episode 22. drishti media & video volunteers
On the Luck of Seven (India)
(T)he journey into understanding participatory culture doesn’t start with digital technology. the study of participatory culture should arise from the understanding that one shoe doesn’t fit all. since my time in ahmedabad, i’ve come to see drishti and video volunteers as the premier example of interactivity between online/offline, between old media/new media, between bitching and getting things done. the prime directive should not exist on earth. if we truly care about a participatory society, we must embrace tools as forms of technology and work hard to impart their use among all. i hope you check out more of video volunteers work.
Weapons of mass distraction
Straight from the Gut (India)
There’s a looming threat of misinformation in the Indian subcontinent. Most media houses are either run by businessmen with strong links to politicians or worse, run by the khaki-clad themselves. If it was a covert operation earlier, today the ownership is out in the open. Every political party worth its salt is trying to gather as much media steam to envelop the country. Knowledge is power, but when the power of disseminating it is at the hands of netas, you have to take every information from their media vehicles with much introspection. —>
Why the Maghreb needs community radio (Morocco)
by Hélène Michaud and Andy Sennitt
Radio Netherlands Worldwide
All that’s needed to create a community radio station is a low-powered transmitter and antenna, a small studio and a microphone. Yet this phenomenon, considered irreversible and essential to development and democratisation elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa, has not spread to the countries of the Maghreb. However, there are increasing calls, in particular in Morocco, to introduce community radio.
One of the main proponents is Professor Jamal Eddine Naji, who holds the UNESCO Chair in Public and Community Communication in Rabat. The reforms announced by Morocco’s King Mohammed VI to fight corruption and improve the country’s human rights records must be extended to the media, he says, in order to be successful.
Professor Jamal has been trying to mobilise Morocco’s burgeoning civil society to consider using community radio as a tool. Many private radio and television networks have recently been launched in Morocco, but “we need to go much further in the direction of the appropriation of the media by Moroccan citizens.” And this means opening up the media landscape to community radio. —>
Wired resistance in Pakistan
by Amber Vora
It should come as no surprise that on the fateful night of Musharraf’s first coup in 1999, one of the only showdowns occurred at the state-run PTV television station. The offices were stormed by armed men, some backing Musharraf and others backing then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. At the time PTV was the only news station in Pakistan, so controlling its broadcast meant controlling the news. PTV went off the air for 3 hours that night. When it returned, it was to announce the dismissal of Sharif’s government.
Loss of access to communications has become a warning sign to Pakistanis that trouble may be brewing. In September 2006, a massive power outage caused an interruption of television broadcasts, spurring rumors that another coup had transpired. In that instance a technical failure, not the Army, was to blame.
This time around, when Musharraf declared de facto martial law on November 3, there were many more television stations to shut down – ironically the very same private stations that were allowed to flourish under his rule. He also placed severe restrictions on print media, leaving most Pakistanis with limited information about what is happening inside their own country. However, such measures no longer control the flow of information as effectively as they did eight years ago…
Several LUMS students I interviewed spoke with the giddiness of those who have only recently discovered their power. Their sentences were peppered with the parlance of blackberries, blogs, facebook and flickr. A senior named Ayesha described how SMS’s spread faster than wildfire across the campus, announcing and coordinating meetings and rallies.
Photos of a favourite professor being arrested by police were circulated over the Internet, outraging previously apolitical students. Cricket star turned political party leader Imran Khan, who temporarily escaped arrest, issued YouTube appeals from hiding encouraging students to mobilize. —>
Cable bill proves campaign reform need urgent
by Dave Zweifel, editor
Capital Times (WI)
On Sunday the State Journal ran a front page story that suggested the new “cable reform” legislation might not save consumers money after all. So what else is new? The story confirmed what opponents of the legislation had been repeatedly saying as loudly as they could for months and months while AT&T and others filled campaign coffers in the state Legislature.
It’s what we said in numerous editorials leading up to the final vote in the state Senate earlier this month and what several in-depth reports by our reporter Judith Davidoff revealed several weeks ago. Not only is this new law unlikely to save cable TV customers any money, it severely weakens the consumer safeguards that have been in place in Wisconsin since cable TV arrived on the scene.
A majority of the state Senate thumbed its nose at the consumer advocates, who wanted some safeguards written into the bill. Those advocates wanted to protect things like the funding of public access channels, which cable TV firms are required to provide now.
If the Assembly concurs in a few changes made by the Senate and Gov. Jim Doyle signs the measure, and the betting is that he will, local control of cable will be taken away. The state’s Department of Financial Institutions, a department led by political appointees, will provide oversight instead.
In what has to be the irony of ironies, the supposedly corrupt state of Illinois enacted a much more consumer-friendly cable law when that issue came before its Legislature earlier this year. It remains a mystery why Wisconsin legislators couldn’t insist on at least the same safeguards.
And when the Wisconsin Democracy Campaign, the organization that monitors campaign contributions, detailed the largess senators received from AT&T and others supporting the legislation, there were howls of indignation from the politicians. It’s irresponsible, one Senate staffer wrote me, after we printed the WDC’s report that the 23 senators who voted in favor of the bill received $1.2 million in contributions from the special interests backing the legislation.
No, what’s irresponsible is the Legislature’s continued failure to fix this system that allows special interests to ply government officials with huge sums of money and, in the end, get what they want at the expense of the public interest. Even if this were all somehow just a coincidence, the public perception is clear — our government is for sale to the highest bidder. —>
AOC & LUS’ Franchise
by John St. Julien
Lafayette Pro Fiber (LA)
This morning’s Advocate has a story focusing on one benefit from Tuesday’s approval of the LUS’ cable franchise: Acadiana Open Channel (AOC) will benefit to the tune of $50,000 dollars and a new capacity to offer on-demand programming.
As Blanchard points out, most of the franchise agreement is, for legal reasons relating to the (un)Fair Competition Act, a clone of Cox’s 2000 agreement. There are some differences, however, including the way the LUS agreement deals with the Acadiana Open Channel:
Each year, the Cox franchise agreement requires Cox to pay $50,000 to the open channel to run a public access channel, although that figure can go down if the city-parish doesn’t match funds up to a certain amount.
The LUS agreement calls for the open channel to get a flat $50,000 regardless of any conditions.
While there is a dark lining on this silver cloud, my guess is that Ed Bowie over at AOC’s Lee Avenue offices regards this as a good thing. After all, the perennially cash-strapped organization is getting a new, solid, continuing funding source for the next 10 years. With new federal regulations threatening to further erode the principle of local control of cable media by telling localities that they can’t demand much of anything other than cash for letting cable corporations rent their rights-of-way all public access groups are facing a bleak future. Likely LUS’ commitment will make it politically difficult for Cox to back out of its commitments just because the Feds say they can renege. Cox appears to have a good relationship with AOC. The corporation recently extended AOC’s reach into the surrounding communities recently (you can see AOC’s programming in X, Y, Z now) and provides AOC with net connection. (LUS should certainly match that.)
Even as AOC programming has solidified—it now really fills the two channel slots it has been allocated—and in part because of increased demand for its services AOC’s staffing problems have increased. This is especially true in the critical technical area that will be its future and the additional shot of money will no doubt be helpful there.
But there is a downside to the LUS’ unconditional gift to AOC. It’s unconditional. That means that should the council decide it doesn’t want to match LUS’ contribution in the same way it matches Cox’s then their decision to be chintzy doesn’t let LUS off the hook. With the Cox money the local government has to continue to support AOC or let Cox walk away with money that could be returned to the community. The way LUS has set up its contribution the city is freed from that responsibility. Of course that doesn’t free it from the moral obligation to help pay for valuable community resources. AOC is a magnet for creative types and AOC’s broadcasting of public meetings is an essential public resource. The city-parish should do the right thing. —>
Mark Cuban upset with P2P freeloaders
In a blog titled “An Open Letter to Comcast and Every cable/Telco on P2P” Mark Cuban urges broadband Internet providers to “BLOCK P2P TRAFFIC , PLEASE.”
Calling P2P users “freeloaders” he urged internet service providers to charge commercial rates to users Seeding or relaying P2P traffic. He said “The last thing I want slowing my internet service down are P2P freeloaders. Thats right, P2P content distributors are nothing more than freeloaders. The only person/organization that benefits from P2P usage are those that are trying to distribute content and want to distribute it on someone else’s Bandwidth dime.”
The outspoken billionaire arguably has an interest in freeing up bandwidth currently being used for P2P traffic. His 2929 Entertainment venture is working to implement a distribution plan that includes simultaneously releasing movies theatrically at the same time they’re available in home video formats. No doubt he’d benefit from reduced P2P traffic as it would free up bandwidth that could be used to deliver quality hi-def content. However, rival content providers are testing P2P technology, most notably BitTorrent, for their own content delivery. Even the music industry is looking at the potential of a P2P distribution model. No doubt they’re less than thrilled with his proposal. —>
More cities broadcasting their business on the Web
In effort to increase transparency, more municipalities air meetings, offer services online
by Elizabeth Langton
The Dallas Morning News
Two decades ago, broadcasting city council meetings on cable access was cutting edge. But not in the age of wireless Internet, YouTube and podcasts. Now people expect information on demand, and government is responding by putting more and more of its business on the Web.
Municipalities across the Dallas-Fort Worth area offer a variety of online services, such as ways to report tall grass and broken streetlights or to pay parking tickets and water bills. Some have posted videos on YouTube and set up podcasts on iTunes. And a growing number provide on-demand video of council meetings. “It’s fast food, immediate gratification,” said Laura Hallmark, assistant to the city secretary in DeSoto. “Everybody is in a hurry. They want what they want, and they want it right away.”
The Texas Legislature first offered online video of proceedings in 1999. A handful of state boards offer webcasts of their meetings. When New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer took office in January, he ordered that all of the state’s public meetings be broadcast on the Internet to make government more accessible. —>
The Role of Ethnic Media and Ways to Report on Minorities
by Andrew Lam
New America Media
It is very difficult to frame the picture of the US media because we’re in a period of great turmoil. We have cable, DSL, bloggesphere, major, alternative, youth, and ethnic media, just to name a few. More fragmentation is sure to happen as more individuals have the power to be broadcasters and reporters and entertainers than ever before. We’re also in the age of citizen reporters- people who have a mobile phone and tape and take pictures and film events and break news before any professional journalist can arrive to the scene.
Major news organisations are losing viewers/listeners/readers while small news providers sometime discover that they can reach far wider audiences than they ever dreamed before. The mainstream press is shrinking and many are putting their resources on-line. This is where it’s still dynamic and vibrant.
Ethnic media, however, are growing and there’s still room to grow as the US demographic shift is changing very quickly, toward more a pluralistic society. In California, one out of 4 persons is an immigrant and 40 % of California households speak a language other than English. Our news organization has a directory of ethnic media and so far we identified more than 2500 news outlets that serve ethnic communities in the US. We think the real number may be more than double of what we chronicled.
When we did a poll as to how many American adults access ethnic media, the results were astounding: 51 million American adults access one form of ethnic media or another. That’s about one sixth of the general population. Half of them use ethnic media as their primary source of information. It is estimated that by the year 2050, the white population in the US will be under the 50% mark. This means that there’ll no longer be a majority. It also means that we should all prepare ourselves to find good viable models for our very pluralistic society. —>
Finding their own voice
by Matthew Ricketson
The Age (Australia)
HERE are two snapshots of the ways young people engage with the media: the first is from the shootings in April at Virginia Tech in the US, where, as Cho Seung-hui went on a rampage over several hours, students sought information and sent out news by using their mobile phones and laptop computers wirelessly connected to the internet.
They sent text messages to reassure their parents; they called friends, asking if they had heard of anything untoward at their college; they urgently searched online news websites for official confirmation, and they used their mobile phones to film the terrifying events as they happened.
In this snapshot, young people performed not only the traditional role of eyewitness to newsworthy events but used modern communication technologies to act as news-gatherers. When the mainstream media arrived, desperate to find out what had led one student to shoot 32 of his classmates and teachers, many young people showed an acute awareness of the media’s modus operandi and a savvy regard for the value of controlling their own “story”.
These young people are not just consumers of the media, but “pro-sumers”; that is, producers as well as consumers, who in the world of web 2.0 interact with media outlets and even create their own media.
The second snapshot comes from a survey, released in the same month as the shootings, that tested young people’s knowledge of news and current affairs. Conducted by the Pew Research Centre, a philanthropically funded nonpartisan “fact tank” based in the US, the survey showed that 56% of people aged 18 to 29 performed poorly on its test. Only one in six performed well. The test asked Americans to identify various public figures and tested their knowledge of recent events such as the Democrats gaining a majority in the House of Representatives, as well as their understanding of issues such as whether more civilians than troops have died in the Iraq war. The Pew Centre found that only one in four young people could identify Nancy Pelosi, who this year became the first female Speaker of the House, but that 95 per cent could identify Arnold Schwarzenegger — they got a tick if they identified him as either California Governor or a former action movie star.
What are we to make of these seemingly contradictory snapshots? When it comes to media, are today’s young people free-thinking innovators or self-centred escapists? Are we looking at a possibly disastrous decline in public knowledge, or a youth-led backlash against elitist and increasingly irrelevant traditional media?
Discussion of the issue is fraught, both because young people act as a lightning rod for society’s anxieties and because the media are a conductor for those anxieties. Further complicating the picture are the changes blowing through the media — the biggest since the introduction of television more than 50 years ago. So how, exactly, are young people using the media? —>
compiled by Rob McCausland
Alliance for Community Media