Interview with Heather Adams – Executive Director of community media BCTV

Heather Adams

BCTV is: 
Comcast Reading Channel 15
Comcast-Southern Berks Channel 965
Service Electric Channel 19
The Municipal Access Channel (MAC) is Comcast Reading Channel 99 is a nonprofit corporation committed to providing live programming on cable TV and on our website, produced and hosted by people in the Berks County community.

Community members are welcome to submit stories, photos and video about issues, events and activities in Berks County. We also want your comments, opinions, reviews, rants and raves.

Reporters provide in-depth reports about quality-of-life issues in Berks County.

You can watch live programs streamed on our website or watch what you want, when you want, from our archives.

We have about 160 different shows.

Mission’s mission is to enhance the unity and strength of the community by providing:
♦ A medium for community dialogue and educational opportunities
♦ A source of information of local, national and international origin
♦ A forum for the exchange of ideas on issues and topics of community interest

In February 2009, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation awarded Berks County Community Foundation a $255,000 grant to create an online "community information hub" through the nonprofit Berks Community Television, or BCTV.

BCTV web-site

Heather Adams: I have been the Director at our organization for only 8 months – answering everything to my best ability. Our mission statement and more info can be found at and if you have further questions, please let me know.  We are a ‘non-profit organization’ and we are governed by a volunteer board of directors, who are community members.

Heather, how many people live on the territory where you broadcast? And what is the audience who read/watch you?  

There are approximately 414,000 people that live in Berks County, Pennsylvania.  Our television station is carried on cable available in approximately 100,000 subscriber homes. Our website is available to anyone with internet access (our live cable programs also stream live on our site and then are archived for future viewing)

On the page “About us” you wrote that in 2009 you won a grant in amount of $ 255000. Do you still use these money or you’ve become absolutely independent and self-supporting? And tell please, how did you create your community media at all. 

The grant was awarded to create the website and streaming technology integration with our cable station, positioning us as a multimedia information ‘hub’.  We no longer have these dollars (we used them for about 3-4 years to support these functions). Our station is a cable access station.  You can read about them here:,_educational,_and_government_access (this site will probably help you understand the creation of our station more clearly)
We are self supporting, but funding remains a constant challenge. We do receive dollars from local government and one county agency for services that we provide to them in programming. We also receive private donations and membership pledge dollars from individuals.  We apply for grants, and we charge for services like video production, and each of our programs is expected to find underwriting support for their programs at a minimum of $1000/year. We also do a number of fundraisers each year.

How many people and how much donate that you could work progressively? 

We operate on approximately $500,000 US Dollars/year. Those dollars come from the resources listed above, and we currently have about 300 individual ‘members’ that are pledging contributions from $25-$250 annually.

You wrote also that you have about 160 different shows. That’s amazing number! How can you do that? 

We currently have 130 programs. Most of them air live monthly and then are replayed a number of times. They are produced and hosted by groups and individuals from our community. Each of our programs goes through a proposal review, and a pilot review by our Program Committee.  We have 7 paid staff members who run our studio, technology, website, office, and journalism and we also have many interns from local colleges and volunteers from the community.

What are the most rating shows? 

We do not receive ratings for our programs from the cable company.  We can see how often programs are viewed online, and the popularity varies by subject.  Sports programs are very well liked, as well as programs on specific social and community issues.  Our website and email analytics, and measures of interaction with live programming and published content are very important tools for us in gauging participation.

Have you ever had some problems or misunderstanding with local government/authorities? 

We have good relationships with our local government. We are non-partisan and do not involve ourselves in political campaigning, parties, or elections other than voter education and election results coverage.  We broadcast public government meetings as well.

Did somebody sue to you? 

No, not that I am aware of.

What ambitions do you have to your media in future? 

Our organization will be 40 years old in 2016. We are working hard to have a renewed interest in the station and website by a younger demographic, to increase our capabilities to better serve the community, and to increase the quality of our technology/replace equipment.  We are always striving to develop new revenue streams to support the organization.

By the way, what do you think about situation in Ukraine and what in your opinion should be done that Ukrainian journalism/local journalism became more transparent and unbiased? 

I am not comfortable commenting on this because I am not completely familiar with the challenges that directly affect your media organization - however I wish you all the best in building a platform and resource for the people of your community.  I believe your mission is much like ours, to keep your citizens informed and involved.

And maybe you have some nice story how your media made somebody happier/healthier/better? 

I believe that the information we are broadcasting and publishing daily helps the community to better understand the issues and topics around them.  The citizens deserve access to this information.  We are an educational resource and strive to inform the public on the projects happening in their community, the challenges and successes of local programs and events that are available to them. Our producers, hosts, and guests deliver content on social issues, health, entertainment, arts, and so much more.

Interviews were conducted under the Project "Hyperlocal community media School", supported by the Media Development Fund of the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine. The views of the authors do not necessarily reflect the official position of the U.S. government.