Monday, December 8, 2008


Everyday, we are surrounded by information and media. Most are constructed by for-profit organizations, which have a consumer-driven agenda. Community Media exists to help people navigate through these mass media images, by finding a way to utilize different forms of media to convey messages and information that is relevant to their own lives and communities.

The term community implies that there exists some kind of a social group, with common activities and experiences, but no definition designates the size of the group and characteristics. (Hoffer) In community research, it is suggested that voluntary organizations, civic clubs and community planning and action groups all have the common quality of being based on conjunctive relationships. (Bates & Bacon, 1972) This is especially conducive to the practice of creating and developing content for community media, which can be a community development practice in itself.

In this Media and Community Building class, we have explored the ways in which local news and information is disseminated, and how public access media is essential to a healthy democratic society. Some of the key concepts we have focused on around community media, are that it is for the most part independent of market-driven forces, it encourages community participation in the form of open access and training, and its democratic nature allows it to serve a wide variety of groups and address local issues.

Community Media started forming in the 1960’s with the introduction of the porta-pak, artists and film makers began capturing footage from their surroundings, and the “guerrilla television” movement was born. The mission of making “people’s television” was the inspiration for many of these early filmmakers and artists. The early pioneers of community media formed video groups such as Videofreex, People’s Video Theater, Global Village and Raindance Corporation. (Boyle, 1992) As the medium evolved over the years, resulting in more news and public affairs programming, a wider diversity of views expressed and better television and radio service. (Lloyd)

For this blog, I have explored the community media access available for my community of New Bedford, Massachusetts. New Bedford is a city of approximately 100,000 people, with a rich maritime history. Over the last few decades New Bedford has struggled as an economically depressed area. However within the last ten years or so, it has begun to emerge with a renewed arts and culture scene, and is quickly becoming a tourism destination. Along with this recent revitalization, New Bedford has begun to upgrade and improve community access to information and technology. It operates three Community Technology Centers, boasts an award-winning Public Access Television Station and has several local organizations that offer training for a reduced fee, or in many cases for free. Despite these encouraging trends, there is still room for improvement. The City’s presence on the web is minimal, and the official city website is not interactive for the most part.

Overall, the compilation of accessible community media centers throughout this website reflects a city that is diverse and vibrant, with an exciting future that will be fueled by the many civic and artistic organizations that are using community media to help inform the people of New Bedford about many events, issues, political discussions and arts and cultural activities that are available to them.

Works Cited
Bates, F. L., & Bacon, L. (1972). The Community as a Social System. Social Forces , 371-379.
Boyle, D. (1992). From Portapak to Camcorder, A Brief History of Guerrilla Television. Journal of Film and Video , 67-79.
Hoffer, C. (n.d.). Understanding the Community. The American Hournal of Sociology , 616-624.
Lloyd, M. (n.d.). Communications Policy is a Civil Rights Issue. Retrieved 12 8, 2008, from

Friday, December 5, 2008

Community Portrait of New Bedford, Massachusetts

"The earth has got to be very shifty to get out of the grasp of a people equally at home on land and water." - Thomas B. Reed.

New Bedford, Massachusetts is best known as a whaling era seaport and today is the number one fishing port in America. With a rich history, a designated national park in its historical downtown and an authentic working waterfront, the city of New Bedford today continues a remarkable transition from an economically depressed mill town to a culturally significant tourist destination.

Part of Bristol County, New Bedford is situated on the Southcoast of Massachusetts. A coastal city and a major seaport, bordered on the west by Dartmouth, on the north by Freetown, on the east by Acushnet and Fairhaven, and on the south by Buzzards Bay. These towns along with New Bedford were once all part of what was once “Old” Dartmouth, but were divided up throughout the towns’ history, dating back to the 1670’s.

New Bedford has a population of approximately 100,000 residents, including the nation’s largest Portuguese population, and a large Cape Verdean community as well. Visits by New Bedford's whale ships to the Portuguese Islands in the eastern Atlantic, the Azores, Madeira, and also Cape Verde resulted in the immigration of many islanders to America. The New Bedford Historical Commission explains that this began in the 1830's or possibly even earlier. Today, Guatemalan and Mayan people are the area’s newest immigrants not only in New Bedford, but all around southeastern Massachusetts and Rhode Island. They, like the Portuguese people of the past, are drawn to this area by the maritime and fish-processing operations.

Economically, New Bedford relies on fishing and manufacturing for the main industries in the area, and the local newspaper, The Standard Times reported recently that due to the expansion by local employer Southcoast Hospitals Group, it is now one of the top ten employers in the state of Massachusetts.

The port of New Bedford is one of our nation’s major fishing ports. In dollar value of the catch, it has been number one for the last several years. The fish sold here, and the fishing industry’s many shore side businesses, provide major support for the city’s and region’s economy. Seafood harvesting and processing contributes $5.5 billion to the New England economy and $850 million to our local economy. The fishing industry employees over 15,000 people in New England and 3,500 people in New Bedford, Fairhaven, Dartmouth and surrounding towns. Many people who work in the fishing industry are from families who have fished or done fishing related work for generations (Nelson, 23).

Tourism has become a growing industry in its own right and there are many fairs and festivals in the area over the summer and fall months that attract large numbers of visitors to the city. The most famous annual event that attracts hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world is the “Feast of the Blessed Sacrament”, or the “Portuguese Feast” that is held each summer in July. Begun in 1915 by Madeiran immigrants, the Portuguese Feast helped them to recreate the religious festivals that were so common in the villages of their home island and to commemorate their safe passage to America; this traditional mid-summer gathering is for family and friends and has become the largest Portuguese Feast in the world.

Another festival that has been attracting attention for some years called the Working Waterfront Festival, is held each year in September, celebrates the culture of the working
waterfront, and features many exhibits and activities designed to educate the public about its history and to give them a glimpse of the experience of a life at sea.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Telecommunications and Public Policy


Public Broadcasting exists to provide access and help educate citizens about important and timely issues in their local area. The social and economic value of the continuous information flow that telecommunications technology provides cannot be overestimated. The government has an important role in promoting and protecting these opportunities for free speech, and should not suppress the wide range of expression in community media. The obligation to serve the public interest is integral to the "trusteeship" model of broadcasting--the philosophical foundation upon which broadcasters are expected to operate. (Zechowski)

Telecommunications and Public Policy

The “public’s right-to-know” about the business of government is a fundamental principal of our democratic government and open society. The Telecommunications act of 1996 was the first update on U.S. telecommunications law in almost 62 years. On February 8, 1996 President Clinton signed the Telecommunications Act after an extended campaign of support by the House and Senate. “While touted as a landmark bill updating the sixty-year-old Communications Act for the benefit of U.S. consumers, the T96 Act was created by and for a communications industry dominated by global conglomerates”. (Lloyd)

History has proven that interpretation of the "public interest, convenience and necessity" is subject to prevailing political forces. (Zechowski) As a democratic society, it is our responsibility to address who gets to speak, who has access to knowledge, whose voices are heard, and who or what limit what we can, or cannot speak about. In order to have a communications environment that fosters democratic culture, diversity and civic participation, there needs to be less media consolidation and a shift away from corporate control to one with policies that prioritize community access. (Chester and Larson). According to Chester and Larson, there are ten key priorities to more democratic media, just a few of that list include;

· Calling for less, not more media consolidation, as media conglomerates seek to further consolidate their ownership, it is important for all citizens to join with the watchdog groups who are working to oppose homogenized commercial media as the only option.

· Building community broadband, because the cost of broadband internet access is still out of reach of many households, towns need to create local access wi-fi networks that are available to all.

· Open up the Cable TV monopoly, so that independent programmers and alternative channels can gain access.

The 1996 Act was touted as being a great consumer victory, with a promise of more competition that would lead to better services and lower prices. What the 1996 Act has actually delivered is a great number of additional partnerships and consolidations, along with higher prices for services such as cable and internet.

In our democratic society, we are constantly on the outlook for undue influence by the government on our communications. But we should be equally vigilant to make sure that a handful of powerful people or companies do not dominate our discourse either. Critics of the 1996 act claim "its extensive deregulatory provisions coupled with relaxed restrictions on concentration of media ownership dilute the public responsibility guarantees built into the Communications Act of 1934 and tilt the preference in favor of private market forces". (Messere)

A fundamental shift in the public debate has taken many by surprise in the civil rights community. “This "market" or "laissez-faire" capitalist vision of society holds that the common good is best understood as an unchecked individual pursuit of economic self-interest. This "market" vision has a particularly invidious effect on communications policy where commercial communications interests have long been formidable adversaries, adept at co-opting government and, more important, shaping public opinion”. (Lloyd)

Media is a critical element in achieving equal opportunity and full participation in civic life. Public views of communities, diversity of opinions on the issues, and social causes and their public debates are all part of a healthy democratic society. This means that access to the media by the largest possible scope of broadcasters is crucial to ensuring that diverse viewpoints are presented to the American people, and that all sectors of society are accurately depicted.

Works Cited
Chester and Larson, J. a. (n.d.). Ten Steps to a More Democratic Media. Retrieved from
Messere, F (n.d.) U.S. Policy Telecommunications Act of 1996. Retrieved from
Lloyd, M. (n.d.). Communicaitons Policy is a Civil Rights Issue. Retrieved from
Zechowski, S. (n.d.). PUBLIC INTEREST, CONVENIENCE AND NECESSITY. Retrieved from

How Community Media Contributes to Public Discourse, Democratic Processes and Community Building


In this class, we have read articles, scrutinized websites and explored what types community media is available to each of us in our own town. These exercises clearly demonstrate that access to public information and communication methods and systems are the foundation for a truly democratic society. Access to technology also empowers individuals with personal enrichment opportunities and educational advancement which can benefit the community at large. While all of these community media avenues are important, it is also important to recognize that technology is evolving rapidly in terms of new communication methods, and it is essential that community media outlets be supplied with the tools they need in order to keep pace with the rapidly changing media environment.

Public Discourse, Democratic Process, Community Building

The First Amendment continues to be the cornerstone for access television and other community media organizations (Boozell, Winter 2005). Unlike other forms of non-commercial media, community media in all its forms exists for the empowerment of citizens and communities. As Felicia Sullivan quoted in her article Everything Old is New Again “The rationale for public access television was that, as mandated by the Federal Communications Act of 1934, the airwaves belong to the people, that in a democratic society it is useful to multiply public participation in political discussion, and that mainstream television severely limited the range of views and opinion. Public access television, then, would open television to the public, it would make possible community participation, and thus would be in the public interest of strengthening democracy”. (museumtv)

Currently, mainstream media is overrun by media consolidation. A small number of conglomerates own the majority of media outlets and this has led to a gap in what the average person views online and on television, or hears on the radio, and what their daily lives actually consist of. Community media helps to restore the diversity and localism of media by being a vehicle for citizens to disseminate information relevant to their communities. Most for-profit media outlets exist to make money, and most of the income comes not from their audiences, but from commercial advertisers who are interested in selling products to that audience in order to generate a profit. From the perspective of who is determining the content for commercial media, this gives corporate sponsors a heavy influence over what the audience is ultimately exposed to. It makes sense that advertisers would not want to sponsor content that scrutinizes commercial media practices, and it makes sense that corporate sponsors prefer passive, happy consumers.

Advertisers are not only trolling for customers on television either. Businesses everywhere, from Target and Walmart to Ebay and Eharmony are all using the Web 2.0 environment to create “localized” content for consumers and there is concern that that these corporations will come to define community for us. However community networking is allowing new online services, ideas, resources and education to be shared without restriction, everywhere; with everyone in the world. The ability of dedicated individuals and groups to work together online is allowing the practice of online community networking to achieve good things for their real-life communities. (Odasz)

While community media is undergoing a change in its mission to reach and sustain audiences, the relationship between independent, non-commercial and commercial media is also changing. Non-commercial media is being viewed less and less as an underfunded version of commercial media. Traditionally, for a given work to be considered successful it had to reach and appeal to a mass audience. The cultural and economic success of independent media work is translating over to commercial media in terms of independent artists being viable to smaller audiences, rather than having broad appeal to a mass audience. (Blau) According to Andrew Blau, we are entering an era of enormous opportunity for media makers of every kind. A new generation of media makers and viewers is emerging; images, ideas, news and points of view will come from everywhere and travel along countless routes to be available to everyone.

The end results of community media utilizing new technologies and reinventing itself in order to better serve their respective communities is still in progress. Through open public discourse, the aim of community media to help citizens know their communities, leaders, and therefore themselves will help them to better foster a truly democratic society.

(n.d.). Retrieved from
Blau, A. (n.d.). Global Business Network. Retrieved from The Future of Indpendent Media.
Boozell, G. (Winter 2005). Determined Media: On Technomania, The First Amendment and Being Heard. The Journal of the Alliance for Community Media .
Odasz, F. (n.d.). Retrieved from What is a Community Network? And Why You Should Care!:

Web 2.0 and Virtual Communities


There is some concern that as we continue to advance technologically, we continue to lose our sense of community. In the case of the virtual community, the phenomenon known as Web 2.0 has enhanced the users’ online experience, and helped to form and shape the virtual communities that we participate in today. Like the virtual communities that exist in its’ framework, Web 2.0 itself is still in the process of being defined. Because the web is not the content, it is a delivery method for the content, the argument is that to label it Web 2.0 infers a newer “version” of the Web, which is not technically accurate.

Web 2.0 and Virtual Community

According to Tim O'Reilly “ Web 2.0 is the business revolution in computer industry caused by the move to the Internet as platform, and an attempt to understand the rules for success on that new platform.” Web 2.0 is also viewed by some as a mere a buzzword that is used to put into context the services that have ascended from this new platform era web, services like; blogging, wikis, podcasts, tagging, and citizen media. Although Virtual Communities like The Well, have existed before the advent of Web 2.0, and in the Virtual Community, Howard Rheingold mentions that these online communities form "when people carry on public discussions long enough, with sufficient human feeling, to form webs of personal relationships."

The combined history of virtual communities along with the new Web 2.0 applications that make the online experience more interactive have combined to make a vast landscape of virtual communities. Although Web 2.0 has been labeled a marketing buzzword by some, even buzzwords have their uses, and it is a good way for non-technical people to identify and define a difficult concept. Some of the Web 2.0 technologies that have made the greatest impact on many virtual communities include open-data formats, user-created data (such as Wikipedia) with the idea that the users own their own data and websites that encourage user contributions, such as reviews, comments and rankings. These enhancements make for a richer user experience, and help to build both strong social networks on a more “mature” web environment, that offers more tangible benefits.

New Bedford Virtual Communities

Aside from the official city website for New Bedford, I found another interesting online community. A Google search produced the Immaculate Mediatrix Online, maintained by the Franciscan Friars of New Bedford. I have often seen them walking around downtown, but didn’t know much about them, and never thought to look and see if they had a website. The official city website also has a pretty extensive list of outside links to local organizations, including the fishing industry and tourism. Although these were informative links, I didn’t find them to be interactive and there were no message boards for interaction with other members.

In her article Everything Old is New Again, Felicia Sullivan states “More than ever, community media centers need to lead our communities in thinking about how best to leverage these tools for community purposes. What is our role in creating citizens, not consumers? How do we marry the old technologies of radio and cable television with new forms such as blogs, podcasting, social networking software, and personal media devices (i.e., iPods)?”

In my neighborhood, there is a South End Civic Association, but I could not find a corresponding website. Like community television, a local online communication network, maintained by the civic association or a similar organization, would be a useful tool for my community. It could help to build social networks by allowing citizens to engage in debates and discussions. It would also be useful to have a resource and may increase participation in community and school events.

Sullivan, Felicia M., Everything Old is New Again, The Journal of the Alliance for Community Media, Winter 2005
Rheingold, Howard, Introduction to the The Virtual Community
O’Reilly, Tim, What is Web 2.0?

Community Access Television


Public Access Television provides an opening and a medium for citizens to express their views and participate in the democratic process. Public Access television operates on a first-come, first-serve basis, and provides education and training to citizens who wish to participate in the process of producing and airing a show. Because Public Access Television is not controlled by mainstream media, it offers alternative television to viewers who are interested in what is going on in their community, and in topics that are relevant to their communities and their lives.
New Bedford’s Public Access Television Station, is in the far south end of the city located at the 918 South Rodney French Boulevard, and has been on the air since 1995. The city of New Bedford runs the stations, but they are funded through an annual grant from Comcast Cable. New Bedford’s Public Access Station won the 2007 Overall Excellence in PEG Access Awarded by The Alliance for Community Media.

I had a chance to briefly interview Tom Sexton, the Public Access Director. Mr. Sexton has been the Public Access Director for New Bedford since 1999 and he works directly with the public and the volunteers at the station. “Our belief is that Public Access Television is a powerful vehicle for promoting greater awareness of the issues of New Bedford and the diversity of its people”. New Bedford has three channels that broadcast from the station, channel 95 is the public access channel, channel 17 is the educational access channel and channel 18 is for government access programming. Channels 17 and 18 have a separate staff and a list of requirements for what is acceptable to be broadcast.

All individuals and groups are able to broadcast on Channel 95. However, you must be a resident of New Bedford take part in an equipment training program and an orientation session to use the station (these are free). Mr. Sexton directed me to the website for a list of what they offer for equipment. This is a list from their web page: “Two (2) fully functional television studios featuring JVC cameras and Panasonic S-VHS recording and switching equipment. Three (3) digital video editing workstations with complete software packages. Three (3) editing suites with A/B roll capability. The edit rooms consist of full audio dubbing equipment and the ability to import different graphic formats. Six (6) portable digital video camera set-ups for use in the field. Five (5) portable VHS Camcorder set-ups for use in the field. A sound booth for audio voice-overs. We also have wired and wireless hand and lavalier microphones, microphone mixers, and portable lighting”.

Mr. Sexton said they have a wide variety of programming on channel 95, and almost a third of them are Portuguese. New Bedford is almost 40% Portuguese and the Public Access Television Station is a great way for them to keep up with each other, and share news, arts, culture and cuisine from Portugal.

Works Cited

Literature Review

From Portapak To Camcorder: A Brief History Of Guerrilla Television
by Deirdre Boyle
The Future of Independent Media
By Andrew Blau

In From Portapack to Camcorder a Brief History of Guerilla Television author Deirdre Boyle chronicles the emergence of independent media, beginning in 1965 when video equipment became accessible and portable. The advent of this new, portable video equipment meant that anyone could become politically and socially engaged, and challenge the information infrastructure (Boyle).

Out of this new freedom several underground video groups emerged as leaders of the underground video movement. Videofreex, People's Video Theater, Global Village, and Raindance Corporation were among those providing research and development strategies.
By the 1970’s underground video had matured into a more polished movement, with an outlined plan to decentralize television so that people had better access to create and broadcast their own content. (Boyle) Around the same time, federal rules mandated for public access television stations to be provided by cable systems and federal funding became available for video from government and private sources.

The competitive struggle for funding ultimately divided the underground video movement into two factions; community access advocates and guerilla television producers. TVTV was one of the guerilla television groups to come out of the split, making history by covering the 1972 political conventions. The portable equipment they used gave them freedom and access to move about the convention catching many off guarded moments among convention goers that was both informative and entertaining.

Community access and guerrilla television continued to grow and evolve throughout the seventies, and faced adversity in the 1980’s from a new trend in conservatism that affected their sources of funding and forced video makers to discover new directions.

Currently, community access and guerilla television producers and video activists face even more adversity in securing funding and support for community access television, but despite opposition from politicians and government, and in some cases low interest from the communities they serve, they continue to strive for an atmosphere of freedom and open dialogue available to all who wish to participate.

The Future of Independent Media, by Andre Blau takes the story of independent media from where it has been to where it is heading. Blau claims that media is moving into an era of unprecedented flexibility and opportunity. The technologies available to video advocates are constantly becoming better, cheaper and more widely available.

A higher value is being placed on independent film and media, with cable channels like IFC and Sundance devoted to bringing independent products to the cable audience. In addition to rapidly evolving technology we have access to, there is a communal aspect to watching media that our new technology greatly enhances. The ability to watch a documentary on television and then be able to log onto the corresponding website allows for a far greater level of audience participation and empowers viewers and enhances democratic values.

Because of the higher value being placed on independent media projects, and the constantly changing technology it is uncertain where the future of independent media lies. The flow of ideas and communications will converge to take it to the next level of development in the field of independent media.


Blau, A. The Future of Independent Media.
Boyle, D. From Portapack to Camcorder a Brief History of Guerilla Television.