New look for college-friendly cable channel

summer Sundial

Typically, cable access channels do not have much aesthetic appeal to the communities that they are meant to serve, and often go unnoticed.

Against the mold, LA36 is a cable access channel trying to change its image in order to encourage the Los Angeles community to become more interested in education by connecting its programming to the local culture.

LA36 has received a new look with the help of its president, Stephen Grace, who joined the station four years ago and enacted a series of changes.

Under Grace’s management, LA36 won a local Emmy award for cultural programming and a telecommunication STAR award for its coverage of the 2004 presidential election.

“When I got here four years ago, it was a mess,” Grace said. “I looked at the channel like a university would, adding sports and a performing arts center.”

With a budget of $500,000, LA36 is not able to utilize outside media to advertise itself to the 700,000 L.A. cable subscribers, so it has enlisted the help of local universities, community colleges, high schools and non-profit organizations to get the word out of its existence.

“We have huge support from non-profit organizations and the educational community,” Grace said. “We now show more high school sports than FOX, broadcasting 40 games this year.”

In addition to sports-related programming, LA36 features original programming from a variety of Los Angeles colleges and universities, including CSUN, UCLA, USC and CSU Los Angeles.

“Valley View,” a program produced by CSUN broadcast journalism students, has appeared on LA36’s schedule several times. Programming from L.A. Mission College is aired for students as part of their course curriculum.

“We have a block from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. on our schedule for the community college district,” Grace said. “We show programs on English, finance, history, government, etc., that count as traditional college credit (for students).”

In addition to its operating budget, LA36 relies on donations to stay in operation. Non-profit organizations and corporate-sponsored venues, such as Ford’s Theater in Hollywood, donate money to promote upcoming events, and various groups pay LA36 to have their events taped, edited and aired.

Grace attributes much of LA36’s success to “C-SPAN style” graphics and the professional aesthetic of its programming.

“Before we got here, the station was very static and had no graphics,” said Carlo Arcega, a production editor for LA36. “Now, with the help of Globe Caster, our editing system, the graphics are pre-built, and we can show the ‘up-next’ look.”

The next step for LA36 is acquiring a video server to broadcast directly from its offices in Downtown L.A. The current system does not allow this, and LA36 has to physically deliver edited programs on tape to the Adelphia cable company in Santa Monica.

“We are looking forward to having our own video server,” Arcega said. “Now we can control the tapes coming and going, and if one goes missing, we will be able to find it.”