Alan Bushong. (Courtesy/CCTV)
A new era is about to dawn at CCTV Salem after its first and only executive director announced he’s seeking a replacement.
Alan Bushong, who helped spearhead the area’s nonprofit community media center, is retiring after 30 years on the job. Bushong was instrumental to getting local programming off the ground and has pushed for expanding Capitol Community Television’s reach in the form of a radio broadcast.
CCTV, which is funded by Salem and Marion County through franchise fees paid by Comcast, started out by broadcasting government meetings, like the Salem City Council and Marion County Commission. The first Salem City Council meeting was live televised in November 1990 when CCTV was housed in the Salem Public Library.
The channel also broadcasts sports events, local music and talk shows. Each year, it hosts a film festival.
Bushong came to Salem from Austin Community Television to start CCTV in 1989. At the time, he was told it would be the only TV in town.
“What I saw was a community that was heavily in the media shadow of Portland,” Bushong said. “I think the community was really ready and that made such a big difference in the beginning.”
He remembers one South Salem High School girls’ basketball game around three years after CCTV had started. The crew had set up to start filming and were taking a meal break before the game.
One of the basketball players said, "Mmm pizza. CCTV must be here."
“We were known by the smell of pizza in the hallway,” Bushong said. He points to that moment as one of the victories in his three-decade career.
In 2006, Bushong got a bug in his ear about a potential new venture. Salem’s Emergency Preparedness Manager Roger Stevenson asked Bushong about low-power FM radio. It would be helpful, he said, during emergencies or natural disasters.
Five years later, a full-power station became available. It took years for the Federal Communications Commission to analyze applications and this past September CCTV started programming on 98.3 KMWV with Mano a Mano, a Latino-led social service organization.
“Right now, we’re programming music and we’re working to develop local content,” Bushong said.
He said the programs will have a public affairs bent, but there will also be information about local nonprofits and unique local music.
Bushong’s departure was planned by task rather than by date, he said. He started thinking about retirement at 65 but had more he wanted to accomplish.
“I wanted to do as much as possible and get this done so a new person coming in can use their excitement and energy to do more community building, development of programming and develop more funding for the organization,” he said, adding that he’ll be around for another three to five months until a new executive director gets settled in.
For Bushong, the biggest tasks were remodeling the east end of the building on 575 Trade St. S.E. to put in a multimedia studio, and activating the radio station.
Despite putting in 65-hour weeks, Bushong said he’s “jazzed everyday walking through the front door.”
He plans to continue volunteering in production and fund development after a replacement is found. And he plans to continue going to a yearly community media conference where he cajoles everyone into singing karaoke.
Normally, his go-to is “Old Time Rock and Roll” by Bob Segar and the Silver Bullet Band, but after a late arrival at last year’s conference he had to pick a new song.
He now sings George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set on You.”
“I’ve been to 37 of these conferences in a row,” he said. “These folks are like family to me.”
When reflecting on CCTV’s impact in the Salem community, Bushong said it was built on an aspect of community identity.
He referenced a book called “The Geography of Nowhere,” that traces America’s evolution from a nation of Main Streets to a time where every city looks like a carbon copy.
“Local community identity is a little harder to find,” Bushong said. “And I think that’s what CCTV is about.”
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