By Scott Finn
West Virginia Public Broadcasting
What do you think is West Virginia’s most valuable resource?
Many of you will name our natural beauty – green mountains, rolling hills and clear streams.
Some will name resources beneath our feet, like coal and natural gas. Others will say, “our people.”
All these are true, of course, but I would argue our most important resource is one we don’t think of very often.
Because the story that is told about West Virginia has so much power. It determines who stays and who goes. It can draw talent and investment…or drive it away.
In the past, we didn’t always get to tell our own story. Starting with the Hatfields and McCoys, outsiders came here and told sensational tales. It sold newspapers, but it wasn’t the truth of who are as a people.
Those unfair tales continue to this very day. When Vice Magazine sent photographers to capture “Two Days in Appalachia,” they walked away with sensational photos that made children look like carnival freaks.
And the truly sad part is when we internalize these messages and start to believe them ourselves.
That’s why we’re creating “The West Virginia Channel.” Through it, West Virginia Public Broadcasting will tell the TRUE story of our state, to ourselves and to the world.
Starting in January, The West Virginia Channel will showcase the best in West Virginia and Appalachian culture, including:
– Our history and heritage
– Live events (concert performances, Vandalia, History Bowl, etc.)
– Public affairs programming, including live coverage of the West Virginia Legislature
– AND the best programs PBS has to offer, such as Frontline, Nova, and PBS NewsHour
This second TV and online channel will complement our main channel, WVPB, which will continue to air the current mix of PBS Kids programming in the daytime and education and entertainments for adults at night.
The goal is to provide West Virginians with a service they can find nowhere else – a channel by, for, and about ourselves. If you’re an independent video producer, this is a great opportunity for your work to be seen by a wide audience.
We’re proud that two cable providers – Comcast and Suddenlink – have agreed to carry The West Virginia Channel across the state. We’ve had positive conversations and are working with other cable providers as well, including Armstrong, Shentel and Time Warner.
Unfortunately, neither satellite company has yet agreed to provide this new channel. You can help by telling Dish and DirecTV, “We want The West Virginia Channel!”
And everything we do is available for free on our website, wvpublic.org, and for people who can receive us over the air with an antenna.
It’s long past time for us West Virginians to reclaim our story. I hope you’ll agree that The West Virginia Channel is a good start.
Scott Finn is executive director of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, and can be reached at [email protected]