By Johanna Ferebee
The secrets of Wilmington’s past will soon be be spilled to a national audience when public affairs network C-SPAN will reveal their take on Wilmington’s rich history in a feature to air next month.
The crew will film throughout town this week for a March 18-19 showing of Wilmington as part of the 2017 Cities Tour. The program will showcase several highlights of the unique history Wilmington has to offer. Segments producers are working on include backgrounds on historic sites such as the USS North Carolina, as well as interviews with local nonfiction authors and historians.
C-SPAN producers, Charter Communications representatives and government officials, including Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo, celebrated their partnership Tuesday morning after the production crew arrived in town Monday.
Fittingly announced from within the embellished double parlor of the 19th century Bellamy Mansion, the programming hopes to bring Wilmington’s diverse historical background into living rooms across the country.
“I’ve said it many times, we’re one of the best kept secrets in America,” Saffo said. “As people have found us over the years we have continued to grow and prosper.”
Since 2011, C-SPAN producers have extended their weekly federal coverage of the House of Representatives and the Senate floor to hit road in search of America’s lesser known hidden treasures. C-SPAN’s mobile crew works to continue public policy conversations though its recurring Cities Tour, which airs the first and third weekend of each month on sister channels C-SPAN2 Book TV and C-SPAN3 American History TV.
As Wilmington’s population is already experiencing a steady upward trajectory, city officials and business partners believe C-SPAN’s coverage has the potential to fuel this growth even further.
“History shares a lot about not only where it’s been, but where the future is going to be,” said Eric Collins, director of government affairs for Charter Communications, which worked in partnership with C-SPAN and the city. “Wilmington’s future is certainly fated for growth.”
Saffo said he is hopeful about C-SPAN’s upcoming exposure of this expansive community.
“We’re a city right now that has 115,000 people, projected to have another 57,000 move in within the next twenty years, and that’s with a landmass of forty three square miles,” Saffo said. “Hopefully the people that view this program from around the country will take some time within this part of the country and come visit us.”
It’s unclear exactly how much growth or tourism can be directly attributed to C-SPAN’s coverage.
“We don’t have ratings. we have no idea. Once this goes on the air, you bet,” said C-SPAN’s coordinating producer, Debbie Lamb. “I’m sure there’s plenty of people, but we don’t know.”
While fully funded by affiliate cable providers that carry their programming, C-SPAN enjoys objective freedom featuring very little, if any editorializing or commentary on their part.
“We determine what the content is based on what the content is,” Lamb said.
Their intention is to show their subjects, both locations and individuals in their entirety. With no commercials or rigid guidelines, the crew allows the stories to shape themselves, she said.
“We have the luxury of time, so some blocks may be ninety minutes, the others may be two hours, it just depends,” she added.
Although the cable crew wasn’t able to fit in any Wrightsville Beach history this time around, they are set to film a feature on both Ft. Fisher and Ft. Anderson, with hopes to return in the years to come.
If viewers are not able to catch Wilmington’s national debut on March 18-19, they can access all segments set to be archived at www.c-span.org.