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Iowa City’s PATV is merging with Public Space One

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PATV, Sept. 18, 2019. — Jav Ducker/Little Village

After 40 years of bringing Iowa City community-based television programming, Channel 18 will go dark, as Public Access Television (PATV) heads in a new direction.

PATV is merging with another long-time local cultural institution, Public Space One (PS1) to “form one, integrated non-profit organization designed to provide enhanced community access to a wide variety of media, digital production, and creative support services across Johnson County,” according to written statement issued by the two organizations on Wednesday.

“The missions of our organizations overlap in supporting community created media and beyond,” PS1 Director John Engelbrecht said in the statement.

The merged nonprofits will operate under PS1’s name, and will be led by Engelbrecht.

“We are very excited to continue the mission of Public Access Television for Iowa City by collaborating with John and the team at Public Space One,” Tom Nothnagle, president and board chair of PATV, said in the statement announcing the merger.

While PATV’s mission may remain the same, its operations will undergo a major change, according to the two organizations.

Under the new PS1 entity, the current PATV Channel 18 public access station will discontinue operations for broadcasting local programming, and instead focus on offering public access to digital video, audio (podcasts), and web creation enabled through the current PATV studio and technology resources. The organization intends to carry forward the legacy PATV mission of providing affordable public access to the local Johnson County community for production and broadcast of customized, digital content. Rather than the traditional form of cable broadcast, this digital content will still be produced locally and available for broadcast through live streaming, social media and web channels. The current PS1 focus on art production, presentation, and educational opportunities will continue and now utilize the expanded assets and facilities of the new integrated organization.

PATV was launched in 1990 to take over the city’s public access cable TV channel. The public access channel, which started in 1979, was funded by Mediacom’s franchise fee; the company held the cable TV franchise in Iowa City.

The city’s contract with Mediacom ended in 2018, and so did the city’s funding of PATV. Since then, the nonprofit had been considering new ways of securing funding and what its future mission should be.

Over the years, PATV brought its viewers such local favorites as Tom’s Guitar Show and Joe’s Gaming Shack. According to the statement, “Current operations at Public Access Television – Channel 18 will be suspended soon and a brief transition period is planned to redesign the facilities, business practices, and operating guidelines for the new PS1 organization.”

This latest expansion of PS1 comes just weeks after it purchased two historic houses on Gilbert Street for its new home. Since its beginnings as a venue for a group of University of Iowa students to stage a play in a donated space above the Deadwood bar, PS1 has grown into an important contemporary arts center. It still provides a space for experimental art productions, and in 2009, PS1 opened a gallery that has featured work from both local and national artists. In 2012, it founded the Iowa City Press Co-op (“Iowa’s only community-access printmaking studio,” according to PS1), and four years later, it added the Center for Afrofuturist Studies, a residency program for artists of color.

“We intend to carry [PATV’s] legacy forward and enhance it by offering the community access to digital media tools, education, and programming,” Engelbrecht said. “Combined with the current creative opportunities, resources, and programs offered by PS1, this new organization will continue to be a valuable resource to the local Johnson County community.”

Kim Bates contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: Little Village videographer Jason Smith serves on the board of PATV, and Arts Editor Genevieve Trainor is on the board of PS1.

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