It all started because popular singer Shelby Lynne could only perform on Saturday.
Over two years ago in March 2001, the Grammy award-winning artist was stopping by Northern Virginia. She had wanted to appear on MegaHertz, a local entertainment series produced by WNVT-MHz Networks in Merrifield, but she couldn't make the series' Monday through Friday schedule. So the station, which became independent from public broadcasting in 2000, made a special show featuring 30 minutes of the singer's performance.
That show became the pilot for MHz Presents, an award-winning entertainment series featuring in-house concerts of well-known and obscure musical artists. What started as a show for the local Generation X audience has grown into a series that had received an Emmy award for audio production in 2002 and airs on more than 140 public television and independent channels nationwide.
"I'm enormously proud of the program," said Steve Gibson, director of production. "I get reports from American Public Television that they haven't seen a growth like this."
The program features 30 minutes of concert footage from visiting artists. The WNVT crew at the Falls Church station tapes the bands, ranging from Suzanne Vega to Afro Celts to Washington-area band Last Train Home, and plays the footage without post-production mixing, Gibson said.
"What you get in the show is actually how it was played in the studio," Gibson said.
Despite the station's small size, the show has gotten national attention. During its first year on the air, MHz Presents received four Emmy nominations for four programs in the series. It won an Emmy in 2002.
"I thought it was amazing. I'm proud of the crew that works on the program," Gibson said.
The shows also get picked up by both big and small public television stations nationwide, from KQED in San Francisco to WQED in Pittsburgh to WHRM in Waussau, Wis., according to associate producer Lindsay Fuller.
Frederick Thomas, MHz Networks' executive vice president and general manager, said MHz Presents is one of the programs of WNVT attempting to target a young, multicultural audience. Besides MHz Presents, the station also produces Open.tv, a teen-led talk show that introduces technology topics to a young audience.
Thomas said a continued goal for MHz Networks, which is responsible for both WNVT and the international programming channel WNVC, is to create blocks of languages-specific programming for the area's international and multicultural community.
"We just felt that television is still the best digital divide tool out there," Thomas said.