If you tune in to one of the three new community access cable channels, the picture is clear. The background story at the fledgling television station is anything but.
Last week, the station manager at Martha's Vineyard Community Television (MVTV) quit, just 3 1/2 months after she and her two children relocated to the Vineyard from Missoula, Mont.
Board members say they don't know why station manager Tracey Moore quit, but they scrambled last week to hire a new manager, turning to one of their own board members to do the job on an interim basis.
"We're moving ahead," said MVTV president Denys Wortman. "We haven't gotten an official resignation letter yet, and I can't say anything until I know what's really going on."
Stephen Warriner, an independent video producer from Edgartown, has taken over the station manager's role, having now stepped down from the board of directors.
Ms. Moore declined to comment yesterday about her reasons for resigning, saying she is still waiting to meet with her attorney. She is the former media director for Missoula Community Access Television, which has about 45,000 cable subscribers.
"In my interview in December, I was very upfront with who I was," she said. "I came from a strong public access background and everything it stands for."
Last month, she told the Gazette: "We're not going to edit or alter the content of what you're putting on. We're here to represent your freedom of speech and expression and whatever is going on with you."
In the wake of the quick turnover at MVTV's helm, at least one Island filmmaker is charging that the new public access station has strayed from its mission before even getting off the ground.
The public is "not actually going to have access to it. It's too high-tech," said Lloyd Hart, a filmmaker from Oak Bluffs, who wants to air a progressive, political talk show on MVTV. "It's not TV that any Joe Schmo off the street can use. It's going to be specific people who have to handle this. They have to be computer literate, and that's a fundamental mistake."
Mr. Wortman acknowledged yesterday that the new MVTV studio located in an outbuilding at the Martha's Vineyard Regional High School is outfitted with digital video technology.
"It's a state-of-the-art station with both Mac and PC editing stations. We'll be able to train people," he said. "If it's too complicated for some, I'm sorry. We're going to make it as easy as possible."
Getting a show on the station, Mr Wortman said, is as easy as walking in the door with a program and signing a form. "If you've got a program, we're all set to go. Ideally it will be DVD (digital video disc), but we can handle really any media," he said.
Currently, a static screen is running on all three channels while news from National Public Radio can be heard. Last night, the station was planning to air a Vintage Vineyard interview and a film by Chilmark artist and MVTV board member Jay Lagemann.
Mr. Wortman has spearheaded planning efforts over the last three years to make MVTV a reality. "We're all for free speech, all for the public," he said. "This is for Martha's Vineyard. We have put in untold hours for free."
The MVTV channels are 13, 14 and 15. The non-profit community access television company is funded through an agreement under which Adelphia channels five per cent of its gross revenues on the Island to the public access station, amounting to about $212,000 last year.
Channel 13 will show public access television; channel 14 will be devoted to education, and channel 15 will be a government channel, airing selectmen's and other public meetings. Depending on the time of year, Adelphia serves between 7,000 and 12,000 Island customers.
Adelphia recently installed a fiber optic link to the MVTV station at the high school. Over the past few years, Adelphia has been switching from an antenna and satellite-based service for the Vineyard to a high-quality and more reliable fiber optic service.