LAFAYETTE — The local public access television station is setting up shop in a new home downtown and broadening its mission beyond the TV screen.
Acadiana Open Channel is finishing its move this week into new facilities at the city-owned Rosa Parks Transportation Center on Cypress Street, leaving behind the aging building on Lee Avenue that had served as AOC’s home since it launched in 1981.
“They won’t have to tear it down. It will just fall down on its on,” AOC Executive Director Ed Bowie said of the old studio, which decades ago served as the city’s downtown library branch.
Makeshift workspaces and three decades of retrofitting has been replaced by a facility designed to the specific needs of digital media production.
AOC now has a second studio, pristine video production labs and space designed to safeguard the pricey computer equipment that helps keep the station on the air.
Showing off the climate control system for a room filled with AOC’s computer servers, Bowie recalled some dicey times at the old studio when computer equipment began heating up.
“We would literally have to go in there and open windows and turn on fans,” he said.
The new facility will also allow AOC to expand its offerings.
One room is equipped with audio gear for a planned Internet radio station that will focus exclusively on local programming, from music to talk shows to community news.
“I say hyper-local. If you’re from out-of-town, I don’t want to know about it,” Bowie said.
A separate production suite, labeled the “Roots Room,” is outfitted with equipment to allow patrons to bring in family photos and other documents and make a narrated family history video.
While AOC settles into its new space, the nonprofit group is also offering more classes on all aspects of shooting and producing video, as well as instruction in basic computer skills and social media.
AOC is largely known for the locally produced programs on current events, culture, music and other topics that run on Cox channels 15 and 16 and LUS Fiber channels 3 and 4.
Residents produce about 150 hours a month of local programming to fill those channels — and AOC is planning on adding a third — but Bowie said the group is working to broaden its mission.
He said the goal is to help residents get their message out on a variety of platforms, whether that be Internet radio, Facebook or print.
“TV is far too restrictive now,” Bowie said.
The new mission is reflected in a re-branding of the group from “AOC” to “AOC Community Media.”
“We’re calling this building the second birth, if you will,” Bowie said.
The new facility has been under construction for the past year, the result of AOC searching for a new home while the city was beginning construction last year on the Rosa Parks Transportation Center.
At the start of construction, the Rosa Parks building was going to serve as a home only for the downtown post office and Lafayette’s traffic and transportation department.
The possibility of bringing in AOC arose because the construction project was a few million dollars under budget .
Designers quickly tweaked plans for the building after the Lafayette City-Parish Council approved adding space for AOC, and the new studio went from idea to reality in about a year.
“It’s movin’ on up,” said Sudie Landry, who with Danny Wells produces Louisiana Heart Beats, an AOC talk show.
Wells said AOC has come a long way since he began producing shows and volunteering there 20 years ago.
He recalled times when old cameras would not work because the studio was too cold.
Many of the equipment issues were addressed in 2009, when the City-Parish Council set aside about $263,000 to update outdated equipment.
For more information, visit http://www.aocinc.org.