Archive for the ‘grassroots media’ category

Community Media: Selected Clippings – 03/14/08

March 14, 2008

Kenya’s Indy Media
by Michelle Chen
In These Times

[ comments invited ]

While news reports across the world have displayed images of chaos shaking Kenya, an alternative media system driven by ordinary Kenyans is emerging in the East African country to help raise the voices of the seldom heard. The violent aftermath of President Mwai Kibaki’s disputed election in December has detonated Kenya’s festering ethnic, land and power struggles, leaving hundreds dead and displacing hundreds of thousands. But it has also energized the country’s independent media-makers, many of whom see their work as key to overcoming the crisis.

Fusing mass communication with political organizing, the Kenya Independent Media Center (IMC) has aired local activists’ perspectives on the violence and its root causes. Through its growing network of independent reporters, IMC Kenya aims to generate “information for action,” according to co-founder John Bwakali. The organization also tries to lead by example through its non-hierarchical structure as a collective—a potential model of radical self-empowerment in a society besieged by political disillusionment.

In an IMC audio piece, Jimani, a young activist with the Warriors, a Nairobi-based self-help group, reflects on the desperation that has pushed many of Kenya’s youth into violent clashes. “Why has a youth gone out to fight, ready to die?” he asks on a recording produced shortly after the elections. “Is it freedom for those who are oppressed in this world? Maybe you can say so.” But he continues: “As a [young] man is ready to go out there and die because he wants his voice to be heard, we need to give them that chance. We need to hear what they have to say to us.”

Some youth are amplifying their voices through a video collective called Slum-TV, led by Kenya-based media activists. By documenting everyday struggles in Mathare—a densely populated slum in the capital Nairobi—the project enables young people to produce homegrown media and, through local public screenings, fosters community dialogue. Following the outbreak of the post-election violence, Slum-TV has focused on current recovery efforts that bring together activists from different ethnic groups. Slum-TV co-founder Sam Hopkins noted the contrast with corporate media’s coverage of “tribal” violence. “The idea behind focusing on characters who have crossed the ethnic divide is really just to provide another version of what’s happening, to counteract the mainstream international media,” he says.

As an ear to the ground in their communities, grassroots media activists have sometimes been ahead of the news. Patrick Shomba and fellow artists, who founded the Ghetto Film Club media collective in 2006, foreshadowed the approaching unrest in a screenplay titled “The Ghetto President.” The film, created last year as a civic-education project, explored issues of corruption, voting rights, youth rights and ethnic conflict. After scraping together volunteer help and borrowed equipment, the group completed the film a few days before the election and held a public screening in a Nairobi slum. Their next film, they hope, will be about reconciliation.

Since cities like Nairobi are ethnically diverse, Shomba views street-level art as a way to “maintain the peace here in the urban sector, with a mix of culture and a mix of tribes.” Local youth lead the project as actors and producers—a rare opportunity for them to overcome marginalization. The group aims to eventually turn media work into a sustainable income source for young people wrestling with poverty, crime and lack of schooling in their communities.

In the post-election turmoil, Shomba is also working with Kenya’s budding community radio scene to air local news, as well as anti-violence messages, on three small urban stations, with an estimated reach of more than 2 million listeners. “What our guys can do at the grassroots,” he says, “the mainstream media can’t come and do.”

Though still in its infancy, grassroots reporting is gaining traction in Kenya. Since 2007, the Web-based Voices of Africa project, an initiative of the Africa Interactive Media Foundation, has delivered field reporting from mobile-phone-based correspondents in Kenya. Its coverage features video commentary from everyday people on politics, underlying social problems and concerns about the ongoing mediation talks.

Although Kenya’s independent media-makers generally do not face outright authoritarian restraints, more insidious barriers can impinge on their work. —>

Broadband fight pits corporations against users, Internet future at stake
by Charlie White


Whatever happened to the Information Superhighway? It was the big talk of the 90s, but now the United States has fallen to 16th place in the world for broadband deployment and availability, according to a survey by the Communication Workers of America. While we sink in the world rankings, service providers such as Comcast are slowing down the Internet connections of users who partake of too much of the touted “unlimited” service.

Meanwhile, the government is watching and listening to complaints of customers and users, but not doing much yet to stand in the way of the purveyors of Internet connectivity. Instead of expanding the pipes of the Internet, companies such as AT&T, Verizon, Comcast, and Time Warner have chosen to invest in acquiring smaller companies, amassing power and influence so they can dictate terms to the government and broadband users. They’d prefer to abolish Net neutrality and move toward a tiered service, vowing to control what we can see and hear on the Web, while leaving the services of competitors on a slower tier.

While these greedy corporations fight for control of the Internet and vie for the right to charge whatever prices they can extract, paying customers are trapped in a broadband world of lame connectivity that creeps toward obsolescence, without much recourse. With the future of the Internet and free speech at stake, what’s next? —>

Verizon Gets Cozy With P2P File-Sharers
by Peter Svenson
AP Technology Writer
Seattle Times (WA)

Peer-to-peer file sharing, the primary vehicle for online piracy, has been as unpopular with Internet service providers as it has been popular with users. Providers have banned, blocked or slowed peer-to-peer traffic in their efforts to keep the flood of music, video, games and software from overwhelming their networks.

But Verizon Communications Inc. has broken ranks with the industry and announced Friday that it plans to help its users share files faster _ at least those who do it legally. With researchers at Yale University and a group of companies that make file-sharing software, Verizon collaborated to enable faster downloads for consumers and lower costs for participating ISPs. —>

BitTorrent CEO: Rethinking Media Store, No Business Impact From Comcast
by Dan Frommer
Silicon Valley Insider

[ comments invited ]

BitTorrent’s two big projects: Getting media giants to pay them to deliver video over its peer-to-peer network. And getting BitTorrent’s downloading software pre-installed on consumer electronics devices like DVR set-top boxes, home network routers, and TV sets.

So how’s it going? New CEO Doug Walker says his company can undercut content distribution firms like Akamai Technologies (AKAM) and Limelight Networks (LLNW) by 50%, and will have a some big deals to announce within a month. And he expects more than 5 million BitTorrent-enabled consumer electronics devices to ship in the next year; he says he’ll be able to get 50 cents to $2 in licensing fees per device.

Both business-to-business pitches are a big shift from the company’s first project after making nice with Hollywood more than two years ago: That’s when BitTorrent started building a consumer-focused digital media store, including movies, TV episodes, games, and music. Via deals with News Corp. (NWS), Viacom (VIAB), and Time Warner (TWX), that’s helped big media companies get comfortable with the idea of working with BitTorrent. But the store hasn’t taken the market by storm: Its most popular movie available for purchase right now is 2007’s “The Reaping.”

Walker talked to us about his new projects and whether cable giant Comcast’s (CMCSA) policy of disrupting some BitTorrent file transfers has affected his business. —>

Group considers ways to build educational TV
New offering would be similar to CitySpan10
by Ted Holteen
Durango Herald (CO)

A new task force charged with deciding how a future educational cable channel in Durango will be run met for the first time Thursday, but there are sure to be more questions than answers for a while. An educational channel, or more accurately, funding for an educational channel, is included in the agreement between the city of Durango and Bresnan Communications, the local cable provider serving about 6,000 Durango households.

Under Federal Communications Commission regulations, the cable franchisee is required to pay the city a fee for Public, Education and Government, or PEG, programming. Each cable subscriber is charged a nominal fee for PEG channels to cover Bresnan’s cost.

Currently, Durango Community Access Television (DCAT, channel 22) receives about $7,000 in PEG fees for the public portion, and CitySpan 10 receives an equal amount for the government portion. There is no educational channel, but DCAT has been airing Durango School District 9-R board meetings for the last two years. Each channel also receives separate city funding for operations and equipment.

Assistant City Manager Greg Caton said there is about $13,000 in educational channel money in city coffers that has accrued since a new franchise agreement was signed with Bresnan in January 2007. The Durango City Council directed the formation of the task force last fall to find the best way to use those funds, find more money and decide who will run the channel and where it will be housed.

Most local educational institutions are represented on the task force – the school district, Fort Lewis College and Pueblo Community College – as well as DCAT, Inside Durango TV (IDTV channel 15), CitySpan 10 and several at-large community members. All agree that the need exists for separate educational programming, but starting a new television channel is neither easy nor cheap.

“Seven thousand dollars won’t pay to run a channel – others will have to step up,” said Marc Snider, owner of Exposure Productions. Snider’s company is contracted by the city to run CitySpan 10. Both Snider and DCAT Executive Director Chris Hall asked City Council for the right to run an educational channel during budget discussions last fall, prompting the formation of the task force to make the decision. —>

Kankakee County tuning in local TV
by John Stewart
The Daily Journal (IL)

[ comments invited ]

Anybody can post a video on with a cheap Web cam and an even cheaper microphone. But not everyone gets on television or can make a video that gets on television. That’s because television still has a “mystique,” according to Steve Bertrand, assistant director of the Kankakee Public Library.

Although television might be “dying,” Bertrand believes there is still something very appealing about saying “I made something, and I got it on TV.” Bertrand is one of more than a dozen Kankakee County people who have spoken up recently in favor of public access television — TV made by the people for cable television. According to its proponents, it is good for the people and for their government. But locally, it has been a reality in just the village of Manteno.

Among those interested in establishing public access are seven Kankakee County Board members, who voted last month to tell local cable provider Comcast to make public access available in the area the county is responsible for — outside the cities and towns. County Board member Ann Bernard said if the county government takes the first step, it could lead to other governments participating.

In Manteno, local programming is found on channel 4 and is created by Village View, a group of 12 volunteers. Village View was started in 1989, according to President Mike Hill. Funded by the village board through the cable television tax, Village View elects its own officers and does all the videotaping and editing.

Village View content ranges from weekly church services and monthly local government meetings to sports and community festivities. The nongovernment or church activities totaled 96 events last year, Hill said. While YouTube may be popular with the Internet-savvy, public access brings school events, including concerts, to those who cannot attend.

A special public hearing about Aqua Illinois taking over the public water supply, a change that had the potential to affect the entire community, was also covered on television — making government more accessible. Bertrand said the library could provide video of its public speaker series to public access. An upcoming library expansion will include a lab where local people can learn not only how to surf the Web, but also how to take digital photographs and to share them. He sees a day when lessons will also be taught in making videos. “Television is old technology,” Bertrand said, but “public access isn’t. The concept is very new.” —>

Can you hear it pumping on your I-Pod?
Five Public Opinions


Sammy Jankis has tagged me with the following meme: “What are your favourite 3 podcasts? Why?“

For mine (and for Sammy, incidentally), the cream of the crop has to be The Atheist Experience. This is actually a public access TV show filmed in Austin, Texas, on behalf of the Atheist Community of Austin, but it is also available in audio format. Several of the hosts are ex-fundamentalist Christians, including the host Matt Dillahunty whose no-nonsense approach–particularly when dealing with fundies who call in with (as Sammy puts it) “phone in one hand Bible in the other to tell some atheists what atheists think”–is an absolute pleasure to watch (or listen to, as the case may be). The Atheist Experience experienced a recent upsurge in intertube notoriety when a portion of a February show, in which a caller threatens to come down to the studio and punch Dillahunty’s “fat face”, was YouTubed. RUNNER UP: Atheist Talk.

My second pick is another product of the ACA: The Non-Prophets. This one is also hosted by Dillahunty, and is co-hosted by Denis Loubet (whose trademark is to phrase the introduction of each show in the form of a logical fallacy) and Russell Glasser (who often appears on The Atheist Experience as well). The website could do with an upgrade, but these guys have mastered the art of eviscerating apologetics and other religion-inspired chicanery with equal parts wit and outrage. Accept no substitutes, folks: what Lord of the Rings is to the fantasy genre, The Non-Prophets is to atheist podcasting. RUNNER UP: Another Goddamned Podcast. —>

Your very own TV show …
by Terry Doyle
Amesbury News (MA)

[ comments invited ]

Gloucester – Imagine: you’re 18 years old. Your passion is film and your local cable access channel is looking for the next Scorsese or Kubrick or Spielberg — and they’re providing the best cameras and editing suites to boot.

So there you are, 18 years old — an idea in your head and the gumption in your gut to go for it. You rally a few pals, head down to the beach for a bite to eat and some arcades and while you’re there you rattle off a thousand and one absurd ideas that no one outside of your friend group will ever find remotely humorous. But, you think, who cares?

You brainstorm and brainstorm and brainstorm till your head feels thick and the blacks of your eyes swell and contract uncontrollably. And then finally an idea sticks. “We’ll make our own talk show…” …About things that no one else will care about.

Adam, the one who is as dynamic as he is gangly and without an ounce of shame, will play host. “What will the rest of us do?” “We’ll be the guests.”

Keegan, Sean and Sean will be the house band. Mark can dress up like a clown. Terry, you can be the resident, uh, literature guru. Greg will direct Carl will grow a beard.

“What will we call it?” “Wiggin’ Out with Adam Wiggin.” “What are we going to do for segments?” “I don’t know.”

So you brainstorm again. You hit the drawing board. “We could go to a buffet and see who can eat the most food.” Episode One—“The Great American Eat Off.” “The Topsfield Fair. Let’s do something at the Topsfield fair.” Episode Two—“Something at the Topsfield Fair.” “But no one is going to care about any of this,” chimes the lone pessimist. “Who cares?”

And then something funny starts to happen. Other kids at school are talking about Keegan’s fear of clowns or Sean’s thrashing guitar solo or the inflatable silver couch with the slow leak that Adam’s guests sit on during interviews. People are watching, you find out. People care.

That’s what happened to my best friends and me while we were in high school. We had an idea and we ran with it. Our local cable access channel was kind enough to let us use their studio for an hour of debauchery each week, and because of that the creative revelry continues to this day. Though we no longer have a television program, everyone involved with the production of that show is still involved in one way or another with the writing or directing of, or the acting in, creative film.

So when Stacey Randall, a member of the Cape Ann TV Board of Directors, told me that she hopes Cape Ann TV can reach out to the Cape’s youth, I couldn’t help but remember those days when my best friends and I made our own show. Sure, we didn’t think anyone would care. Frankly, we didn’t care if anyone cared. It wasn’t about money. It wasn’t about anything but being young and having a creative outlet. So to all of you out there who have forever longed to star in a television show or write and direct a musical, please, reach out to Cape Ann TV. It could be the most rewarding thing you ever do.

Terry Doyle is a reporter for the Cape Ann Beacon. He made his TV debut on “Wiggin’ Out with Adam Wiggin”’ which ran on Amesbury’s public access channel 12. If you’d like to get involved in public access television at Cape Ann Cable TV, contact the studio at 978-281-2443, or visit

The Triumphant Return of the Television Horror Host!
by Jason Buchanan
The AllMovie Blog

[ comments invited ]

For those of use who grew up watching Count Scary, The Ghoul, Sir Graves Ghastly, Elvira, or even Commander USA, the mere thought of schlock horror flicks hosted by wisecracking characters on ramshackle studio sets is enough to make us instinctively reach for some non-existent, noggin-top rabbit ears in a nostalgic bid to clear the static distortion of our collective memories. Thankfully, we need not lament the death of a bygone era or regret the fact that we’ll never be able to share those memories with our own children any longer, as – at least in the Detroit television market – good-humored lycanthrope Wolfman Mac is primed and ready to revive this long-dormant television sub-genre with his late-night horror show entitled Nightmare SINema. —>

compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media