A Somewhat Missed Opportunity
Most of the time when I tell people they could have their own TV program for free, they look at me surprised. I understand why. Most people don’t know about it.
One of the ways that Truth For The World spreads the truth of the Bible through media is on television. Some of the ways we have done that have cost us little to no money for broadcasting. It still costs money in personnel, equipment, salaries, etc., but the airtime is little to no money.
How is this possible? The answer is public-access television. The name itself defines it. It is television that is accessible to the public. Many cable companies offer a public access television channel. This is a channel set aside for public news, events, and yes, television programs made by or submitted by the public.
Occasionally if you are watching these channels you might see a live broadcast of a town council meeting or some kids doing a movie review. You may also recognize them as channels with scrolling slide presentations about bake sales for the local kids’ club, anniversary announcements and a local radio station playing in the background. Yet this channel is on 24-hours-a-day, seven days-a-week. Why do most of the timeslots go unfilled and instead we see the same slides scrolling over and over? Probably due to two reasons: 1) Most people don’t realize they could be putting their own TV program on this channel, and 2) Most people don’t have the knowledge, time, and/or equipment to make their own regular TV programs.
In the past, not having the equipment wasn’t an issue. It used to be the law that cable companies with a certain number of subscribers had to make equipment and timeslots available to the public for their public access channels. How many congregations/individuals could have put on TV shows broadcasting the truth to their communities and inviting people to their local church during that time? Perhaps some did. After all, the title of this blog post is “A Somewhat Missed Opportunity.” That law has now been changed to basically allow public access channels but not require them.
So some areas have public-access channels and some don’t. How can you tell if yours does? The best way would be to consult your local cable company(s). Just ask them if they have one. You can also see if there are any in other areas by consulting a list on the Internet such as this one: Wikipedia: List of public access TV stations in the United States. Look for stations with the designation "P" next to it, which stands for "Public." If you have friends, family or just know people in congregations in areas that have a public-access channel you can encourage them to take advantage of it and get the truth of the Bible on-the-air in their area, usually for free.
I know, I know. Just because you can get a timeslot doesn’t mean you have the time, knowledge and equipment to make a weekly or even occasional TV program. But that’s where Truth For The World comes in. We ship out 52 programs-a-year to TV stations, individuals or congregations in America. And we don’t charge for them. They’re distributed for free! Those individuals and congregations can take the Truth For The World TV programs and “sponsor” them on their local public-access TV channels. Truth For The World supplies the TV programs, the local individual/congregation secures the airtime, and the truth is spread to the community.
In each and every program we invite people to our website and to sign-up for Bible Correspondence Courses. You can volunteer as a teacher for Truth For The World. Then when students learn about Truth For The World through the TV program and they sign-up for Bible Correspondence Courses, we can match them to you and other teachers in your area. Then if the student decides they want to come to church or obey the Gospel, you are in the area to meet with them and help them to become a Christian and be a part of a local church.
So what’s the process for getting a free TV program on-the-air at a public-access channel? Follow these steps:
- Contact your local cable company to make sure whether or not they have a public-access channel.If they don’t you can ask them who the governing body is that awards them their franchise contract. (Probably the local city or county government.) *(See below)
- If they do have a public-access channel, ask them what they need to apply for a timeslot. It will probably consist of a form and a sample of the TV program to be put on-the-air.
- Gather any forms, etc. from the local cable company to apply for a timeslot and fill them out. You may have to have an individual or congregation “sponsor” the program. Even if the airtime is free, you may have to serve as the local contact for the program and also claim responsibility for the program’s content. (This would relieve the cable company of any liability if someone gets mad because of something said on the programs.) Public-access channels only serve a local area (wherever the cable company serves) so they may require a local person to submit (“sponsor”) the show, even if the show is not made by them. This is why Truth For The World may not be able to get its TV programs on all the public-access channels without a local person making the initial request.
- E-mail us at Truth For The World (email@example.com) and ask for a sample DVD for a public-access TV channel. The cable company will probably want to see a sample of what the program will be like. They need to do this to make sure you are not putting content on-the-air that will contain things like pornography, obscene language, or calls to overthrow the government. Don’t worry. You won’t see that in our programs.
- If you don’t hear back from the cable company in about a week or two, call or drop by to check on the application.
- If your application is approved, ask the cable company if they can accept programs on DVD. If not, simply ask, “On which format should the TV programs be delivered?” Write down the information, even if you don’t understand it. :) Also, ask the cable company if Truth For The World can ship the programs directly to the cable company.If the answer is yes, e-mail us the name and address of the cable company. Make sure to let us know if DVDs are acceptable or if the cable company prefers a different format. We can ship out some programs to get the ball rolling and then put them on our regular mailing list.
- If the answer is no, then give us the name of the individual or congregation that will receive the programs in the mail and will then take them to the cable company. This would only require a visit to the cable company about once-a-month at most.
- Once your program is up and running, start advertising the program in your area. Send out letters, put it on your sign in front of the building, tell others, etc. Hand out flyers and business cards with the name of the program and the name of your local church on it. Viewers can watch the program and then come to your congregation to learn more or talk about the topic of the show.
At this moment in the United States, there may be more than 400 public-access channels available to the public, serving millions of people. Would you take the Gospel to these people in your area? All it might take is a few visits to your cable company and some e-mails to Truth For The World. Some people are taking truth-teaching TV shows to their local public-access station. For others, it will remain a missed opportunity.
* If your local cable company does not offer a public-access channel don’t complain to them. A better place to start would be your local government, probably your county government. The way it works is, multiple cable companies may apply to operate in an area, but the local government awards the franchise contract to one cable company. Technically, other companies may legally operate in the area, too, through a principle called overbuild, but many companies may opt out since another company has won the franchise. Within that franchise contract lies the power for a public-access channel. As part of the awarding conditions, a local government may require the cable company to offer a Public-access Channel (designated as P), an Educational Channel (E), and/or a Government channel (G). If the cable company wants the franchise contract, and of course it does, then it must comply. If your area does not currently have a public-access channel, then you might want to get a movement/petition going to the local government that oversees the franchise contract. Try to get the stipulation for a public-access channel included in the next edition of the franchise contract when it comes up for renewal.