Jason Liggett: The Face of Urbana Public Television

NOTE: This article was originally written in May 2015. It has been lightly modified to reflect the change in time.

Television. A medium of communication that is like no other. With television, you can see the things that you would not otherwise be able to see.

Jason Liggett, an employee at Urbana Public Television, offered his perspective on what it’s like to work in the industry.

The job that he works could be considered grueling by some standards. He has to be willing to work late nights or early mornings, and says that he needs to be very adaptive to succeed at UPTV.

UPTV is somewhat unique in the field of PEG (Public, Education, Government) Access television stations in that we utilize all three components on the same channel with the same staff,” Liggett said.

“Many cities only allow government access programs on their channel. [They] have a separate nonprofit in town run a channel for public access, and the local school district is in charge of the education access channel. I’m in charge of the technical aspects for all three components which means a VERY busy schedule. I have to plan each day out a couple weeks in advance and try my best to stick to a daily agenda… which usually never happens. I have to adapt to the short term needs of the job.”

With many solid community based programs, as well as broadcasts of many Urbana High School athletic events, UPTV is definitely a strong TV station. Liggett agrees, but also notes that there is always room for improvement.

“I am pleased with the progress UPTV has made over the past ten years, but I’m a guy who always has his creative juices flowing and am always looking for new initiatives. UPTV does a lot, but with only two full-time staffers we are limited to the projects we can take on. I feel our PEG channels could be utilized so much more by our community if we had more staff.”

As with most public television stations, however, the future is unpredictable for a station such as UPTV. Says Liggett:

“I think the future looks as bright as we make it.  We have a very lean staff and growing budget concerns so there’s only so much planning ahead we can do at UPTV.  My goal is to continue to serve the residents of Urbana to the best of my ability.”

Liggett, like most people, also occasionally ponders what it would be like to venture down another path.

It’s very rare in broadcasting to have a regular nine-to-five job,” Liggett said.

“I’m on the go early in the morning some days and then working extremely late at night for city commission meetings and high school football games the next; not to mention weekends.  I enjoy the work I do, but there are times I wish I had a regular nine-to-five and did some freelance video work on the side. Other days I think about going deeper into new media ventures and wonder what it would be like to host a daily podcast and get paid for it. I think that goes back to my days in radio where I could show up in shorts and a dirty AC/DC t-shirt and just talk and play music for a job.”

Like any other occupation, a career in television has to begin somewhere. Liggett says his career is rooted in his early days at Oakwood High School and Parkland College.

“I lost a bet,” Liggett says with a laugh.

“Just kidding… I had just started my senior year at Oakwood High School and had no idea what I wanted to do for college or a career.  I enjoyed classes in high school that I was able to be a little more creative with: art, journalism, etc. and I also loved watching TV. I figured why not? I registered for classes at Parkland College the next year and the rest is history.”  

“My first paying job in broadcasting was working overnights at WDWS Radio in Champaign.  I was the board operator from midnight on Saturday night until 5:00 AM Sunday morning.  The job was easy…trying to stay awake all night listening to talk radio was the challenge.  My first paying gig in television was actually running the cameras for the Urbana School District Board of Education, from there I worked part-time with the City of Urbana / UPTV and I’ve been there ever since.”

Finally, everyone in the broadcasting industry must occasionally channel their inner Will Ferrell from Anchorman. When asked about the prospect of a street fight between UPTV and WCIA-3 employees, Liggett offered this:

This question reminds me of the scene in Anchorman where all the news stations battle it out in the back alley,” laughs Liggett.

“All I’m going to say is I’ve never lost a street fight… and honestly, I don’t think [former WCIA-3 meteorologist] Derick Fabert has the mad ninja skills I do.”

UPTV is available on Channels 6 and 1096 on Comcast Xfinity, Channel 6 on i3 Broadband and Channel 99 on AT&T U-Verse.

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