Around 1980, Fred Bailey’s sons were excited about the possibility of cable television with its promise of seventy or so channels. They had read an article in the local newspaper that the Selectmen were going to meet with a cable company and here its proposal. At their urging, Fred attended and found the proposal interesting.

In the 1996-’97 School year, WAVM had its first international intern. Kiryon Cho was a 20-year-old student from Osaka, Japan, learning communications, English, and American culture.

Fred Bailey approached the Selectmen a short while later, offering to be a part of the cable commission. They appointed him chairman.

Over the next couple months, Bailey and the cable commission heard several proposals from various cable companies, including the idea that Maynard could have its own Local Access Studio–television studio. Now Fred’s sons were also members of WAVM’s radio station, and he thought it would be ideal to have the television studio a sister station to WAVM. After all, the students had already proven that such communications equipment wouldn’t just collect dust. So, he recruited Mags to be part of the Cable Commission and get an Access Studio situated in the High School.

With the signing of the cable license in December of ’81, Adams-Russell was chosen as the town’s cable company, and they gave WAVM seed money to create a studio. Mags and the students made plans to incorporate the TV and radio, first by building a new studio which took most of 1982’s Summer. Peter Slabysz remembers donning a suit and tie to nervously speak to the audience and tell them about WAVM’s new venture as TV 17. However, due to technical difficulties, a lot of his speech didn’t go over the air. 

Bruce Everett (Class of 1986) on a two-hour stint at cameras during a telethon (circa 1984)

WAVM’s venture into television brought a lot of new lessons to the students, particularly patience. Creating a television program was, by far, more time-consuming than producing a radio show, and there had to be a deeper level of dedication among the students to see that programs reached completion. As Mags once said, “What you see in 15 minutes represents an awful, awful lot of work.” And for many years fewer students took part, primarily for that reason. Over the next few months, WAVM got used to its new trappings–not that there weren’t any more technical difficulties. With each new group, there were many tasks to master, which would cause anyone to stumble until they lost the initial apprehension about the television medium, but the students were learning, and that was the real importance.

However, a dedicated core of students integrated the cable studio–now called TV 61–into the whole of WAVM, although there is different manager structure, making the two components synonymous with the town. And interchangeably, students work in both aspects, giving them an enormous opportunity to learn both media.

Next, there’s an editing department where footage is organized to tell an effective story. Finally, the Control Room Department broadcasts the completed programming according to a boilerplate schedule. In cable television, the students learn many technical skills about program creation and writing, which are fundamentals of the production process. The students also learn to videotape with single and multi-camera setups with the many techniques such as framing a picture and recording audio.

Cable Television had a great effect on many areas of WAVM–none more so than the Beacon Santa Telethon, which, beginning in 1982, was simulcasted on radio and TV. With the use of the cameras, the audience at home could see the auction items, instead of relying on the descriptions of the radio broadcasters. The visual element made it was easier to collect bids.

Furthermore, WAVM started broadcasting the Telethon to five area towns–Acton, Hudson, Maynard, Sudbury, and Stow–garnering a wider audience. That’s one of the primary reasons the Telethon total has been able to reach such figures as $30,000.

Over, the past 35 years, there have been many stellar moments for TV 61 (now TV 8/28) such as interviews with the Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. There have also been a bonanza of popular and excellent television shows, including one called “Talkin’ Trash’.”

The Story of WAVM continues with “Talkin’ Trash”