Tune into Channels 26, 27 or 30 on Comcast Cable or Channel 99 on AT&T and you will quite likely find something you didn't expect: local television. For seven years, the Community Media Center of Marin (CMCM) has operated Marin TV, providing the PEG (public, educational, governmental) channels for Marin County. Each year CMCM schedules more than 20,000 hours of programming across three distinct cable channels that appear throughout Marin and on the internet.

CMCM is based at a modest training and production facility in downtown San Rafael. Its mission is to empower people to create media that matters. CMCM does this by providing community members with the knowledge, resources, and tools to create and distribute their own original content. Every year, it trains hundreds of local residents and makes studio and field production equipment freely available to them for thousands of hours of use.

Programming made by our community members airs on the community channel (26), where non-commercial content is cablecast censorship free, truly a unique first amendment channel not found elsewhere on television. This channel exists solely for this content.

And self-expression comes alive on it. Community members produce programming across a broad spectrum, including public affairs, talk shows, spiritual, comedy, arts and culture. Some notable programs include Marin Voices and Views (my personal favorite), Marin IJ Forums, and California Times, which features key local, state and federal officials discussing issues of local relevance. CMCM also partners with nonprofits to help bring their programs to air, including: the County Library's Marin Poet's Live. Marin Women's Hall of Fame, Forgiveness Day, Marin Environmental Forum, Sustainable Marin, Ecology of Hope, and many more.

The government channel (27) is where local governments become truly transparent to their constituencies. CMCM has equipped government council chambers around the county to bring local city council, planning commission and other public meetings to cable television and the web. The government channel also features coverage workshops and town halls by local officials as well as our State and federal representatives. Just this past month, CMCM covered and cablecast Congressman Jared Huffman's town halls on the American Health Care Act and Senator Mike McGuire's town hall on homelessness. Helping to expand public discourse on issues impacting our communities is an integral part of CMCM’s work and civic mission.

The educational channel (30) brings to Marin residents events occurring in our local schools and from universities more broadly. Here you can find semester-long courses from Yale University, topical lectures from UC Berkeley, Dominican University, and other institutions. The channel also cablecasts instructional programs, workshops and conferences, including Ted Talks, Ink Talks, Kahn Academy classes, Bioneers workshops, and more. And it carries national and international news programming, including Spanish-language programming from Mexico that provides independent coverage of news, public affairs, arts and culture.

CMCM is also a training center. In 2016, more than 150 Marin K-12 students received project-based learning to strengthen their media skills. Students participated in media production ranging from sports coverage to documentary creation to community-event coverage.

CMCM’s Summer Sports Training Camp has been especially popular with high school students interested in sports and sports television production. High school students receive intensive training in all aspects of live television production and they then provide all the hands-on expertise for cablecast coverage of the Pacific’s baseball games at Albert Park. Students in the program have the option of receiving college credit.

How does CMCM do all this? As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, CMCM operates in the public interest to provide these services. CMCM is the designated “access provider” for the Marin Telecommunications Agency, which administers the Cable Video Franchise for most of Marin County. A large percentage of CMCM funding comes from the PEG fees attached to cable subscriber monthly bills

However, CMCM’s program development and youth programs must be funded through earned income and donations. This is where you can help. If you would like to support programs at CMCM, become a member and/or make a donation at www.cmcm.tv/donate. Or if you have a program idea or an existing program or video to share with the community, get in touch or simply drop by. CMCM exists to get your program into the community.