Double Milestone

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May Issue View more


NCTV17 executive director Liz Spencer and program producer Joy Kleinhans

When viewed from the perspective of the 24/7 multimedia, multiplatform reality of 2022, it’s easy to take for granted a computer in every pocket and instantaneous information available at any given moment.

The world looked a lot different back in 1987, however, when a fledgling public-access television station first took to the airwaves to serve a Naperville community of about 70,000 people. But just as the city around it grew and evolved, so too did NCTV17—building its staff, expanding its facilities, upgrading its technology, and broadening its production palette to become the well-rounded news, entertainment, and information resource the community enjoys today.

“Hyperlocal news is a shared experience,” explains NCTV17 executive director Liz Spencer. “We want to be seen as a pillar of this community, right alongside things like Naper Settlement and the Riverwalk and the libraries and the schools. We deliver the information that this community needs.” 

As the station celebrates its 35th anniversary in 2022, Spencer marks her 20th year at the helm. She recalls the early days when NCTV17’s schedule was little more than a hodgepodge of random programming and later when the first attempt at live municipal election coverage involved running taped segments from all over town back to the studio for editing and broadcast.

While she’s exceedingly proud of how far the station has come over that time—and how well it continues to fulfill its mission—there are still plenty of challenges to confront, chief among them the ever-growing need for more skilled talent and more financial resources. 

Spencer says NCTV17 relies largely on four primary sources of income: sponsorships, production services, the cable franchise fee (which has been steadily eroding as more customers opt for streaming over cable), and fundraising. It is this last area where she hopes to see Naperville step up and show its dedication to NCTV17.              

“We need people to view us as a community resource so that when they’re thinking about their philanthropy dollars, they might want to give an annual donation because they value the news they receive and the service we provide,” Spencer says. “We are not behind a paywall, and you don’t need a subscription—you can access our information all the time. We want to be able to stay true to our public-access roots for our community.” 

Looking back, there have been challenges all along the way over the past three and a half decades, and the team at NCTV17 always has found a way to get the story out and keep the information flowing. And despite the ongoing upheaval in the media world, Spencer intends to make sure that never changes—no matter what lies ahead.   

“There’s a certain spirit about Naperville,” she says. “I’m a storyteller more than I am a reporter—and this city has plenty of stories to be told.” 

Photo courtesy of NCTV17