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Peter Lutze

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With degrees in filmmaking and law and a Ph.D. in communication arts, Peter Lutze has already earned his Scooby Snacks, but just to make the rest of us look bad, he also teaches media studies at Boise State and was instrumental in founding and developing Public Access Station 11, better known as TVTV.

BW: How did TVTV come about?

PL: In working with students, we recurrently faced two kinds of issues. One, students producing videos wanted their work shown. Two, in class, I always talked about how the media was a top-down, centralized system, such that people in L.A. decide what we watch in Boise. It's easy to be a consumer and difficult to be a producer-not much democracy in that. So when the cable company's contract came up with the city, we got together with people about getting a public access station going. We had meetings for almost a year, formed an organization called Boiseans for Public Access, negotiated and went on the air for the first time in 2001.

Who do you mean by "we?"

The cast of characters has changed over the years. In the early days, it was a number of students, former students and me. Then when we started Boiseans for Public Access, we got some new folks. Our first board for TVTV was six white guys in their 30s and 40s, but it has always been a really hands-on thing. A lot of folks volunteered time to gut the building, and I spent my Christmas vacation putting in dry wall and insulation.

And what's the point?

Our mission is to put the tools for making television in the hands of ordinary people. There's lots of room for getting more people involved, but we've already had 600 to 700 producers from the community. We train people in studio production and editing. There's a large amount of local, original programming made on a very tiny budget.

Is it what you envisioned?

Yes. When I called the first meeting, I had no idea what I was in for, and it has taken a lot of energy and time off of my life, but it has also been astonishing. I've met all kinds of folks I wouldn't have gotten to know otherwise. Every public access station takes on some of the character of the community. You never know who's going to walk in the door-someone from the comedy club, a fortune teller, an NNU baseball player-you just don't know. Sometimes you disagree with the ideology, but the overall idea is that everybody should have a right to express himself. If you disagree, do your own show.

Do people actually watch?

When they're zapping through they hit 11, and if they see something interesting or weird, they stop and look. It does get watched. The point is to democratize television; to encourage grass roots media; to give people the training and tools and access they need to turn from consumers to producers; to allow people to speak in their own voices about stuff that matters to them.