By David Treadwell
“For more than a decade, Tony Vigue has been the go-to person when people in Maine need advice about starting a public access station. He is unfailingly helpful and devotes a lot of his own time to answering questions and providing technical expertise.”
This email from Shoshana Hoose, former manger of TV3, Portland’s educational station, prompted us to contact Tony Vigue, Manager of South Portland Community Television, to find out who he is, what he does, and why he does all he does on behalf of community television in Maine.
Life began, for Tony, on a prison farm in South Warren, Maine. His dad was a prison guard and Tony and his six siblings enjoyed hanging out with the prisoners who worked on the farm. “It was a great place to grow up in the late 40’s and early 50’s,” he recalls, “exploring the hills and fields and ponds. And the prisoners were always nice to us.”
After high school, Tony attended St. Petersburg Junior College in Florida. “My aunt, a retired WWII army nurse, lived in St. Petersburg,” he explains, “and she put me through college.”
Tony majored in Radio & Television Production because he had always been interested in hi-fi. “When I was in high school, I built a hi-fi system for my parents.”
Tony then spent three years with the U.S. Army Signal Corps, including time in Bangkok, Thailand; six years with AutEx, a stock trading information network, in Massachusetts; and 13 years as a project manager at Data General Corporation in Westbrook. He then served as a partner at Creative Engineering in South Portland, a firm specializing in the design and manufacture of custom video equipment consoles and cabinetry.
In 1995, Tony became Manager of South Portland Community Television. With only one other employee to assist him, Tony assumes many responsibilities: managing overall operations and programming for a station which operates 24/7; dealing with equipment specification, facility design, installation and repair of all studio and control room equipment; and, important, handling franchise fee negotiations, as the station’s funding comes from franchise fees received from cable TV.
Some people, including this writer, aren’t aware of the extraordinary diversity of community television offerings. In addition to broadcasting various municipal meetings and school board meetings, SPC-TV airs a full range of educational and entertainment fare, some put on by local citizens, some obtained from across the U.S. and around the world.
In a recent week, for example, SPC-TV aired over 100 shows with titles ranging from the local (Cancer Community Center Open House, South Portland Fire Department History and Kites at Bug Light Park) to the far afield (Birding in Ecuador, Jamaica Inn and Planet Earth, Our Response).
Tony takes special pride in community television’s public access mission. “We provide a forum for free expression for South Portland residents,” he explains, “people can send a letter-to-the-editor without the editor. And we enable people who can’t get out to see what’s going on in their community.”
Tony doesn’t restrict his efforts on behalf of community television to SPC-TV. He’s been a prime mover in the establishment of cable television in the Standish area and over 70 other Maine communities; he’s been a member of the Community Television Association of Maine for over 20 years, and served as Board President for five years.
In addition to several awards (e.g. the “Tony” award from the Community Television Association for his long service), Tony has received countless thank-you letters from citizens and organizations for whom SPC-TV has provided a forum.
A devoted family man, Tony Vigue wanted me to mention his home situation. “Linda, my wife of 44 years, and I are fortunate to have our daughter Lianne, her husband Jessie and our granddaughter, Karlie, share our circa 1800 farm in Standish. Lianne works at Unum, Jessie at Dock and Door Handling Systems and my granddaughter works at being a 5 year old. My son John lives nearby and is a rigger at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard working on submarines.”
There you have him. Tony Vigue. The man behind the scenes in South Portland and all around the state to ensure free and open access to news and information. A citizen’s citizen. A Mainer’s Mainer. 24/7.