Years before becoming executive director of the Public Access Television Corporation (PATV), Shirley Ann Bruno’s future was foreshadowed by a Queens College professor.
Recognizing the opportunities cable television presented to his mass communications students in the 1970s, the professor asked, “What would you do if you could come up with programming?” Bruno recalled. “What would you put on TV; what would you want to see?”
Bruno took the lesson to heart, and made community-focused television production and programming her life’s work. “I taught TV production and media studies at the high school and college level,” she said, when asked about her early career.
While a married working mother with twin four-year-old daughters, Bruno left academia to join PATV as its part-time coordinator in 1984. Bruno was subsequently appointed PATV’s Executive Director in 1991, a position from which she’ll retire effective Monday, Nov. 30, while remaining a consultant to PATV and other enterprises. Erica Bradley, PATV’s Director of Technical Operations, will succeed Bruno.
If you reside in either a Great Neck or a Manhasset/North Shore incorporated village, and are a Cablevision subscriber, PATV can be found on Channel 20. Nassau County’s Verizon FiOS households can view PATV’s shows on Channel 37. Financed primarily through the franchise fees cable television companies pay to municipalities, PATV offers television production classes, guidance on how to create programs, and channels to cablecast them.
“The goal is to get people competent on the equipment so they can use it to get out the content they want for the community,” Bruno explained, when discussing PATV’s mission. “We produced 262 programs this year.” An oral history project built around the stories of the region’s Vietnam veterans (Welcome Back) is a current favorite of Bruno’s, she said, and it builds on a comparable New York Emmy-nominated series PATV produced in 2009 on World War II veterans. When prodded to do so, Bruno quickly recalled other items from PATV’s highlight reel.
“Who gets a local parade out live?” Bruno said, referring to the Sept. 9, 2001, live PATV cablecast of the Great Neck Alert Fire Department’s 100th anniversary parade. “The only reason we were able to do it live was because Cablevision’s office was right on the corner,” of Great Neck’s Middle Neck Road and Hicks Lane, across the street from PATV’s then-headquarters.
Going further back into PATV’s history, Bruno cited an award-winning 1999 documentary about unique Nassau County properties called Landmark Preservation: Saving the Past for the Present. A visitor to PATV’s Lake Success office, where they’ve been since 2002, can see a picture which memorialized the moment, with Bruno receiving on PATV’s behalf an award from Julie Chen. Chen is today the host of CBS’s national weekday afternoon program, The Talk.
Bruno also pointed proudly to PATV alumni, such as Brian Kilmeade of Massapequa, and Chris D’Elia of Great Neck, who have achieved success in the television business. Kilmeade is an on-air anchor for the Fox News Channel’s Fox & Friends program but PATV viewers first saw him hosting PATV’s Health Digest. D’Elia, who started at PATV when he was a 14-year-old Great Neck public school student, is an Emmy Award-winning TV writer, editor and producer.
“The whole industry has changed so much technically but the concept of what makes a good edit has never changed,” Bruno continued, discussing the transformation she’s seen in her career, from reel-to-reel tapes to digital and video-on-demand.
With their twin daughters, Julie and Laura, now 35 years of age, and married mothers themselves, Bruno and her husband, Ernie, will starting next month have more time to watch what comes next with their four grandchildren.
For more information on PATV, log onto www.patv.org
Mike Barry, vice president of media relations for an insurance industry trade group, has worked in government and journalism. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. The views expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the publisher or Anton Media Group.