Portland community TV enters 4th decade with new name, new look

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PORTLAND — The transformation of Community Television Network, poised to become the Portland Media Center, is coming soon to a screen near you.

“The name change is huge. The reason we are doing it is because it better embraces all we do here,” Lesley MacVane, who handles memberships, marketing and donors for the nonprofit, said Aug. 9.

Broadcasting on two channels and online, CTN is celebrating its 30th anniversary and undergoing a makeover at its studios and offices at 516 Congress St., next to Maine College of Arts.

The name change will not be official until after a 25-hour telethon running from 9 p.m., Sept. 22, to 10 p.m., Sept. 23. The event has a fundraising goal of $10,000, according to CTN Executive Director Tom Handel.

Long the place to view the rebroadcasts of City Council and Planning Board meetings, CTN also offers a variety of production classes that often lead to programming.

“They are simple, hands on and fun for our introductory classes,” Handel said. “People have always enjoyed the classes because they develop collaborations.”

CTN began on the campus of the University of Southern Maine before moving to a space on Oak Street in 1998. It moved to Congress Street in 2005.

The renovations include new flooring, fresh paint for the walls, a new sign out front and expanded gallery space for the Union of Maine Visual Artists Gallery.

What remains the same are the more than 8,000 videos that can be accessed online, and core programming that includes “New England Authors with Kameel Nasr,” “Call In Portland,” with Mayor Ethan Strimling, and “All Things Bike,” for local bicyclists.

There are also cooking shows, and programming outreach to immigrants and the LGBTQIA communities, MacVane said. CTN also airs “Democracy Now!,” which is not produced locally, but provides content Handel said more corporate networks avoid.

The CTN studios and offices also host Portland Playback Theater, the Congolese Community of Maine and Hour Exchange, MacVane said. Studio 516 has also been a venue for the Margaret Mead Film and Maine Jewish Film festivals.

“We want this to be a community center for the Portland area,” MacVane said.

The city funds about a third of the operating budget, Handel said, and grants and volunteers are at the core of the content presented. About 60 local nonprofits are also CTN members.

City Finance Director Brendan O’Connell said the city will support CTN with at least $125,000 this year, including $15,000 to pay for recording civic meetings, $10,000 for “Call In Portland,” and the remainder in other memberships and other “no-recurring expenses.”

Volunteer and Access Producer Coordinator Arthur Nichols said while hundreds are certified to use the CTN production equipment, he more or less relies on about 50 people at a time to keep programs airing.

Handel said once certified through the classes, people can also borrow cameras and use studio editing equipment.

“People are passionate about the shows they are doing; it is not for the money,” he said.

David Harry can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or dharry@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidHarry8.

Media Coordinator Brian Knoblock handles the production Aug. 9 as Tom Handel and Lesley MacVane tape a discussion about the upcoming changes and telethon at CTN’s Congress Street studios in Portland.

Portland City Hall reporter for The Forecaster. Baltimore native, lived in Maine since 1989. A journalist since 2005, covering much of Cumberland and York counties. I joined The Forecaster in 2012.