Compiled by Don Warman
Before there was a Channel 10, even before there was a Channel 8, there was a Channel 7 public access channel in Bellows Falls. Based at Bellows Falls Union High School and staffed with high school employees, Channel 7 operated from 1974 to 1989. The people who were instrumental in starting and operating the station were Jack Hilliard and John McAuliffe.
Jack was the audio-visual teacher at the school and John was an English teacher whose training had been in journalism. Hilliard wrote a grant application and was awarded the amount of $9000, which provided the financial foundation of the station.
Internships were offered to five students per semester and they were given class credit. John instructed them in "TV and Radio Scriptwriting" and Jack was in charge of training the students in the use of the reel-to-reel taping equipment, program editing and other aspects of technical production. The operation was centered in the school library.
During the summer months, Jack taught other high school teachers the finer points of video production. During this period, there was a small amount of government meeting coverage, as well as interviews with Senator Jeffords, Leahy and other prominent politicians, but the main purpose of the station was the training of high school students. There was a good deal of videotaping various departments in the high school.
The historical high point of Channel 7 was probably reached when Tad Dana, who replaced Jack Hillard, was the only person to actually photograph the final destruction of the Arch Bridge in Bellows Falls, after the "mainstream" media had given up in frustration after many attempts to bring down the structure. His footage was picked up by several national news networks, including NBC and CNN, and broadcast around the country and the world. Tad Dana continued running Channel 7 with McAuliffe for five years.
Dana also introduced and taught a course in Communications Media at BFUHS. Shortly after Dana and McAuliffe left the high school, Channel 7 was abandoned. The equipment was stored away, and there was a six-year hiatus of public-access television in the Falls area. However, with the leadership, encouragement and support of Mr. Ned Caron, the High School Principal in the mid nineties, with help of Don Astley, the station was resuscitated as Channel 8. Mrs. Suzanne Groenwold was hired half-time as Executive Director in 1995, with Ivy Rawling as her assistant. A number of managers have served the station since then.
Non-profit status was applied for and granted in 1998. In the year 2000, FACT began upgrading its older analog cameras and editing stations to digital technology, and began broadcasting from DVD. A few years later, FACT's programming library had grown to the point where channel space for new programs was growing limited. With the assistance of Adelphia Cable, Channel 10 was created. To this day, Channel 8 serves as the public access channel while Channel 10 features educational and government programming.
In the year 2006, FACT moved out of its space at Bellows Falls Union High School and into a new facility at the Health Center, courtesy of the late Rose Fowler and GRAS (Greater Rockingham Area Services). The station is currently staffed by the Executive Director Alex Stradling, Technical and Programing Manager Collin Kimball and Technical Assistant Amon Bingham.
We invite you to participate in our community access TV station and discover the power this medium has. Whether you want to create your own TV show or just get your message out, we can help in many ways. Public Access TV is the pulse of a community, and we're here for you. Courses in video production, editing, scripting and a myriad of other related topics are available, as well as one-on-one training.