There's an unusual air of excitement at the television studio. Between the clicks and taps of typewriter keys and computer consoles, one can also hear the whirl and bangs of drills and hammers.

On this combination broadcast set and working newsroom, reporters pirouette through a maze of cables and half-assembled equipment. They mingle nervously with technicians and construction workers, everyone moving at double-time pace to meet their own deadlines.

The news set is being prepared for "News 21 Countyline," a locally produced weekday news program focusing on people, places and events in Montgomery County that will air when the new cable channel, Montgomery Channel, begins operations Monday.

According to Alex Likowski, news director for "News 21 Countyline," the daily news program will be the first of its kind to fill a "news gap" in the media-intensive Washington area.

"You would think a community this size {Montgomery County}, adjoining the nation's capital, you would think that there would be adequate coverage of local news, but there's not," Likowski explained. "You have a market that's divided into thirds: Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Local broadcasters know that if they go into depth on the news in one particular area, people in the other areas are going to tune out. That's reality. They're in the numbers game, the ratings game. They can't have people tune out."

County Council meetings and other regularly scheduled events will be covered on an ongoing basis by Michael Gilliam, the anchor of the news show, and staff reporters Karen Allyn and Birchard Allen. In addition to weather, area sports and entertainment, "News 21 Countyline" will have daily, in-depth live interviews with county newsmakers. "It's our little touch of MacNeil-Lehrer," said Ralph Malvik, executive director of Montgomery Community Television Inc.

Montgomery Channel is part of Montgomery Community Television Inc., a nonprofit company that operates eight of the television channels broadcast over the Hauser Communications cable system in the county.

Other community-oriented programming on the new Montgomery Channel includes:"Montgomery County Means Business," a weekly business talk show produced in conjunction with the county Chamber of Commerce. "Dance Club 21," a weekly dance show for teen-agers. "Citizen Soapbox" and "Candidate Soapbox," video "letters to the editor" discussion programs formerly shown on MCT's public access "open channel." "Montgomery Week in Review," a review by area journalists of weekly happenings in the county. "Arts Alive," produced by the Montgomery County Arts Council. "Eye on Annapolis," a program that originated on the county government channel about the activities of the state legislature.

Broadcasting from 3 to 11 p.m. seven days a week, the Montgomery Channel will not accept commercial advertising and will not be tracked by broadcast ratings services. It is supported solely by funding from Hauser Communications, as a requirement for maintaining the cable franchise from the Montgomery County government.

Likowski, a former producer in the Washington bureau of CBS News, said he intends for "News 21 Countyline" to go deal with more complex issues than fires and accidents.

"Breaking news is difficult for us to cover to the extent that local broadcasters do," he said. "We will cover that, to the best of our ability, but it's difficult because we have only 2 1/2 crews. We have to do that when we can, but we have to more or less focus on some of the issue-oriented stories.

"For example, we know that the county executive is going to submit a budget March 1, so we can, in anticipation of that, go ahead and develop coverage that explores what it's really all about. If we know that the Commission on the Future is having an important town meeting on a certain day, we can prepare for that and really cover it.

"Since MCT was and is primarily concerned with providing public access, there's not that commercial element that drives other organizations. It's not there. We aren't rated, so I as a news programmer don't have to say, you know, 'If it bleeds, it leads.' We don't have to do that."

Likowski notes that the Montgomery Channel will also explore a variety of human interest and feature stories that don't get covered by other news shows. A number of news features examining little-known points of interest have been prepared in cooperation with the Montgomery County Historical Society.

"Most people don't even realize that Montgomery County was named after a man who never even visited the county," Likowski explained. "We're going to look at things like that."

Montgomery Community Television offers a free 10-week course on television production for Montgomery County residents. Once residents have completed the course, they may borrow, without charge, television cameras and other equipment to produce their own shows. The Montgomery Channel and the MCT open channel will then broadcast the shows free of charge. County residents may also submit programs produced elsewhere for broadcast on the Montgomery stations.

"Community television, or some people call it public access, is all across the country," said Don Katzen, marketing director for Montgomery Community Television. "There's hundreds and hundreds of organizations like this, actually."