November 17, 2019
Use Public Access TV to Reach Your Audience

By Wendy Blom

If you represent a small to mid-size nonprofit organization, and have limited funds to promote your message to important local audiences, consider using your community’s public access television station as part of your outreach strategy.

In Massachusetts almost every town has some type of access television station with a mission of providing a free-speech venue for its residents and organizations. Most stations, which are nonprofit organizations themselves, are eager to help other nonprofits make use of their channels because it increases their own value to the community by providing important information to viewers.

Somerville Community Access Television, for example, offers several services to local nonprofits to help them further their missions. These services are either free or very low cost.

The station helps social service organizations create half-hour talk shows about issues of concern or services that they offer. Every month a different non-profit is featured as part of a series called Talking About Somerville. Each program is cablecast during prime time for four weeks, which provides quite a lot of exposure.

Produce PSAs; Advertise on Bulletin Boards

In addition, the station helps nonprofits produce professionally one-minute public service announcements (PSAs) at a very low cost. These PSA’s run between programs at various time slots for one year.

All access stations provide an electronic Bulletin Board on their channels at no charge for non-commercial event listings. This is great way to advertise your charity event, school open-house, health-related information session, and community workshops. For more energetic nonprofits, stations will train your staff to use the cameras, edit suites, and TV studios to produce their own TV shows.

Is the effect worth the effort? Although ratings information is not available about how many viewers watch the shows on access television, it is well known that when local programs are provided, people watch. The mainstream media rarely covers local issues in depth, and even local papers will put their own “spin” on your message.

Public access television provides an opportunity to reach thousands of local residents with information that is totally controlled by your organization. Somerville organizations that use the local public access have been very pleased with the response they have gotten from their shows on the channel. And since they are considered the producers of the programs, the copyright belongs to them and they are free to use the shows for other purposes as well. They may choose to put their PSA on their website, or distribute their studio show as a DVD to clients and potential funders.

To take advantage of this local resource, first call your local station to ask what services they provide for nonprofits. Don’t be shy about asking for what you need because new services may be created if the demand is there. In this time of uncertainty for community media due to the impending telecommunications reform being considered in Congress, most stations are eager to prove their value to town governments by collaborating with local nonprofits.

Click here to find the website of the access station in your town.

Have fun creating TV projects that benefit your organization and your community.

Wendy Blom, executive director of Somerville Community Access Television, has worked with a broad range of nonprofit organizations to help them tell their story. Call her at 617-628-8826 or email

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