By SARAH JOHNSON
Have you ever feared what would happen to all of the classic programming that made television great, now that we’re in the internet age? Don Brown has a mission to ease those fears, and it’s been quote the journey getting there.
Don has lived in Plainville for over 16 years. Before that, he lived in Southington. If you go back to the beginning of Don’s career, he was just graduating from Pennsylvania State University with a degree in chemistry. It was 1968.
“I was a paint chemist when I started out,” Don explained. “I wanted to learn how to do that kind of work you see, because I grew up in a religious background and planned to become a self-sustaining missionary in another country.” Don got a job senior year of college then got partially sidetracked. “I met my wife,” he said. “We’ve been together 45 years in August. We have a son and a daughter. My daughter is in New Jersey and has five kids and my son works in engineering and is a professor in Massachusetts.
More than a decade ago, Don was still working in paint when he met with a lung doctor. Don’s prognosis was permanent lung damage if he didn’t get out of the field immediately. Even know, it takes him a bit longer than the average to catch his breath between words. It doesn’t stop him from talking about his passions.
“I had always been interested in computers,” Don said. “I decided to get into that industry. I ended up working in the IT department at ESPN. I learned about video, wiring cameras and even dealing with the on-air talent. I retired when I was 58 from that job and went on to help my wife with real estate.” While this was Don’s final working-for-a-paycheck job, it wasn’t the final goal he had for himself. “When I was 12-years-old, my parents bought the first color TV on our block. I knew then I wanted to get into TV, but dreams and reality are often very different. It wasn’t until three or four years ago that I actually got a channel set up. Someone came to me and loved my idea for family-friendly programming, so we made a plan.
Don’s former boss from ESPN, who he’d initially met through church, had done satellite work through the Air Force. They saw it as a viable way to use satellite transmission to launch Don’s station. The men went to a lawyer to set up a corporation. “And then $125,000 later we were broke,” Don said, shaking his head. “We had some legal trouble. It was a lot of money to find out something wasn’t going to work. We were ready to sell stock and earn money. The problem is that a station has to go through a licensed television broadcaster, and the one we chose was broke.” Don wasn’t angry. He realized times were changing and that in order for his family oriented programming to air, he’d need to convert from the analog television world (think bunny ears on top of your TV set) to digital.
“It took a couple of years to decide, but we finally went with internet TV. It’s going in so many new directions now. The site is currently visited enough to be a public access channel or even a Sky Angel channel. Those are two possible futures, but as of now, I have my own station. We finally have the numbers where they belong.”
Don’s crowd funding goal through IndieGoGo is to raise the money to support hiring an ad salesperson. “I understand reality,” Don said. “People who do sales work on commission, they need to live to, and I need a source of money to pay someone to do the job well.”
So what exactly is Don’s station all about? It’s called Family Values Television Network and it streams at FVTVN.com. He promotes values-oriented, family-safe programming. While Don does do some public-access style programming for his church on Sundays, he says that his dream for the station has always been to not be specifically religious. “I want my station to have entertainment that actually attracts people and leaves them feeling positive,” Don said.
The current lineup for FVTVN is organized by day. Sunday is “inspirational” – Monday is “mystery” – Tuesday is “adventure” – Wednesday is “comedy” – Thursday is “Westerns” – Friday is “Sci-fi” (which happens to be Don’s favorite) and Saturday is “family day.”
“Some of the money we’re trying to raise will also buy more programs,” Don explained. “Programs range from public domain that cost nothing, all the way up to popular sci-fi shows that cost thousands per showing. An example of one that’s costly is ‘Flash Forward,’ which played on TV in the 90s.” Don also has his sights on shows like “Little House on the Prairie,” which would run around a thousand dollars for a year.
“The main focus I want to put on my station is that love overcomes evil. My ‘religion’ is being practical. If something you do in the name of a religion doesn’t help anyone, what good is it? I try to fit programming into the criteria of spiritual warfare. What that means is that we live in war all the time. It’s the physical versus the spiritual. True love in this battle is winning wars without destroying people in the path.”
Most of the shows that convey the ideals Don speaks of are classic older programming… Where good versus bad was solved by thoughtful resolution and morals, and not violence, flashy weapons and evil. “A good example of what I run is old ‘Flash Gordon’,” Don said. “It’s admittedly cheesy but all the problems he gets out of he does so by reasoning. There are other examples too, like ‘Lassie’ and ‘Little House on the Prairie.’”
In addition to classic programming, FVTVN offers a sports fishing program where there is a moral lesson taught by the end of each episode, a cooking for busy people segment, and a Your Health program dealing with natural remedies.
“What it’s really all about it trying to be practical,” Don said. “That way, I can help people.”
To donate to Don’s crowd funding account for FVTVN, visit indiegogo.com/projects/family-values-television-network. At the time of this article, Don has raised about $25 toward his goal of $30,000. You can also tune in to programming at fvtvn.com and see updates at the FVTVN Facebook page.
By SARAH JOHNSON