TRAVERSE CITY -- Dave Poinsett spent much of New Year's Day inside a TV studio.
His companions were My Dear Disco, an Ann Arbor band that played a New Year's Eve party at the City Opera House. Poinsett, a producer for local public access station Up North 2, wanted the nationally rising band for his show "Northern Performances."
The band agreed. On New Year's Day, Poinsett and members of My Dear Disco met at the Up North 2 studio, located within the Traverse City office of Land Information Access Association. Station Manager Joe Carter came in on the holiday to run the control room.
The band recorded a set of groovy dance/rock songs. The studio shook from the sound; the guitar players wore earplugs. While not the same as attending a concert, the program gave viewers a chance to participate and showed the power of public access.
"There's just not a venue for this kind of thing in commercial television around here, and, really, it's the only venue for long-format programs around here. It really is the soap box, the vehicle, for community expression," said Poinsett, of Elmwood Township.
The nonprofit LIAA changed the name of the struggling public access station from tctv2 to Up North 2 when it took over operation in July 2008.
"We wanted to tell everybody and show everybody, it's a new day," said LIAA Executive Director Joe VanderMeulen.
Local governments' financial support of tctv2 had dwindled and some residents criticized its content. By early 2008, public access supporters were looking to save the station, then hosted at the Traverse Area District Library. LIAA specializes in community planning and development and agreed to lead the effort.
The Up North 2 viewing area covers western Michigan from the Mackinac Bridge to Manistee and can be seen by Charter cable customers on channel 2. The station is supported with a portion of the franchise fees collected from cable subscribers who reside in Traverse City and Garfield, Elmwood and East Bay townships.
LIAA converted a computer lab in its Munson Avenue building into a studio. It features a green screen, a table where hosts can conduct interviews, lights, cameras and props including a big globe and U.S. and Michigan flags.
"(It's) meant to be simple, not very dramatic. One person can push on a couple of power buttons and start producing a show," said Carter, the station manager.
Producers attend a free orientation before requesting air time. Producers who live outside of the four supporting municipalities pay $25 for six-month dues.
Additional classes teach field and studio production, editing and lighting skills for a charge. Producers can borrow video equipment and use LIAA computers to edit programs if they achieve certification.
LIAA focused on expanding public access services. Up North 2 programs now play on the Web at www.upnorthmedia.org, and officials tried to improve program scheduling.
Since July, hundreds of shows have been aired, including musical entertainment, church services, political discussions and features about area nonprofits.
There are more than 200 certified producers. Most shows range from 20 minutes to an hour and a half in length.
One of the only restrictions is that content should be shown on Up North 2 first, not on YouTube or at a gathering.
Programs are not aired anonymously, and the station's staff does not watch entire programs before they are televised, Carter said.
The station encourages new programs and welcomes new producers, especially young people.
"It's about our community, and if we lose this channel ..., then we've lost a key community resource," VanderMeulen said.
For more on Up North 2, drop in at a producers meeting at 6:30 p.m. March 18 at Northwestern Michigan College's Oleson Center.
A weekly programming schedule is available at www.gtherald.com.