Roxie Cole (left) founded DATV to provide the community with a way to use their voices on public access television. CONTRIBUTED / DATV

DATV celebrating 40 years of access to free speech

DATV, Dayton’s public access television station, hit the airwaves 40 years ago.

Known at the start as Access-30-Dayton, the station was founded by Roxie Cole, a staunch advocate for free speech in the community.

Cole, passionate about providing the under-served with a way to use their voices, spent years drumming up support to start the station.

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She was the only employee when the station signed on in March 1978 from an old frame home called the White House on the grounds of the United Theological Seminary in Dayton.

“There’s a lot of people that owe a debt of thanks and gratitude to Roxie,” said Steve Ross, DATV operations manager who has been at the station for 29 years. “She’s known as the ‘mother of public access’ nationwide.”

Four decades later, the station has more than 100 independent producers, two channels for broadcasting and has never lost sight of its mission.

“What underlies and informs public access television is our First Amendment rights, it’s freedom of speech,” Rosemary Bradley, the executive director said. “We teach people how to tell their stories and we give them the medium to tell stories.”

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Roxie Cole started Access-30-Dayton in 1978 to give the community a voice on public television. Today the station is known as DATV. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO / DATV
Photo: Staff Writer

Tune in to DATV and you never know what you may learn about the community. There are shows produced about the law, women’s wrestling and Dayton’s music scene.

Curious about the life of a comedian? Host Keith Irvin interviews comics for his show, “Comedy Aint Eazy.” Interviews may explore the business side of comedy or the ups and downs of the career.

Darryl Bohannon produces a variety show, “Harper’s Bazzaroworld,” which claims to be the oldest GLBT public access variety show in the nation. Bohannon sings and performs in front of the studio’s green screen and showcases stories from the community.

For two decades, the League of Women Voters has used the DATV airwaves for candidate forums, while broadcasts from city and county commission meetings keep viewers involved with local government.

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DATV’s second channel, Dayton Spiritual Television, broadcasts more than 75 weekly church services.

“A show can be 28 seconds or two hours and 37 minutes,” Ross said. “That’s another cool thing about us, we don’t have network time, we don’t have commercial obligations, so a show can be anything you want it to be.”

At the DATV broadcasting facility, 280 Leo St. in Dayton, the staff is committed to providing members of the community the technology and venue to use their voices. “We allow people a safe place to tell their stories,” Bradley said. “They trust us to tell their stories with them, and to help them.”

The next time you’re at one of Dayton’s summer music gatherings like the Celtic or Reggae festival, look around for a DATV independent producer. They cover more than a dozen community events during the summer.

The mix of programming on DATV helps break down barriers, Bradley said. “It helps us to realize just how diverse we are, and it really helps us to appreciate the different cultures that contribute to the whole Dayton scene.”

DATV is about making a difference in the community, Ross said. “Stop complaining — go get a camera.”

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