WCHCTV Channel 3 (also available on channel 1021 on cable) celebrated five years of work this week, and the future is bright, according to officials at the station and at the Community Action Commission of Fayette County.
The City of Washington Court House has owned Channel 3 — a local public access channel that has delivered information on various programs and events for the county — for many years. The station over this time was operated by a multitude of entities, including the city itself, Southern State Community College, Fayette County Memorial Hospital and others, but each time it was a temporary engagement.
“Southern State ran the carousel for a year, but Washington Court House City Council did not pay them another $25,000 dollars the second year, so they stopped running it and put everything in the closet,” Harry Wright, executive producer for WCHCTV Channel 3, said during an interview Wednesday. “Chuck Winkle and Bambi Baughn (current executive director) at the Community Action Commission of Fayette County decided they wanted to take it over from Southern State. So Chuck calls me and explained what’s happening, and said they want me to do it.”
At the time Wright had not warmed up to the idea, calling the station a “White elephant,” and saying he did not want anything to do with it in the slightest. After several attempts by Winkle, Wright discussed the issue with his wife Mary (who has since passed away), who wanted to know why Wright didn’t want to be involved.
“I said ‘Because I don’t know anything about television and I don’t know what I am doing,’” Wright said. “At the time, so many people had tried to get it up and running. The city had it, the Washington Court House City Schools had it, the hospital had it, Southern State’s got it, I even think Rotary had it at one time. No one could make it work. But I eventually got tired of telling them no, so I had two demands that I thought for sure would make them tell me no for a change.”
Wright’s demands were simple, yet absolute, for him to work on WCHCTV Channel 3: He wanted to use the programming to make Fayette County a better place to live and educate kids, and he had the final say on all decisions for the station.
“I would keep Community Action’s wishes in mind and the City of Washington Court House’s wishes, those are the two umbrellas I am working under,” Wright said. “But when it comes down to it, do we air it? Or do we not air it? I have final say. I thought that would be a deal breaker, they wouldn’t go for it, but they agreed to it and here I am.”
Though he agreed, Wright still thought he would have been unable to work at the station due to a “No Compete Clause” with iHeartMedia he signed as part of his work at the WCHO radio station in town. At the radio station, Winkle had a meeting with Mike Smith and Dan Lathem to discuss this issue.
Afterward it was decided that Wright would be allowed to work at the station, but the sounds from Buckeye Country would accompany the carousel. The carousel was the first thing Wright and Community Action wanted to get up and running, which happened about two months prior (in 2013) to the first locally-produced programming on Jan. 16, 2014.
The next person to be brought into the fold was Kathy Patterson, producer and on-screen personality for the station. Patterson — who additionally works for the 97.5 FM WVNU radio station — was asked to be a part of the team after her many years working with Wright at WCHO radio.
“I do community stuff, but when I come in as a representative of the T.V. station I tell people this has nothing to do with WVNU or WCHO….this is Channel 3 T.V.,” Patterson said on Wednesday. “Harry and I work for different radio stations, but we have worked together for over 20 years because I started at WCHO. Harry and I are best friends. The one thing Harry pitched to me is that we have always been about community. When I went to work at WCHO, our AM station was our community station. So we did our best to try and get the listener-ship up.”
Wright and Patterson explained that while at WCHO, they grew the AM station listener base from around 980 listeners in 2012 to around 9,700 listeners, showing that these two just might be the best people for the task ahead.
“When I quit there I didn’t want to stop doing what we were doing for our community,” Patterson said. “So when Harry got involved in Channel 3 and asked me to get on board— knowing that we could still do community things, get people to come to Fayette County and see what we have to offer — it was just icing on the cake.”
In the last five years WCHCTV Channel 3 has grown more quickly than most at the station could have imagined. Just in the short time — with fiscal support from the community, the city and organizations like Fayette County Travel & Tourism — Wright and Patterson increased the amount of locally produced content by an exponential amount, all the while still keeping the carousel and community news at its heart. Over time the group has completed work on several local programs, including “Eating Out in Fayette County,” “Getting Fit in Fayette County,” “Shopping in Fayette County,” and more.
The station has also dedicated time to covering the WCH city council meetings, and recently introduced live high school athletic events to the line-up, which are streamed immediately on Facebook at WCHCTV. So far basketball games, wrestling tournaments, and a “Coaches’ Corner” show have all been live-streamed on Facebook and replayed later on Channel 3 (1021) for the community to enjoy. All of this content has had thousands of viewers from all around the country and beyond, including Florida, North Carolina, and even one in Germany, and is planned to continue.
A big contributor to the success of the station — according to Patterson, Wright and Baughn — is David Woolever, director/station manager of WCHCTV Channel 3. Woolever took over the position around three years ago this August, and said he got the job in a funny way.
“I came here to get footage from them for another video project I was working on at the time for my private studio,” Woolever said. “It just so happened the editor they had previously was getting ready to leave for another job. So after I left that day, he gave my resume to Bambi, who called a couple days later. Within a week’s time I was now the full-time director/station manager of channel 3.”
Woolever started toying with cinematography and video editing back in 2010. His wife, Mara, was actually in school for film editing and he would watch her from time to time. Eventually, Woolever picked it up and started doing it more regularly. Since then, he has started his own production studio (Other Side Studios) with Mara.
“I’m the co-director and producer for an online docu-series titled ‘Resident Undead’ for RU Media, and have done freelance work for networks, including Travel Channel, Discovery, and A&E,” Woolever said. “My initial reasoning behind taking the position as director was because I was going to get to do what I have a passion for as my job on a daily basis. I did see it as an opportunity to use my skills more and try to elevate the channel to a higher standard and quality of content. What was put together before I arrived was very good, however, I saw plenty of opportunity to make it better. Coming from experience in the industry, I wanted to make sure that we were headed in the right direction. Like Harry, I also view the endeavor as a great community service project. Not only can we produce quality programming, but we can also utilize the channel to attempt to better our community.”
For Woolever, one of his favorite parts of the job is being able to interact with community leaders and the general public. The feedback and support they have been getting has been amazing, and he said it’s very cool to know that the things he does mean something to the community. Woolever said he believes the future of channel 3 is a bright one. The team is consistently planning for new original programs and with the addition of local high school sports coverage live on their Facebook page, Channel 3 has already been able to reach new heights that not a lot of people thought it could in a relatively short period of time.
“We are hoping to have a membership drive soon,” Woolever said. “I strongly encourage the members of our community to consider the idea of becoming donors or members of WCHCTV. With the support from our community, we can continue to bring high quality programming, community announcements, and events to you, whether it’s on Spectrum channel 1021, or on our social media sites. More detailed pricing levels for membership will be released soon, but any donations, big or small, can go a long way. We greatly appreciate the citizens of Fayette County and Washington Court House for not only giving us a chance, but showing amazing support. So, I’d say just continue to check us out for more programming and content. We’re here to stay.”
All involved in the WCHCTV Channel 3 project are excited for the future and have similarly aligned goals to get there. One of the main objectives for both Wright and Baughn is making the station self-sufficient through sponsors and community members. Neither expect the station to become profitable, but just being able to pay full-time employees to man the station to “break even” would be a great start.
“I really need the community to support us,” Wright said. “So I can take those numbers to Randy Young, our sponsorship coordinator, and Godwin Apaliyah. The idea would be that Randy and Godwin would go to the industrial park and ask 10 businesses for $5,000 a year to sponsor programming in the community for the next five years. That way I know I have $50,000 coming from there every year, but to do that I really need the community to pledge so much a year so I can show them we have support from the community. Then once I have this support, we can go to the city and ask them for more support. All of this money together gives us what we need to run the station.”
Wright said the money would go to paying for his position, a permanent solution to pay for Woolever’s position, and much needed equipment for the station. He said he needs these positions to be paid — not for his sake as he had fully expected no money to come his way while working on this project — but for the people who take over after him.
“I am okay for doing this for a buck 87 an hour,” Wright said. “But if I came to the newspaper saying ‘executive producer for local television station needed, $1.87 an hour’ as a help wanted ad, no one is going to take that. However, ‘executive producer for local television station needed, $25,000 base salary plus incentives to make more,’ sounds like a good start in my opinion. I want Community Action to not have to put one penny toward the station for it to run. We have worked too hard for it to just go away once I’m done, and I want to ensure it’s here to stay.”
Also in the plans is a slew of new local programming, including more eateries and shopping, a local history series in conjunction with Paul LaRue and Bev Mullen, horse races at this year’s fair being live-broadcast, and more. That’s not all though as Wright, Woolever, Baughn and Patterson all said they hope to bring in local students who have an interest in television. They hope by doing this they can not only find volunteers who will gain real world experience in the field, but also help to increase an attitude of volunteerism in the community among the younger generation.
As time marches on, the group said they hope to continue to help Fayette County with Channel 3. Whether that be with local news and coverage of community events or teaching the next generation about the television process and the importance of volunteering, WCHCTV Channel 3 will continue to move forward, ready for the next opportunity to grow even more.
The information in this article was provided by Bambi Baughn, Harry Wright, Kathy Patterson and David Woolever. For more information contact WCHCTV Channel 3 (1021) at the Community Action Commission of Fayette County at (740) 335-7282 or visit them at 1400 U.S. 22 in Washington Court House.
Reach Martin Graham at (740) 313-0351 or on Twitter @MartiTheNewsGuy.