Public-access television has been an outlet for different thoughts through the years.

In the ‘80’s, Saturday Night Live created a famous parody that captured the unexpected entertainment value of “Wayne’s World” that featured two guys and their public-access show in their basement in Aurora, Illinois. The fictional show was hosted by Wayne Campbell, played by actor Mike Myers, and his best friend Garth Algar, who was played by Dana Carvey.

At this time, there were more than 2,500 public-access operations in the United States during the Wayne’s World Era, compared to 1,600 operations today, according to the Alliance for Community Media.

But public-access television still plays a meaningful role in our communities.

Since we moved from a paper-based economy to a digital society, traditional media outlets have lost the bulk of its resources, which has created more opportunities for public-access TV.

Here are three reasons why everyone needs public access television:

1. We amplify different voices and perspectives.

A few years ago, Kip Cherry, a Princeton resident, wrote a letter of support for the town’s public-access TV station, Princeton Community TV, which is now Central New Jersey Network (CNJN). She recounted the importance her family placed on the station.

“Over the dinner table, my Dad would talk about the importance of public access as a source of freedom of speech and discourse about all kinds of issues, she said.

Cherry also recalled the different perspectives she heard at the station.

“Over the years I, myself, have been interviewed on several topics by different moderators,” she wrote in a Town Topics op-ed letter. “And I remember each time, being impressed with the people waiting in the ‘Green Room’ for their taping. I remember local pastors and rabbis; mayors and members of Council, not just from Princeton but from surrounding communities; movie critics, and citizens with a wide variety of expertise and perspectives. Popular shows have included Back Story with Joan Goldstein, Perdidos in America, Education Roundtable, Breezing with Bierman, and many others.”

2. We keep local journalism alive.

According to the Pew Research Center, newspaper newsroom employment decreased by 47% from 2004 to 2018. The pandemic made those numbers worse as smaller local paper began laying off staff because of further declines in advertising.

At least 2,100 newspapers have closed, according to author Penny Abernathy’s report called, “The Expanding News Desert.” The report references a 2011 finding from the Federal Communications Commission that said newspaper outlets are the best medium to provide public service journalism.

Fortunately, CNJN TV helps fill the gap.

With local programming as its bedrock, CNJN provides local, national and international news coverage. It is also one of the largest public producers of original content in New Jersey, delivering programs featuring local business, educational, nonprofits, and legislative leaders delivering perspectives on important, timely topics while answering viewers questions. All CNJN programming is featured on its website at www.cnjn.org and may be accessed on Comcast Channels 28 and 30 ,and Channels 43 and 45 on Verizon FIOS throughout Central New Jersey.

3. We give the public the ability to engage with their communities.

In the past, traditional newspapers, researchers say, created a sense of community in three different ways. First, newspapers set the public agenda that will frame upcoming public policy matters. Secondly, the media outlets stimulated economic growth through advertisements that connected businesses with its customers. And finally, newspapers would localize national topics surrounding health care and economics, demonstrating that all news is local and everyone, ultimately, is a neighbor.

CNJN recently agreed to a partnership affiliation with Discover Central New Jersey, an organization designed to educate visitors and residents to the hospitality, eateries, historical locations of interest and local events that make Central New Jersey the place to live, work and visit.  Discover Central New Jersey provides a website listing of great things to do and places to visit in Central New Jersey.

The public is welcome to be part of the solution when it comes to introducing new content to new audiences. Yearly CNJN memberships are available in levels to fit everyone’s needs. Benefits include access to CNJN field and studio equipment, making programs for broadcast, discounts on CNJN classes and workshops, timely announcements of special programs and CNJN events and networking with other members.

But focusing on local matters doesn’t mean a small audience. CNJN’s programs are carried by streaming organizations: Roku, Apple TV, and Amazon Fire, reaching a potential audience of more than 100 million viewer.   Public television is for “Everyone”  Join today.

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