decade, Chris says he’s had the pleasure of meeting many interesting people. “My favorite part definitely has been meeting all the people, no question about it,” Chris states.
Whether it was guests such as lieutenant governors and congressmen or musicians and local volunteers, Chris says, “We’ve gotten to meet some very passionate and interesting people.”
While Chris says he doesn’t like to single out some shows over the others, he does give special recognition to the Pete Mezzetti Show and Shoreline Music Monthly. “Those two have been with us since basically day one and they’re both still going. It never ceases to amaze me what talent we have here on the shoreline,” he says.
As for the hardest part of working in public access television, Chris admits the trend of cord cutting poses a challenge.
“Even though we’re on more platforms than ever before, getting people to find us is hard because there’s just so much out there,” Chris says. Additionally, Chris says cord cutting is a risk to public access television funding. “The funding structure needs to be addressed. The majority of our funding comes from a fee on cable bills. As people cut cords, that’s going to be an issue,” Chris says. “The local voice is important and losing that is a detriment to us all. Every town has its own quirks that make it unique and special and it’s neat to see that.”
As for good news, according to Chris, VSCTV saw an increase of interest since the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’ve doubled the amount of shows we produce. COVID drove people in front of their TVs and internet and they discovered us,” Chris explains. “We’re always looking for more volunteers.”
Chris says he first got interested in video production back in middle school. He says that Haddam-Killingworth High School hosts an annual holiday telethon for charity that caught his attention. He adds that the event is produced and hosted entirely by students at the school. “I remember thinking, ‘That looks cool. How do they do that?’ That’s when I caught the bug,” he recalls. When he got to HK, he too began taking video production classes — and the rest is history.
Chris grew up in and still lives in Higganum. In his spare time he likes to go fishing, spend time with friends, and take road trips.
For more information on VSCTV visit hwww.vsctv.com.