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Unsung Hero: Tony Vigue, community TV go-to guy

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Unsung Hero: Tony Vigue, community TV go-to guy

SOUTH PORTLAND — “For more than a decade, Tony Vigue has been the go-to person when people in Maine need advice about starting a public access station. He is unfailingly helpful and devotes a lot of his own time to answering questions and providing technical expertise.”

That's how Shoshana Hoose, former manager of TV3, Portland’s educational station, describes Tony Vigue, manager of South Portland Community Television.

Life began for Vigue on a prison farm in South Warren. His dad was a prison guard and Vigue and his six siblings enjoyed hanging out with the prisoners who worked on the farm.

“It was a great place to grow up in the late '40s and early '50s,” Vigue recalled, “exploring the hills and fields and ponds. And the prisoners were always nice to us.”

After high school, Vigue attended St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida. “My aunt, a retired World War II Army nurse, lived in St. Petersburg,” he said, “and she put me through college.”

Vigue majored in radio and television production because he had always been interested in hi-fi. “When I was in high school," he said, "I built a hi-fi system for my parents.”

Vigue then spent three years in the U.S. Army Signal Corps, including time in Bangkok, Thailand; six years with AutEx, a stock trading information network, in Massachusetts; and 13 years as a project manager at Data General Corp. in Westbrook. He then served as a partner at Creative Engineering in South Portland, a firm specializing in the design and manufacture of custom video equipment consoles and cabinetry.

In 1995, Vigue became manager of South Portland Community Television.

With only one other employee to assist him, he has many responsibilities: managing overall operations and programming for a station that operates 24/7; dealing with equipment specification, facility design, installation and repair of all studio and control-room equipment; and, most important, handling franchise fee negotiations, because the station’s funding comes from franchise fees received from cable TV.

Some people aren’t aware of the extraordinary diversity of community television offerings. In addition to broadcasting various municipal and school meetings, SPC-TV airs a full range of educational and entertainment fare, some put on by local citizens, some obtained from across the U.S. and around the world.

In a recent week, for example, SPC-TV aired more than 100 shows with titles ranging from the local ("Cancer Community Center Open House," "South Portland Fire Department History" and "Kites at Bug Light Park") to the far afield ("Birding in Ecuador," "Jamaica Inn" and "Planet Earth, Our Response").

Vigue takes special pride in community television’s public access mission.

“We provide a forum for free expression for South Portland residents,” he said. "People can send a letter to the editor without the editor. And we enable people who can’t get out to see what’s going on in their community.”

Vigue doesn’t restrict his efforts on behalf of community television to SPC-TV. He’s been a prime mover in the establishment of cable television in more than 70 other Maine communities; he’s been a member of the Community Television Association of Maine for more than 20 years, and served as president of its board for five years.

In addition to several awards (including the “Tony” award from the Community Television Association for his long service), Vigue has received countless thank-you letters from citizens and organizations for whom SPC-TV has provided a forum.

He is also a devoted family man.

“Linda, my wife of 44 years, and I are fortunate to have our daughter Lianne, her husband Jessie and our granddaughter, Karlie, share our circa-1800 farm in Standish," he said. "Lianne works at UNUM, Jessie at Dock & Door Handling Systems and my granddaughter works at being a 5-year-old. My son John lives nearby and is a rigger at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard working on submarines.”

Vigue is a citizen's citizen. The man behind the scenes in South Portland and all around the state, ensuring free and open access to news and information, 24/7.