It was a drawn-out, ugly process, but Wilmington City Council finally voted on whether DeTv will be the new operator of Comcast Channel 28 after a the city’s Cable, Video and Communication Commission (CVCC) voted to recommend the move in February.
There was opposition all the way up to the final vote, with Councilman Trippi Congo, host of Channel 28’s “The Congo Hour,” calling the proposed change in hands “unfair.” Earlier, members of the community were given time to speak before the vote, with three-minute speeches that continued to paint DeTv founder Ivan Thomas in the most negative light possible. (Having witnessed it, that’s putting it nicely.)
The anatomy of a small city controversy
To understand why the transfer to DeTv got so heated, you have to look deep into the history of Delaware Leased Access and the Leased Access Preservation Association of Wilmington (LAPA), a group of third party entities that previously ran the channel. LAPA has included church groups, local businesses and commercial production companies such as Positive Promotions.
In 2010, Comcast wanted to shut Channel 28 down. At that time, members of LAPA, including Dr. Rev. Benjamin “Twin B” Brown, mobilized Wilmington’s African American community to fight Comcast for the channel, and the right to leased access broadcasting. LAPA won, and became something of a legend.
As time went on, the City, which became the proprietor of the channel, decided to look for a single entity to operate the aging leased access channel, eventually releasing a call for proposals in November 2018. Only one company was up for the new contract: DeTv.
But LAPA wasn’t ready to give up its contract easily. They also entered the proposal process, arguing that they had the experience in running the channel that DeTv, a content startup that broadcast on Channel 28 in addition to Youtube, did not.
When it came time for the CVCC to make a recommendation between DeTv, with its desired production values, and LAPA, with its history, things got ugly.
Thomas, whose slogan for DeTv is “200% positive 100% of the time,” was accused of trying to censor the channel and shut out the people who had worked hard building programming for years. This isn’t true, according to Thomas — “I never had any intention of cutting existing shows,” he said.
The shows still may keep their spots if they choose, but LAPA entities are now clients rather than operators.
The future of DeTv
A monthly stipend will now go to DeTv to pay expenses. DeTv no longer has access to the Westside Plaza studio tied to LAPA, so the first order of business is to find a new home.
“The dream is to have the studio downtown in one of the office buildings,” Thomas said. “Wouldn’t it be cool if we were in the same building as The Mill?”
Once they have a studio again, they’ll start developing new shows, such as “Wake Up Wilmington” (now projected for the fall after an initial estimated start of December 2018), children’s programming, local sports programming and STEM programming with Code Differently. Code Differently is also involved with developing a planned DeTv mobile app, along with WhyFly.
DeTv officially takes over on April 1, but Thomas isn’t stressing about the space. He continues to make content on location in the meantime. “I’m just letting the universe do its thing,” he said.
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