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Local channel focuses on communities, strives for broadcast quality

The Public Cable Television Authority isn't quite a household name, but its programming is in every Huntington Beach, Fountain Valley, Westminster and Stanton home that has a cable box.

The joint-powers agency was created in 1971 by the cities to manage cable television franchises in their area and to help customers settle disputes with their provider.

Since 2006, however, the PCTA has switched its focus to creating original, local programming that spotlights the communities.

"We're all about being local and all about the community," said John Borack, general manager of PCTA. "We want to focus on a lot of the good stuff that's out there that might get passed over."

The agency broadcasts its shows through the cable providers in the area, whether Time Warner Cable, Verizon or AT&T U-Verse, by way of a government-access channel. It also streams its programming on the cities' websites.

PCTA is funded by cable company franchise fees, Borack said.

The channel is more than just a live feed or rebroadcast of a city council meeting. Borack, his production staff and a group of contract workers create several original shows.

"Orange Slices" features groups, individuals or locations of interest in the four cities. A recent episode highlighted the Orange County Curling Club, retired Huntington Beach police Chief Ken Small and the Westminster police volunteers.

"We have hosts who come into the studio to do wrap-arounds — introducing the segments — and then we have segments where folks go out in the field and interview those people or see those places," Borack said.

Similarly, the show "Wow! That's in OC" spotlights up-and-coming businesses, like Sensitive Sweets, a gluten-free bakery in Fountain Valley, and ClimbX Indoor Rock Climbing in Huntington Beach.

Unlike public access channels, which allow the public to broadcast their own produced material, the PCTA takes direction from the individual cities.

Borack explained that city officials recommend the types of programming they would like to see made and the events they would like to see covered live.

PCTA recently covered the summer concert series in Fountain Valley, the annual Huntington Beach Fourth of July Parade and Westminster's Flag Day ceremony.

In November, the agency will use its studio, down the hall from Huntington's council chambers, to broadcast live coverage of the 2014 election.

"We have guests come in from all four cities and we talk to them," Borack said. "It's four hours of live television, and it's something people can't get in Orange County if you're watching the local channels. If you're watching NBC, ABC or CBS, they're not going to cover Orange County. What we do is give people that local angle and something to watch."

Video producer coordinator Louis Rocha, who has been creating material for cities for more than a decade, said he hopes viewers will consider PCTA programs in the same vein as those made by major news networks.

"I want our quality of video to look and match exactly like broadcast," he said. "Government TV has always had this stepchild look from professional broadcasters. I have professional broadcaster friends who just look down their nose at us."

Rocha, 42, conceded that the quality of government television programs during their infancy more than 30 years ago wasn't exactly top-notch.

"In the early days of TV production for government film, it literally was shot by anybody who was in the building that wanted to work on TV," he said. "You had the quality of home movies at the outset."

The level of production now, Rocha believes, is on par with broadcast and cable stations.

"We could easily transfer over into broadcast production, but for whatever purposes, we're still here," he said. "We make the best of what we have, and we've been recognized among our peers, regionally and nationally.

"Our material could easily be on any broadcast channel. It just happens to be on a local city production."

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