TV From the Future
Former Hartford Public Access Television maven J. Stan McCauley has launched what he claims is the world’s first broadband television network
By Daniel D’Ambrosio, Hartford Advocate Staff Writer
March 06, 2008
J. Stan McCauley, the former executive director of Hartford Public Access Television and a candidate for mayor in last fall’s election until he was swept away by the Eddie Perez tidal wave, has launched his own television network on the Internet, which he says is a first.
Technically it’s called hypermedia portal alternative television, but you can just call it hpatv5.com, McCauley’s online address. (Have a look.)
McCauley says he had a flash of inspiration for the network soon after he joined the ranks of the unemployed in early December, after more than 20 years at Hartford Public Access Television. The inspiration came while sitting at a traffic light with a friend who was driving the car.
“I thought to myself, ‘What am I good at? I’m good at building small television stations from the ground up,'” McCauley said. “It just hit me all at once, why not do local origination programming and give it a worldwide footprint on the Web.”
The friend driving the car was Hartford native Ralph Van Duncan, who had already written the software to make broadband television a reality. And according to Van Duncan, McCauley’s hpatv5.com is the first broadband television network in the world.
“There’s nothing else like this that I know,” said McCauley.
McCauley has broken his network down into five channels: hpatv5.net is “all gospel all the time”; hpatv5.com includes anything you might find on traditional public access television stations; hpatv5.biz is focused on local businesses and entrepreneurs; hpatv5.info is the youth channel, covering nontraditional local sports that no one else covers, and offering teaching programs; and finally, hpatv5.org is McCauley’s philanthropic effort, offering free productions for local nonprofits, which will run for a month at a time.
“We sell the blocks of time, people bring us their content, we put their content on our broadband television network,” said McCauley.
Theoretically, there will be 12 programs running each week, with each producer paying $100 for the time and keeping any advertising revenue they can generate for themselves — something you don’t get to do on public access television, which eschews the profit motive.
If you don’t know how to run a camera or produce a show, you can take a workshop for $100 that will include getting your finished product on broadband TV for the week. McCauley reserves the right to censor for compliance with the “family friendly attitude” of his network, and to make sure the technical quality of a production is up to hpatv5.com standards. Other than that, it’s your show.
“Unlike YouTube where you’re one in 20 million, here you’re one in 12,” said McCauley. “It gives you much more exposure.”
Actually right now, you would be more like one in one, as McCauley hadn’t yet had any takers for his network at press time. There is programming there, but it’s all being generated by McCauley himself, and runs the gamut from city council testimony to motion pictures produced by The Light Source Stage Company, an offshoot of McCauley’s Light Source Ministries, a Bible study program that had a long run on the public access television station he managed. McCauley’s ministry — he’s an ordained pastor — continues on hpatv5.net.
I watched a few minutes of one of the movies, a sci-fi thriller depicting a future of thought police who arrest suspects by subduing them with a stun-gun-like device to the neck, and trials that begin with the presumption of guilt rather than innocence. I also watched a few minutes of a news documentary on economic development in the North End, which began with an interview of James Gamble, who tried for 20 years to bring a Walgreens to an empty lot on Albany Avenue backing Community Health Services before finally giving up in frustration with uncooperative city officials.
Presiding over it all is the soothing Fred Rogers-like voice and presence of J. Stan McCauley, who introduces his new network in a scene shot at night in his apartment/studio in Colt Gateway, overlooking downtown Hartford. McCauley has just the right amount of furrow in his brow as he discusses the new age dawning of Internet television.
McCauley loves his pad/studio in the beleaguered Colt building, which he shares with his wife, because it “always seems like something is getting ready to happen.”
“It’s got this kind of abandoned building feel,” said McCauley.
McCauley’s departure from Hartford Public Access Television was ugly and abrupt, and he told the Hartford Courant that he believed it was “political retribution” by the station’s board of directors, who were upset by his run for mayor. McCauley did not believe, as some did, that Perez was behind his firing.
Officially, McCauley was fired for a laundry list of seemingly minor transgressions, such as failing to provide a cell phone for the person who would take his place temporarily at the station while he was campaigning for mayor, but the coup de grace was his relationship with an employee, Nyesha Smith, who is now his wife. The board believed the relationship violated the station’s harassment policy. Ironically, it was McCauley who asked the board to adopt the policy in 2004.
But McCauley told the Courant that the board took the policy, which was never intended to apply to romantic relationships between employees, out of context.
Although friends have encouraged him to sue, McCauley said in his interview with the Advocate he would rather get his retribution by being successful with hpatv5.com. While he believes he was wrongfully discharged, he said his heart is still so wrapped up in the public access station he built from the ground up that to sue it would be like “cutting off my left arm to prove my right arm is right.”
McCauley says he has no delusions of grandeur where hpatv5.com is concerned, but he’s glad he doesn’t have to deal with another board of directors, and he is optimistic about the future.
“It’s going to be a long uphill battle, but in the end this will turn out to be as successful as cable is now,” McCauley said. “I distinctly remember people laughing at the whole notion of cable. Only a fool would pay for television you can get for free.”
There’s a lot riding on McCauley’s vision of the future, because his unemployment runs out in June.
“There is no Plan B, this must work,” said McCauley. “That’s my attitude. We’re going to make it work.”