A new era: New programs & memberships from NCTV as they forge their way into the digital age in Nevada City | TheUnion.com

A new era: New programs & memberships from NCTV as they forge their way into the digital age in Nevada City

Lorraine Jewett
Special to The Union
Nevada County Digital Media Center executive director Ramona Howard and board vice president Lew Sitzer are proud of the center’s state-of-the-art production studio, 20x20 foot cyclorama green screen, creative lab, and digital control room.
Photo by Lorraine Jewett |


WHAT: NCTV / Nevada County Digital Media Center

WHERE: 104 New Mohawk Road, 2nd Floor, Nevada City

INFO: YouTube Channel: Nevada County Digital Media Center/NCTV, call 530-272-8862, or visit NevadaCountyTV.org for more information

Most people know it as NCTV or Nevada County Television, the lowly public access cable station.

But its leaders are transforming it into the innovative and progressive Nevada County Digital Media Center, and helping it blossom into the community hub for all things video and film.

“In this new era, I think NCTV will fill that bill for all things from local media to sporting events to chat rooms to government meetings to teaching people TV production,” said NCTV board chair Terry McAteer. “All of these things are possible through our media center.”

The center features state-of-the-art production studio, 20×20 foot cyclorama green screen, creative lab and digital control room. It operates three local cable TV channels (public access, education, and government), streams programming on the NCTV website, and offers video on-demand via its YouTube channel.

“If you’re on vacation in Mexico, you can watch the debate on cannabis in the supervisors’ chambers,” said board vice chair Lew Sitzer, referring to the government channel. “With the education channel, we’re really trying to develop it with the schools and actively engage students.”

Ramona Howard’s Vision

NCTV can be viewed in only 11,000 Nevada County homes via cable TV. It’s the goal of executive director Ramona Howard to take their programming from the TV screen to the digital age.

“Every piece of local content that comes to us, we are building up our local video-on-demand YouTube channel and streaming it to our website,” said Howard.

Howard was hired as part-time executive director one year ago.

“I moved to Nevada County three years ago to be a grandma and work in my garden,” said Howard, who owned a Stanislaus County software company that sold products to the film and television industry worldwide. After two years of retirement, Howard accepted the top job at NCTV.

“I had the knowledge and skills,” she said. “Public access is such an incredibly important thing for a community. I knew we had all the pieces to do this, including technology, talent, and a volunteer community. It wouldn’t be too incredibly difficult to come in and put those pieces together.”

When Howard took the helm, programming was repeated ad nauseam and there were only three NCTV members.

Today the center boasts 200 paying members, and NCTV offerings are no longer a confusing hodgepodge of shows without rhyme or reason.

“We’ve created programming blocks with clever names, such as ‘Fur, Feathers and Scales’ and ‘The Pantry,’” said Howard. “We’ve been working hard to eliminate the old content that repeated itself and fill those time slots with new content.”

New programs

The board approved production of three original programs this year: a children’s show, a serious discussion show, and a program strictly for entertainment.

“Our Amazing Kids” is a series that will feature a host interviewing five- to 18-year-old youths about topics they’re passionate about, and then an expert in that particular field will join the discussion.

Another series is “Where Do We Go from Here?” Hosted by Sitzer, the shows tackle both local issues and global problems.

“We’re using the shows to deepen our understanding of what the problems are and coming up with next steps,” said Sitzer. “We present a complex issue and come up with a plan. It’s saying that we have the best chance of making changes by working at a community level, where the scale of the problem is do-able.”

Another show will be called the “Nevada County Dating Game.”

“Because we want to have a little fun,” said Howard, who hopes the board will approve another three original series next year.

The nonprofit center is funded by Comcast and Suddenlink franchise fees paid to city and county governments, which allocate percentages to NCTV. The center exists on a $30,000 yearly operating budget that pays its part-time staff of nine. The goal is to solicit underwriting, conduct fundraising, and increase membership to create a $75,000 operating budget.

The annual capital budget is $100,000 to $150,000, earmarked to upgrade the production infrastructure used to broadcast government meetings from Nevada City and Grass Valley city halls and the county government building. A portion of that money also funded the high-tech equipment and new studio that was completed in August.

How to get involved

Anyone can submit a program for broadcast on NCTV. The show must be about a community event that the public would have had a chance to attend — such as a theater production or concert — even if a fee were charged. Personal events, such as a wedding or funeral, are not accepted.

While anyone can submit content, only members may use NCTV equipment at the studio or in the field. That’s because members complete free and/or low-cost training workshops and know how to use the studio, cameras, lights, audio gear, and other equipment.

There are a variety of membership levels. Individual and nonprofit organization memberships are $150 per year, and business memberships are $200 annually. There are less expensive memberships for people who only want to serve as on-air talent or work on production crews.

“The youngest member is 5-years-old and the oldest is probably 80,” said Howard. “We have everyone from ‘I know nothing’ to Emmy nominated. There’s enough experience around to get people going and what they don’t know, we teach them.”

Howard is eager to train a cadre of members who will help lighten her workload. She said she earns $2,000 for 80 contract hours each month.

“I knew coming into this that no one can do this part-time,” said Howard. “My plan is to clone myself as much as I can in as many positions as I can.”

To reach its ambitious goals, NCTV needs enthusiastic people, thoughtful ideas, and a dedicated membership.

“With greater involvement, the media center will provide a voice for the community to bring about meaningful change,” Sitzer said.

Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com

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