Mountain Community Television Collection, 1972-1978
1972 – 1978
120 Video tapes
Scope and Contents
The Mountain Community Television collection consists of approximately 120 ½” open reel video tapes of completed programs and raw footage shot by producers for the public access television station Mountain Community Television. The tapes in this collection have been migrated to access formats through a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission. The subjects cover many aspects of life in a southwest Virginia community in the mid-1970s including social life, coal mining issues, craftspeople, labor, musicians, youth activities, and Appalachian literature.
The Mountain Community Television collection consists of cable access programs produced under Mountain Community Television (MCTV), an affiliate of Broadside Television, between 1972 to 1978. The project was directed by media activist Paul Congo as a five-year experiment in locally produced programming in Norton, Virginia, creating a series of programs and documentaries about local news and political issues, regional crafts and traditional music, and profiles of local people. 1978, the original tapes were deposited at Appalshop. In 2007 Appalshop Archive received a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission to preserve and improve access to a major portion of the collection (in addition to Early Headwaters Collection materials).
In 1972 media activist Paul Congo of Wise County, Virginia was inspired by the revolution in community access cable television to create Mountain Community Television, a five-year experiment in locally produced programming in Norton. He envisioned a local cable access station in Norton, Virginia, and approached the owner of the local cable franchise about acquiring use of one of the system’s channels. The owner responded by saying that he would grant the group a channel if they could produce a test program in 24 hours. Spurred on by the challenge, they borrowed cameras and equipment from Broadside Television, the community cable system program providers in nearby Johnson City, Tennessee, and quickly taped a local high school football game.
The station operated out of an old elementary school on a minimal budget with a staff comprised largely of volunteers and interns who were attracted to the ambitious goals of the station. The group put together a small but innovative programming schedule. In addition to local government meetings and sporting events, the station began producing a series of programs and documentaries about local news and political issues, regional crafts and traditional music, and profiles of local people. Congo was inspired to a large degree by Kate Peters Sturgill, an important local folk musician who became his mentor, leading him around the region and introducing him to many of the musicians and artists who would be profiled on the station’s programs. Some of the station’s funding came from the creation of sponsored programs focusing on local organizations, and grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts led to more arts-based programming, such as the portraits of artists, musicians and craftspeople that became one of the station’s staples. Mountain Community Television also developed a close relationship with the more financially secure Broadside Television and briefly operated as a Southwest Virginia affiliate of Broadside. The two operated a program exchange, with programs from Virginia shown in Tennessee and vice versa. The primary Broadside TV Collection was eventually donated to the Archives of Appalachia at East Tennessee State University in Johnson City, Tennessee, and was preserved in part through an NHPRC grant. These Virginia-based television programs in the Mountain Community Television collection do not overlap with the Tennessee programs, but rather they complement each other in creating a comprehensive collection of community television in the region.
Following the demise of the station in 1978, the original tapes were deposited in the Appalshop Archive, where they have been held ever since. In 2004, a small portion of the collection was preserved as part of the initial grant making cycle of the National Television and Video Preservation Foundation. In 2007 another grant from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission enabled the preservation of and access to a major portion of the collection.
The Mountain Community Television collection is arranged as one Series comprised of ½” open reel video tapes. All tapes listed have been transferred to new media.
The collection videotapes are 1/2" open reel helical scan elements (mostly Sony brand) that have been rehoused from original containers to archival storage (polypropylene cans made for 400' 16mm film are used). The content includes both edited programs and camera original raw footage, as well as "recycled" tapes that reveal clips from different recordings. The collection was preserved with grants from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission and the National Endowment for the Arts.
Topics, Library of Congress Authority
Abandoned mined lands reclamation--Law and legislation African American prisoners Appalachians (People) in literature Appalachian Region, Southern--Social life and customs Mountain life--Appalachian Region, Southern Appalachians (People) Appalachian Region--Economic conditions Folk music--Appalachian Region
The Mountain Community Television collection, 1972-1978, Appalshop Archive.