Cameras rolling

Friends of the Arts takes over public access channel, launches original programming

Local arts advocate and co-owner of The Bookstore Muir Hughes interviews 1078 Gallery’s Erin Wade for her pilot TV talk show.

Local arts advocate and co-owner of The Bookstore Muir Hughes interviews 1078 Gallery’s Erin Wade for her pilot TV talk show.

Photo by Ernesto Rivera

On the set of, Chico’s new public access channel, eager community members are watching live television being made, cameras are pointed at a baby tiger and reptiles, and local community members are waiting their turn to go on air. It’s Monday, the cameras are rolling and is broadcasting its original programming live for the first time from its headquarters at the southwest corner of Fifth and Main streets.

Behind the scenes, the station’s two stewards can’t seem to stand still.

Debra Lucero, executive director, is showing people around the newly refurbished studio that includes a classroom area, a studio, a control room and a reception area that’s been turned into a green-screen room.

“This is where it all happens,” she says, gesturing to a small closet that holds a state-of-the-art cable casting system that sends all their content to television sets across the area.

But people who tuned into channel 11 that night wouldn’t have seen any of that. Instead, they saw a taste of the new original programming Lucero and Sklyer Sabine, program director, are working toward creating for Chico’s public access channel. (Butte Community Access Channel) is run by Friends of the Arts, a state/local partner to the California Arts Council, for which Lucero is the executive director. When Friends of the Arts acquired the station late last year after the city of Chico put out a request for proposal, Lucero and Sabine traveled to public access stations across the state to learn about their operations. On June 5, Friends of the Arts officially took over, with plans to recreate the channel as more community-produced and -focused. Other operators have had difficulty having success with the station. Until three years ago, it was run by Butte College, which turned over the reins to the city of Chico to save money.

On a less chaotic day in the studio, Lucero and Sabine spoke about their goals for the station and the community.

The two have many things in common. They both are originally from Chico. They have a passion for the community, the surrounding area and the arts. They’ve each left the area to pursue their career goals—Sabine spent many years in Los Angeles and Louisiana working on film productions and Lucero spent eight years as a journalist for publications across the country. But they both admit there’s something about Chico that kept bringing them back. With running the public access channel, they both found a place in town that could put their skills to use.

“As I’ve gotten older, it began to be sort of a crisis in my career where I loved being in Chico but I couldn’t pursue my career goals and I couldn’t find any meaningful wage or meaningful employment with the skills I had,” Sabine said. “It’s been this dance over the years, this hope and aspiration, to be able to fuse these two worlds and stay in Chico while still pursuing my career.”

The station had been relying on a classic arts package, a staple at most public access stations, but the team hopes to phase that out and replace it with more original content. Sabine has been approached by many people expressing interest in developing programming like a narrative talk show, a comedy show with local comedians, cooking programs and even a show a pedicab driver wants to do on the back of his bike.

“I really hope people come down, get acquainted with us, see the space, start exploring and let their imaginations go,” Sabine said. “We want to make it as easy as having your own radio show where you come in, turn on a few switches, hit a few buttons, deliver your broadcast.”

While local programming is an important aspect of, another priority is teaching the skills that allow the community to produce original programming. To that end, the station is creating camps that will teach students, particularly at-risk students, digital media skills like lighting, audio, videography and editing.

Its first partnership included local high school students who developed a video on the Barry R. Kirshner Wildlife Foundation, which provided the baby tiger and reptiles Monday night in the studio. Behind the cameras and curtains on opening night, Sabine ran between the studio and the control room, busily juggling friendly hellos and working with students to produce a handful of new shows.

“Get on camera one, get on camera two, start with the wide shot,” he told Emmett Norris and Gage Dupper, two student members of who were getting ready to introduce Muir Hughes, co-owner of The Bookstore, and her pilot talk show.

Running back to the control room, he gave direction to Sasha Walters, a Chico State student, who was running the video switcher and controlling the camera feed. On air, they saw Hughes giving a taste of a talk show she’s developing, and interviewing local personalities like Erin Wade, president of the 1078 Gallery’s board of directors, and Kevin Durkin, a local astrologer more commonly known as Kozmic Kev.

With the development of more teaching opportunities and the creation of a classroom space at the studio, hopes to generate original, community-focused programming 24/7 (when they’re not airing public meetings, that is). Plus, members of the community are able to develop their own shows. is asking for memberships to produce a local show ($25 a year or $10 a year for students to cover things like equipment and insurance).

A local community-run television station has special implications, Sabine said. Mostly, it allows content creators to be directly involved with their audience, which, in this case, will span from Corning in the north down to Gridley in the south.

“These are your neighbors, these are your friends, the kids you go to school with, these are your teachers,” Sabine said.

“We want to affect our region; we want to have a voice for our region. We’re in the building process, but it’s starting right here in the heart of Chico,” Lucero added. “With a heart like this, we’ll be able to build a pretty good reach everywhere else.”