Having your own public access show is the dream of every teenager circa 1992, but as it turns out, it’s a surprisingly attainable dream in 2017 Brooklyn. New York has several public access channels and not only are they full of hidden gems, they’re also very open to giving television shows to people with something to say (read: You). Plus, with public broadcasting looking down the barrel of a rather unfriendly national budget proposal, we here at Brokelyn thought it as good a time as any to take stock in our fair city’s rich public access television scene.
While we’re all watching YouTube clips and using black market HBOGo login info, there’s a world of entertainment right under our noses. On this side of the river there’s BRIC Arts Media, a non-profit in downtown Brooklyn, which runs BricTV, a cable and digital network, and Brooklyn Free Speech, a “community television network that amplifies and honors alternative voices in media.” Meanwhile, in the city, there’s Manhattan Neighborhood Network, which runs five public access stations. Between BRIC and MNN, there’s New York-specific shows about things like the news, cooking, comedy and gentrification, and you can watch most of them for free online, which is perfect if you want to support your community without owning a TV, because who owns a TV anymore?
The biggest name in New York public access over the last few years is comedian Chris Gethard, of 2016’s Don’t Think Twice and the Beautiful Stories from Anonymous People podcast. More pertinently, though, Gethard is also the host of The Chris Gethard Show, a brilliant, chaotic talk-show that now airs on Fusion, but which, from 2011 to 2015, proudly aired on none other than MNN, and a nationally watched public access television show is a pretty big win for New York. When it left for Fusion, TCGS passed its torch onto The Special Without Brett Davis, which is a similarly brilliant, chaotic show that you really ought to be watching.
So, how do you get your own television show (to one day turn into a Fusion show and comedy career obviously)? Both BRIC and MNN are way more accessible than you might expect, you just have to live in the area and train to use their space and equipment to apply for a show. Do all that and you can be the next Wayne Campbell or whatever Weird Al’s character’s name was in UHF.
As a Brooklyn resident, BRIC’s Brooklyn Free Speech is probably the easiest network into which to break. BRIC has a whole guide to getting a show, but, essentially, they just ask that you attend an orientation and then take a production certification class. There are certification classes focusing on film, television, documentary and filming live events, and they’re almost all under $100, so you might actually pick up some practical professional skills on the cheap during your hunt for glory. Once that’s taken care of, all you have to do is decide what to do with your newfound soapbox. Maybe you want to read some poetry, maybe you want to host a talk show, maybe you want to tell the world about your very specific interest, you person with a very specific interest, you.
Whether you make your own show or just check out what’s already out there, 2017 feels like a pretty good time to show a little love to the arts and public broadcasting specifically. And maybe let Big Bird crash on your couch for a while.