Despite having a “shoestring” budget, according to its station manager, and a staff comprised almost entirely of volunteers, Belfast’s local community access channel received an award for overall excellence from the Alliance for Community Media in the Northeast region.

The station, which has been in existence since 2006, received the overall excellence award in the category for stations with a $100,000 yearly budget or less, Station Manager Ned Lightner said. The three other categories are for stations with budgets of $100,000 to $250,000; $250,000 to $500,000; and $500,000 or more, according to the Alliance for Community Media.

Although the station was judged alongside other stations with budgets up to $100,000, Lightner and his team produce content with far fewer resources.

“We are in the dinkiest category — we have a budget of $13,000,” Lightner said.

As far as awards go, Lightner said the overall excellence distinction is what community television stations aspire to earn. Lightner, who is no novice to the television business, with 35 years of experience, has worked at an award-winning station in the past. He said he received his first overall excellence award in 1985 while working at a much larger station in Pennsylvania.

However, that hasn’t changed his appreciation for being recognized by his peers in community television.

“It felt really great,” Lightner said of the award.

Daily operations

One of the challenges of operating a small community television station is the need to air content 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The station airs original programming, such as “Thai Chi Through the Seasons” with Dave Hurley, while also airing government meetings and events throughout the city.

Lightner said the Internet has helped a great deal with programming; he noted that the station reaches about 2,000 homes in Waldo County. However, he said because of the ability to put content online, some shows, such as “Thai Chi Through the Seasons” reach a much larger audience.

In the case of Hurley’s program, Lightner said the show was being watched all around the country, as far away as Seattle. In another instance, Lightner said, he realized the station was lacking a program for children, so he decided to team up with local storyteller Jennifer Armstrong to create a new show.

Since its creation, Lightner said, Armstrong’s program is now shown in Cape Town, South Africa.

The variety of programming BCTV offers is part of the reason Lightner said he feels the station was chosen for an overall excellence award. Lightner also credited the volunteers and Board of Directors for their help with keeping the operation running.

“The Board of Directors and the volunteers make the station possible,” he said.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.

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