Network plans to liven up community cable TV

Convinced that commercial and public television programming is boring and flat, a group of progressive video producers is planning to stir up the airwaves. Their idea, announced in Chicago Monday, is called ``Deep Dish TV.'' Starting this week, the group will beam independently produced shows via satellite to public-access cable channels across the United States.

``We definitely have an agenda that we want to show,'' says Martha Wallner, co-founder of Deep Dish TV. ``This is really going to maximize the impact'' of the television shows.

Public-access television is not new. Cities and other local authorities often mandate that cable operators set aside certain channels so members of the community could broadcast their own programs. What is new is that the quasi-network will allow local independent producers to show their work on such channels nationwide.

The group will beam the 18 programs, one a week, for the next 18 weeks. They expect that more than 500 public-access channels across the country will pick up the shows and then air them. Among the topics of the 18 programs: agriculture and the rise of big farms, the aftereffects of the Vietnam War, labor unions and plant closings, and US involvement in Central America.

``It is unbelievable to have a network to distribute these things,'' says Bob Hercules, an independent video producer who is on Deep Dish's steering committee.

The $60,000 effort was funded by contributions from arts and social-issue funds as well as individuals. It will be continued beyond the 18 weeks if the group can secure more funding, Ms. Wallner says.

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