The Friends of OCM in the Community
"The Friends of OCM are proud to support activities and events that raise awareness of Oshkosh Media and its services to the Oshkosh area. The Friends of OCM help Oshkosh Media to be involved in the life of Oshkosh, bringing local information and culture to our residents."
“Oshkosh Media” Background and Historical Perspective
Oshkosh Media has its roots with local media professionals who had the foresight to start a cable television service to serve the citizens of Oshkosh. Dr. Robert Snyder, chairman of the Radio-TV-Film Department at UW Oshkosh, proposed the idea along with the Oshkosh Cable Television Advisory Commission in 1986. Since the city of Oshkosh didn’t have staff or facilities for television production, the city contracted with UW Oshkosh in 1987 for facilities and staffing to provide the service. The channel went live in 1987, then on channel 24, with coverage of Oshkosh Common Council meetings. John Schwartz, a UW Oshkosh student, was the first part-time coordinator of the channel. Andy Radig was the next student to become part-time coordinator in 1990, adding more part-time staff, and more local production. The channel was moved to channel 10 in 1990. Jon Urben was hired in 1991 as the first full-time coordinator. Local residents began to utilize the facilities, with more programming and a more robust program schedule that included a wider variety of local organizations.
As the demand for community media increased in Oshkosh, there was also an increase in demand for the facilities at UW Oshkosh. Since student productions took priority there, the need for dedicated studio space for community television became evident. In 1994, City Manager Bill Frueh identified an office suite on the first floor of City Hall that could be converted into a television studio facility. In January of 1995 the renovations began and the operations of the channel moved from UW Oshkosh to City Hall. Along with the move, additional staffing was approved by the Common Council. Andy Radig was hired as Production Manager, working with Jon Urben and several part-time staff. Throughout the move and remodeling, volunteers continued to play a critical role. Individuals such as Lee Williams provided carpentry and construction support. New volunteers such as Gary E. Ross came to the studio to offer their time for local programming production. A new branding initiative was undertaken at this same time, and the channel became known as “Oshkosh Community Access Television”, or OCAT. Programming continued to increase in volume, and new staff-produced programs were initiated including “Oshkosh Today”, bringing community organizations into the new City Hall studio. The newfound access to City Hall also led to the creation of “Your City At Work”, a program offering a perspective on city departments from the inside of the organization.
With the continued growth of the organization, the need also increased for staffing. In 1997, Connie Carmical was hired as Production Specialist. Connie was able to enhance marketing efforts while providing much needed production support. 1997 saw a new automation system that allowed for unattended programming playback, increasing programming to greatly expanded hours. During this time period, the need for increased financial support from outside the city budget was identified. The answer was the creation of the “Friends of OCAT”, a 501(c)(4) organization that could raise funds for community television projects and programming initiatives. The Friends of OCAT organized in 1997 and supported the coverage of high school sports telecasts, local arts programming, and the purchase of new camcorders and other production equipment. The Friends spearheaded new fundraising projects, which increased community involvement along with recognition of community television.
2003 was a monumental year for community television in Oshkosh. The full programming schedule on channel 10 led to the need for the activation of a second channel, a dedicated community channel that could expand programming hours for public access programming. May of 2003 was when Community Access TV 2 (CATV 2) came online, with channel 10 becoming a dedicated government access channel, rebranded as CitiCable 10. Collectively, the channels were still part of the OCAT organization operated from a newly-remodeled and slightly expanded City Hall facility. Digital equipment was purchased in2003 for the production studio and control room, the master control room playback facility, and nonlinear video editing. The remodeled facilities allowed for the two channels to be operated efficiently from the space in City Hall. The year prior, 2002, saw government meeting rooms equipped with robotic cameras and self-contained production systems which allowed for more efficiency and better coverage of government meetings in City Hall, the School Board, and the County Board.
In 2006, yet another community media initiative was undertaken by the Friends of OCAT and the city. The creation of the first low power FM (LPFM) radio station in the Fox Valley took place in January of 2006 with the first broadcast of WOCT 101.9 FM. An FCC license was secured by the Friends, in partnership with the city for facility space, to create a new media outlet for community radio broadcasting. The new station created a lot of excitement with a unique and eclectic mix of musical formats, while opening government meeting simulcasts to non-cable audiences for the first time. The station was also open for local residents to submit programming, to volunteer, or to submit music created by local artists. Staff realized that the organization was becoming much more than a community television service, and this led to the next rebranding to “Oshkosh Community Media Services”, or OCMS. The Friends of OCM adjusted their name accordingly to account for the evolving ways that community media was reaching audiences.
With the continued evolution of technology, 2008 saw the beginning of online streaming video for government meetings and locally produced programs on the OCMS website. Videos were available on demand, as well as live streams of programming carried on CitiCable 10. The growth of social media platforms and communications tools were in their infancy during this time, but they were brought on as yet another outreach opportunity to reach new audiences.
The communications industry continued to change, and staff realized that the channel number designations of CATV 2 and CitiCable 10 would likely be changed. The cable provider had already made changes to the digital delivery of the channels, making them viewable on different channel designations depending on the type of equipment the viewer was using to tune in with. Because of this, a major branding change was made in 2016, simplifying the name of the organization to “Oshkosh Media”. The channel number designations were eliminated, in favor of name designations for the channels. CATV 2, the community channel, was given the new name of “Life TV”, and CitiCable 10, the government channel, was given the new name of “Gov TV”.
The city of Oshkosh, Oshkosh Media staff, and the Friends of OCM continue to serve the mission of providing first-rate community media resources to the residents of Oshkosh. As technology evolves, and as the telecommunications industry changes, community media in Oshkosh will continue to evolve to serve the needs of Oshkosh residents now and into the future.