JOHNSON CITY. A television viewer flips through the channels, searching for an after-dinner program besides "Gomer Pyle" and "Truth or Consequences."
Suddenly he finds a spontaneous mountain music session straight from someone's modest living room or a "very experienced" midwife telling her story.
And Bob Barker has lost his appeal. 1
A two-year seed grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission allowed the 26-year-old Ted Carpenter to move to Johnson City, Tennessee, in 1972 and found Broadside TV, an extraordinary communications experiment based on a regional planning and development model. Building on his "living newsletter" experience, Carpenter determined to construct an economically viable, self-sustaining community media utility, an entity virtually unique in the nation.
Broadside TV's uniqueness lay in several areas. It would "narrowcast" small-format video programming over cable television, a strategy then in use mainly in urban areas; it would take advantage of the preexisting communications environment of Appalachia and its status as a primary cable market; it would take advantage of the Federal Communication Commission's mandate for cable systems to provide local-origination programming; and it would be based not on the concept of a TV station but on a community newspaper.
The cable television industry was born in the community antenna television (CATV) companies that sprang up in the early '50s in rural areas with poor television reception. Their sole purpose was to erect a tall tower wherever reception was best (usually a mountaintop) and equip it with a sophisticated antenna that would attract a broadcast signal, boost it, and then pipe it down to subscribers via coaxial cable. Areas that required cable as an essential service were referred to as