By Patrick McArdle
With a few small video cameras, two separate television channels, a few locations, Rutland’s local cable-access television station, PEG-TV, was created, and 25 years later, on Thursday, that birthday will be celebrated at their location in the Howe Center.
An open house is scheduled for Thursday that will include tours, free ice cream and hot dogs, prizes that include tickets to upcoming concerts at the Paramount Theatre by Three Dog Night and Ziggy Marley, and the unveiling of the television station’s new logo.
The open house at PEG-TV, which stands for Public, Education, Government, Television, will be followed by a presentation for the station’s Producer Group, from 6 to 8 p.m. with guest speaker Stephanie Wilson, a faculty member at Castleton University, PEG-TV board member, and producer of a pet adoption show for the station.
Tom Leypoldt, executive director of PEG-TV, said PEG-TV incorporated in August 1993. Leypoldt said he wasn’t sure when PEG-TV first started broadcasting, but said they had been airing Rutland’s Halloween Parade since at least 1996.
Amber Dumas, marketing and communications coordinator for PEG-TV, said one of the goals of the station in 2018 was to give everyone a voice.
“We want to give everyone a chance to share their point of view, opinions. We also serve nonprofits and schools so really, all of Rutland County, giving everybody a chance to be heard,” she said.
PEG-TV provides equipment training and can create short videos to help nonprofits be seen on the station’s “video community bulletin board,” Dumas said.
“We’re really trying to make it easy for people to be part of PEG-TV and to be involved,” she said.
Like other cable access channels, PEG-TV was born from the federal law in 1984 that guaranteed the public’s access to cable broadcasting. The channel broadcasts public meetings like local town or city boards, school board meetings and school events, local sports, and content created by Rutland-area residents.
Leypoldt said he believed PEG-TV bolstered freedom of speech because, other than adhering to broadcast standards, they do not exercise control over their content. For instance, a meeting of a select board will be broadcast “gavel to gavel,” and the viewing public knows they are seeing the entire contents of the public portions of the meeting.
“That’s what we are, we’re basically a conduit for the community, a local voice,” he said.
PEG-TV staff will seek out and create content if it serves a great number of people in the region, Leypoldt said, pointing to the Halloween parade as an example.
Leypoldt first became a volunteer for PEG-TV in 1993 and was first hired in 1995. He remembers their first site on Pine Street, before they moved to the basement of what is now the Comcast building on North Main Street.
In 1996, PEG-TV moved to the Stafford Technical Center, and stayed there about 10 years before moving to the Howe Center.
“It has changed considerably. Just the studio space that we have here (at the Howe Center) is equal to all of the space that we had at Stafford Technical Center,” he said.
The building has enough room for a small display space, nicknamed the museum, where the two video cameras that were used in PEG-TV’s earliest days can still be seen.
Leypoldt recalled the years of videotape to record and broadcast content, that seemed to vanish overnight when digital equipment became the new standard.
In its early days, the community would refer to PEG-TV as Channel 15. At the time, the operation was one channel of programming before the other two channels were added, dedicated to educational and governmental content.
“We just started covering more and more outlying communities and their board meetings. There just wasn’t time, with the number of games and sports and shows coming in. We just needed more time slots and the only way to do that was to apply for the other two channels,” he said.
Leypoldt said most of the content in the early days was central to the city of Rutland, but over time, other communities recognized the benefit of working with PEG-TV to get their meetings and events out to their residents.
PEG-TV is not available directly to residents who get their television by satellite, but their videos can be seen on YouTube or through www.pegtv.com.