Sit back and relax cause it’s time to lighten your load
When you find yourself up here at the end of the road
Step back baby, and listen to me
We’ll give you all the information that you want, right here on Ely TV.
• Musician Kevin B.F. Burt
It might be a polka, it might be the high school prom, or it could be Naked Larry, the salsa-dancing dog. Viewers of Ely TV’s Channel 11 public access television never quite know what will be happening when they tune in.
Sometimes unpredictable and unquestionably local, the 24-hour channel came back to life recently after a brief hiatus caused by the station’s move to new studios in Ely City Hall.
“We had complaints,” said city treasurer Harold Langowski, speaking of the months the station was dark.
It’s the station where locals can expect to see birthday parties and the high school band concert. One resident rounds out programming with things he’s filmed around town, his only guide being that the stories make Ely look good.
Michael Jankovec, the one-man band behind the station who films, produces and gathers clips, used to run it out of a building he owned.
City officials for years wanted to move the station and the city-owned broadcasting equipment to city property, and a recent $2.5 million renovation of City Hall gave them the chance.
The station, which runs on a $21,000 annual budget from fees generated by subscribers to the local cable provider, moved last November, but a few months later, Jankovec ran into trouble due to the move and Channel 11 went down in April. It resumed broadcasting this month.
Langowski said he likes that Channel 11 is known for being a “little bit zany.”
It has its regulars, but Jankovec says anyone’s welcome to bring in a video to share. A recording of someone’s birthday has as much chance of going out over the airwaves as does “Mikey’s Kitchen,” a cooking show starring Jankovec.
Most Saturdays are filled with polka bands. “People just love the polka,” said Jankovec.
He’s featured several of his dogs as well. Naked Larry, a Chinese hairless breed, “passed away, but he was a great dancer,” said Jankovec.
The station, which broadcasts to Ely, Babbitt, Tower and Soudan, delves into nature shows, dance recitals, and school plays, too. The idea behind much of it is simply to break up the monotony of television. Most other stations air infomercials in the middle of the night. Ely TV might have a slide show of resort guests who went fishing.
Local resident and Ely TV cameraman Gordon Sheddy said his contributions are unabashedly glowing about Ely. “No matter what we do I want it to be a positive thing,” he said.
He stopped standing in front of the camera about a year ago, conscious of how his battle with cancer has made him look frail. But he still interviews anyone who has something nice to say.
The prom is always a big deal: The kids get dressed early and go to the nursing home to promenade past Ely’s elderly.
“It really is cool,” said Sheddy. “It’s like a bouquet of flowers wandering around. … I don’t know if they teach kids compassion in Ely, but they sure have it.”
He likes to film the City Council and school board meetings because, he says, it’s good for open government.
Cameraman and cooking show host Terry Jackson was headed to Grand Marais recently for a class on sausage making. He planned to talk sausage on an upcoming show.
“I think public access has a real draw,” he said, “because they know the people who are being filmed and they are interested in what their stories are.”