After 24 years, TV35 is still on the air. Its mission is the same as it was back in 1986: service.
"We work very hard trying to make this a community-based station," said Station Manager Ed Davenport.
Davenport and daytime producer Jack Duffy, who have been with the station since its inception, are the only two paid, part-time employees at the public access station, headquartered in the municipal building; everyone else is a volunteer, there to serve their community, learn about television production, and enjoy themselves.
"(I still work here) to torture Ed," said Eugene Kobliska as Davenport rolled his eyes. Kobliska began volunteering at the station as an eighth-grader 18 years ago, and credits TV35 for his career; he used his knowledge gained from working at the station to land a job building television studios, and has parlayed that into a job with the state of New Jersey.
"It's always a lot of fun, and I can give back to the community. It's a great learning experience," he said. "We just get to have fun down here."
Perhaps following in Kobliska's footsteps will be Cranford High School junior Dylan O'Malley, who maintains the bulletin board that airs on the channel in between programming. O'Malley first volunteered at TV35 in his freshman year as part of CHS's Conquest program and enjoyed it enough to stay on. He hopes to pursue an education and career in broadcasting after graduation.
TV35's $70,000 budget is funded by taxpayers, said town Finance Director Tom Grady.
"We operate at the auspices of the Township Committee," said Davenport. "But the station is pretty autonomous."
Davenport says that one of station's two main missions is to make sure the programming is fair and balanced, with equal time given to opposing ideas and issues. To that end, TV35 recently added the Tina Renna show, in which Renna, a member of watchdog group The County Watchers, explains the decisions the county freeholders hand down. Davenport feels this provides a check against Freeholder Forum, a TV35 program run by the freeholders.
The other of the station's goals is to "try to give everyone a part of the station."
Airing the football games is an example of this, said Davenport, because it gives less mobile senior citizens an opportunity they might not otherwise have to see their grandchildren play. TV35 also gives each Cranford church the opportunity to add programming to the station, and they work with the Chamber of Commerce to provide informative shows about local businesses. Among Davenport's goals for 2010 are the addition of more high school sporting events and a show where Cranford restaurants are reviewed.
TV35 is also much better outfitted than many public access stations, thanks to Davenport's former position as manager of multimedia communications at Hoffman-LaRoche. He recently retired. Davenport used his industry connections to find leads and donations of equipment, which is how TV35 outfitted their studio and truck.
"Very few public access stations have both a truck and a studio," said Davenport, adding that the truck provides options and mobility they would not normally have.
Anyone can contact the studio to make suggestions and add grievances. Just call 908-709-3995.
"We try to react to people with legitimate beef; we try to take care of it right there," said Davenport.
Prospective volunteers can use the same number to find more information on potential opportunities. The chances of being able to help the station are very good, according to Davenport.
"Anybody who wants to volunteer, we generally find a place for them," he said.