In January of this year, Grahamstown resident Michael Appelt launched Grahamstown TV— a television website dedicated to broadcasting content related to the City of Saints. Heather Cameron sat down with Appelt shortly after he launched the site, as well as more recently, to find out how Grahamstown’s own TV web channel is doing.
From news updates, music, and movies to National Arts Festival programs and Scifest coverage, Grahamstown TV provides programming for a variety of tastes. The site is run by one individual- Appelt- who collects the clips, edits the footage and publishes the videos.
Swiss born Appelt is a software engineer who has lived in Grahamstown for the past seven years. He first came up with the idea of Grahamstown TV when he was considering how to publish the animated shorts that he creates in his one-man animation studio, which he runs from his home.
“I do all my TV watching through the internet, that’s how I came about the idea of making this TV website,” says Appelt. “I was looking for internet web television software but only found very expensive and inadequate software. So I wrote the program myself,” he added.
After two months, Appelt had successfully designed a program that would simulate television on a website. It expanded beyond airing only his animations due to the amount of time required to create an animation. “It takes a year to make a five minute animation of a certain quality because I work by myself. I thought it would be much easier to make TV-like shows,” he said.
Appelt appreciates the serendipitous outcome of watching television, which is the reason he chose a television based web platform. “It’s the stumble upon effect. You turn the channel and come across something by chance—that you didn’t expect to see.” And this chance viewing could be something a viewer really loves. An effect that Appelt hopes Grahamstown TV will have.
The site mirrors the set up of what Appelt calls a “highly sophisticated video playlist”. “I’ve noticed on many websites that if there are many video clips you can become overwhelmed. On a TV there are schedules or on demand devices,” says Appelt.
Appelt chose to use the playlist-type service because of its similarity to television schedules and services such as DSTV Catch Up. The videos uploaded are posted on YouTube and then embedded on the site.
Currently, Appelt makes use of contributed clips, footage found online and some of his own filming, although he explains that it becomes difficult for him to film original footage as he also has to edit and produce all of the videos.
Because of this, Appelt depends on contributions from people around town who have access to filming technology such as cameras and cell phones. “I am by myself [so] I cannot go out and capture events as well so the main idea would be sending in material and then I edit together,” he says.
The project, which started off with a bang and gained over 400 likes within a week on the Grahamstown TV Facebook page, has been gaining a steady following over the past few months and is now sitting near 1000 likes on the social media site.
However, Appelt explains that the project is still in its beginning stages. “It is early days. I have on average six people watching Grahamstown TV [for] about half an hour a day.”
Gaining a sold viewership within town is one of Grahamstown TV’s biggest challenges. While there are viewers across the globe including Panama, Kenya, Italy, Germany and the USA, Appelt is looking to build the local number of viewers and contributors.
“Public support is sparse, Grahamstown TV would need much more content providers than just myself in order to become a real platform for the greater Grahamstown community,” says Appelt,
Alongside Grahamstown TV, Appelt runs a number of other web television channels including AppiAppelt TV, which plays classic movies and television shows, and AppiAppeltFaith TV— a channel dedicated to Christian programming. Appelt is also in the process of launching two new channels: Total Music TV—a family friendly music channel—and AppiAppelt Animal TV that will air child-friendly educational animal documentaries.
Appelt is determined to make a living from Grahamstown TV, eventually wanting to charge for his services after reaching a wider audience. He also hopes that the Internet will become better available to all of the community to allow Grahamstown TV to flourish as a go-to source of news on what is happening across the city.
“I would like the community to embrace it as an information platform and as a fun platform because I’ve tried to put as much information as possible about us on it,” he adds.
Community contributions is where Grahamstown TV’s future lies, “I want people to come to me and say, ‘I captured something with my cell phone, can we do something with this?’ Yes we can,” says Appelt.
“If many chip in in terms of producing content, then a web TV station such as Grahamstown TV can become an important creative, news and information hub for the community and beyond.”