It looks like a new partnership with the Madison Central Library just might save WYOU, the community access TV station that was ready to close its doors after a couple of years of struggling as a volunteer-only organization.
The station’s signal is being broadcast from the library and the station also will have access to video production equipment in the library’s media lab, says Barbara Vedder, chairman of the board of directors of WYOU.
“WYOU has been on its death bed for a while. This is like rising from the ashes,” Vedder said. “Because of this collaboration, we will stay on the air and be able to do new things.”
WYOU lost its main source of funding -- public education and government funding secured from cable TV subscribers -- with a change in state law at the end of 2010. The station laid off it three full-time employees at that time and soon lost its remaining workers and has been operating with volunteer workers only for more than two years.
The station has also been scrambling to raise money to pay its remaining expenses and rent for office and studio space at the Social Justice Center on Williamson Street.
“It was constant fundraising," said Vedder. "It was crazy."
WYOU was established in 1976 and for years offered locally produced television programs, as well as a place to learn about television production and check out equipment.
Under the new arrangement with the library, WYOU will get rent-free space and dedicated lines for the equipment that broadcasts its signal. The library will also furnish a place to store a computer and other equipment used to schedule programming, said volunteer Robert Lughai.
When the permanent links are up soon, it will mean a clearer signal for WYOU programming, he said. The library is still acquiring equipment for its media lab and as it program develops, there will be opportunities for WYOU members to use the library equipment and for library patrons to tap the expertise of WYOU members.
Programming produced in the library's media lab may also be broadcast on WYOU, Lughai said.
The library media lab has an instructor on staff, Nate Clark, and is offering classes in such skills as stop motion video, game design and podcasting, as well as offering drop-in times.
“We’re looking to create content. They have expertise and had problems being housed. This seemed like nice win-win,” said Trent Miller, director of events for the library.
WYOU currently has about 100 members, said volunteer Rick Richards. Members pay $50 a year and can produce programs for broadcasting on WYOU. While members once typically used WYOU equipment to produce video, changes in technology mean many now use their own and send completed programs to the station, he said.
But WYOU is also a “collaborative space for people learning the craft to communicate and share ideas,” Richards said.
“We always were supposed to be a public access station, but we’ve always been low profile. Where we are now means that more people can participate if they want to.
“We hope the community treats WYOU as their resource,” he said.