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Broadside Television

 Organization

Broadside Television was the brainchild of Ted Carpenter, a native Canadian who was raised and educated in New England. Carpenter came to Tennessee via the VISTA program. Studies at the Highlander Center in New Market, Tennessee, introduced Carpenter to the "new regionalism," a model for understanding mountain culture. Studies at Tennessee Tech in Cookeville introduced him to small format video. Carpenter then traveled to New York to study small format video production at the Alternate Media Center (AMC) of New York University. At the AMC Carpenter studied with the center's director, George Stoney.

Carpenter returned to Appalachia in 1971 as the coordinator of a community program in Monterey, Tennessee, on urban and rural education. He also began doing his own freelance video documentaries on life in East Tennessee. Carpenter traveled widely among the communities of the region, interviewing farmers, shopkeepers and others. He then showed the interviews to other farmers and shopkeepers and encouraged them to add their own comments. To Carpenter the process of communication was as important as the finished documentary.

Carpenter told Stoney of his work in East Tennessee. In turn Stoney communicated with friends on the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC) about Carpenter's work. Subsequently, in November 1972 ARC awarded Carpenter a two-year grant, to be administered through the First Tennessee-Virginia Development District. With this grant Carpenter founded Broadside TV in Johnson City.

Through Broadside, Carpenter put into practice his view that portapac and small video format technology could be used by members of a community to teach themselves their own culture. Carpenter aimed to provide the medium through which individuals could generate the material for their own learning. His model was the community newspaper--hence the name "Broadside" television.

In East Tennessee, where television reception was poor, cable service was well established. However, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) mandated that cable operators produce a certain number of hours of locally originated programming. Carpenter and Broadside took advantage of this ruling and convinced local operators to turn over to Broadside their local programming budgets. Broadside thus was free to use its own discretion in regard to the types of programs it produced. In return, however, Broadside agreed to produce a certain number of hours of bluegrass music and wrestling. These subjects were among the favorites of the cable operators.

With subsequent grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, Tennessee Arts Commission, and private sources, Broadside was able to produce a variety of programs on life in central Appalachia. Among the topics examined by Broadside were coal mining, energy and environmental needs and problems, land use, traditional arts, handicrafts, music, education, storytelling, aging and the needs of senior citizens, and regional history. The Southern Appalachian Video Ethnography Series (SAVES), produced in partnership with East Tennessee State University, is of particular interest and importance.

Broadside also served as a tape clearinghouse which distributed tapes to schools and community groups throughout Appalachia. In addition, Broadside contracted with local agencies and establishments (e.g., Memorial Hospital in Johnson City) to make instructional films.

Broadside's fortunes, and those of other video producers dependent on local cable programming, changed in 1974 when the FCC dropped its requirement that cable operators provide locally-originated programming. Faced with the loss of the major portion of its funding, Carpenter and Broadside had to reevaluate programming strategy. This task fell primarily to Carpenter's successors, as he left in 1975 to head the Citizens Committee for Broad-casting. The station in 1977 sought unsuccessfully to use Channel 41 as a public cable television station. A year later, in 1978, unable to maintain its operation, Broadside filed for bankruptcy. One of the region's, and indeed the nation's, most innovative approaches to television programming came to an end.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Christy Family Papers

 Collection — Multiple Containers
Identifier: AppMs-84
Scope and Contents The Christy Family Papers consists of materials relating to Thomas Calvin Christy's work on radio and television programs. The papers include correspondence, audio and video recordings, photographs, and personal documents pertaining to the Christy Family.
Dates: 1951-1984