Be Heard! faces a long road to larger exposure | AspenTimes.com
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Be Heard! faces a long road to larger exposure

Allyn Harvey

Editor’s note: This is the fifth article in a series that goes behind the scenes of Aspen’s teen television program, Be Heard! Aspen. The first show aired last fall on Denver public television, after tapings before high school students in Glenwood and Colorado Springs. The show, produced for and by teens, gives young adults a chance to voice opinions about such topics as teen drunken driving and the effects of Columbine. It also gives adults a chance to listen. By Allyn Harvey Aspen Times Staff Writer

Carbondale businessman Chris Tribble has come a long way in turning an idea conceived one afternoon while trying to brush his kid aside into a statewide television phenomenon.

But as he’s quickly learning, taking it to the next level is a different game altogether.

Tribble’s program is “Be Heard!,” a talk show that’s all about teenagers. The panel sitting on the stage is made up of teenagers. The audience is filled mostly with teenagers. And the topics of discussion are very much in line with today’s teen experience – drinking and driving, the Columbine effect, dress codes and stereotypes – because they are selected by an advisory group made up exclusively of teenagers.

Last spring, the first six episodes were shot in two locations, an auditorium in Glenwood Springs and a mall in Colorado Springs, and aired on Sunday mornings this fall with a fair bit of success on KRMA, one of Denver’s public television stations.

(The Be Heard! programs were the basis for Be Heard! Aspen, a local version that featured students from area high schools. Be Heard! Aspen was broadcast live every Tuesday for the last six weeks from the Grassroots Television studio.)

“Be Heard! was well received by the target audience – young people and their parents,” says Donna Sanford, KRMA’s director of network programming.

Sanford said the ratings indicated that anywhere from 13,000 to more than 20,000 Denver households were watching Be Heard! each Sunday. By comparison, the extremely popular PBS program “Nature,” which is aired during prime time evening hours, typically draws viewers from 39,000 households in Denver. The ratings for both shows are limited to Denver.

Sanford says the most surprising thing about Be Heard!, at least from KRMA’s point of view, was the fact the program did well without much marketing. “We didn’t really market it at all,” she says.

So Tribble’s got a product to pitch.

“It’s not just an idea anymore, which means a lot,” he says. “We have a product. When you approach television networks and potential underwriters, it makes a big difference if you have something to show them, instead of just saying `I’ve got a good idea.’ “

He’s also got a vision for that product: weekly, nationwide broadcasts via the Public Broadcasting Service. To make that vision a reality, however, he’s got to convince the powers that be at PBS that Be Heard! deserves a nationwide audience.

“That’s difficult for a lot of reasons,” says Jacoba Atlas, PBS’s vice president for programming in the western United States. “In terms of prime-time scheduling, we only have two or three hours a night that are available, and there’s a lot of pressure for those time slots.”

Proposals are evaluated on an ongoing basis, according to the PBS Web site. They are initially judged on quality, credentials of the production team, PBS scheduling needs and the scope of the financial request.

If it makes it past the first review, the proposal is forwarded to a producer who specializes in the proposal’s genre. The producer reviews it with a content team made up of experts in television, new media, education, business development and promotion. If the content team recommends a proposal, it is then reviewed by the network president and PBS programming executives from Virginia, Florida, Chicago and California.

Atlas said very few proposals make it all the way through, and Be Heard! might do better if it were to come fully funded with the backing of one of a few outside agencies that syndicate programs to PBS stations. PBS Plus is one such agency, syndicating familiar, non-prime time shows like “This Old House” and “New Yankee Work Shop.”

“These programs come to us fully funded, they don’t get any financial support from PBS or the Corporation for Public Broadcasting,” Atlas said. She also said they are shown at the discretion of each station, at whatever time the station management sees fit.

Tribble is already working with American Public Television, a Boston-based agency. Together, he says, they are putting together all the information needed to woo sponsors and convince station managers that Be Heard! deserves their support and air time.

But if the public television angle doesn’t work out, Tribble is willing to take his show elsewhere, and he’s got most of the logistical details worked out for the next round of production, no matter who is backing him.

There’s a small production team – Wendy Rickard and Marcus Richardson – ready to go that has become more and more seasoned with past work on Be Heard! and Be Heard! Aspen.

The program has a host by the name of Jasmine de la Rosa, a 25-year-old youth activist from San Francisco who hosted the first six episodes.

Dana Anderson, a senior executive at The Mace Rich Company, has agreed to let Be Heard! be filmed in any of the company’s 52 malls, and he’s promised to recommend it to other mall owners. “I don’t think selling this to mall owners is going to be very difficult,” Anderson said.

Ideally, Tribble would take the show to a different mall in a different community each week. “I could do 52 programs in 52 malls – one a week,” he said. Malls are the ideal, he says, because that’s where teens hang out.

And Tribble may even have a major underwriter behind him soon, in the form of Wells Fargo Bank. The local branch of Wells Fargo helped pay for Be Heard! and Be Heard! Aspen, and Tribble said the national office is looking at further support.

And it all may come together because 8-year-old Jordon Tribble had something to tell his father one day.

Tribble, a father of two and the owner of Versatile Productions, moved to Glenwood Springs in the early 1980s and began his adult life here as a truck driver.

In 1982, he started shooting videos of ski instructors and their students at Aspen Highlands. “I learned how to shoot and ski at the same time and it became my fate,” he says.

By the mid-1980s he was a regular cameraman/producer for skiing’s television superstars, Bob Beattie and Andy Mill. He was also called regularly by television networks whenever they needed an on-the-spot producer who could ski and shoot a camera at the same time.

His rsum includes work with Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN and NBC’s coverage of the Winter Olympics. He produces videos for a few of the largest corporations in the world and also many firms around the valley.

Then one afternoon about a year ago, Tribble was working on one of those corporate videos, trying to meet his deadline, when Jordon began pulling on his sleeve and saying “Dad, Dad, Dad.” Chris glanced down and then began gently pushing his son back, “I was going OK, OK. What? Not now.”

Something cracked. Jordon began pulling stuff off the shelves and acting just like any 8-year-old who is being ignored by his father. Chris, in his frustration, realized he was ignoring his child at the expense of both of them.

He dusted off an old idea that he had for a teen talk show and began diverting his energy away from the networks and corporations and into Be Heard!

“If we don’t listen to our kids, they’re going to figure out a way to make us listen,” Tribble says.

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