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Street-Level Youth Media – Chicago

Interesting videos on a community media organisation from Chicago.

What is Street-Level Youth Media?


CMW INTERVIEW – PART THREE (couldn’t find part 2)


TV Digital Switchover – DCMS Response

Yesterday morning I received a reply from my local MP regarding a campaign to get MP’s to sign the early day motion on ring-fencing a channel on Freeview for local/community programming, anticipating the digital switch over.

With her response she enclosed a letter from the DCMS regarding my request. I don’t know if the DCMS letter is a standard one that they send out to everyone. It’s one and a half sides of A4, but the last paragraph sums it up totally.

“In their report on Public Service Content, published on 15 November, the Culture, Media and Sports Select Committee said that while they see some value in local content, they are not convinced of the need to intervene to support local TV, particularly by giving away spectrum for broadcasting on digital terrestrial television. I hope this information is useful to you. Best Wishes, Andy Burnham”

I found it perversely reassuring to see the battle lines so clearly laid out in black & white.   Thanks a bunch Andy for making that so clear.

Basically what the DCMS are saying is that a community tv station will have to bid for a channel alongside other commercial bidders such as shopping channels and music stations.  When the digital switchover happens local programming will pretty much disappear, except maybe for news.  BBC, ITV, C4 and C5 are already saying that come the switch over they will be an unfair disadvantage as none of the other digital channel have to have a public service remit.  ITV are already backing away from confirming they will continue their public service agenda.  Without the DCMS and Ofcom supporting community and local programming by ringfencing a channel on Freeview, the fight for community television broadcasting will be over.  Costs to run a digital channel are hugely expensive and competing against commercial stations will be near impossible.  The Community Channel would be the obvious answer, but unfortunately that channel is a huge missed opportunity and nothing but an advert channel for charities. 

The DCMS and Ofcom are saying that the future of local and community programming lies in broadband, which is unfortunately missing the point as for much of the target audience for local community programming, (i.e. the elderly, those disenfranchised, etc), many will be on the wrong side of the digital divide, and won’t have computers let alone broadband access at home.

If you are passionate about the future of local and community television then visit the campaign at the Community Media Association (CMA) and ask you local MP to sign the early days motion.  Full text for communication to your MP can be found at the site.



IPPR report – Behind the Screen: The hidden life of youth online

Last July a group of us met with Kay Withers from the IPPR (Institutefor Public Policy Research) at Watershed, Bristol to feed into a reportshe was writing. We discussed how young people use digital media and thefunding that is available for community media organisations working withyoung people.

The report has now been published – it’s called “Behind the Screen: The hidden life of youth online”.

Here’s a link to it:

(You don’t have to register to download the report.)

We are mentioned on page 56.


It is great this report has been published. It says a lot of important things about our area of work and will be a useful reference. One point I feel it missed though is its assessment of the ‘youth led’ agenda. Encouragingly the report acknowledged that there’s a flaw in such funding schemes as they don’t accurately reflect the need for young people’s groups to have adult input for expertise and support.

What the report stopped short of saying however, was that such funding schemes are actually (knowingly or unknowingly) designed to undermine the same support and infrastructure that nurtured the groups of confident self-determinant young people in the first place. Akin to telling school students that if they pass their GCSEs, that they will be given funds to set up their own sixth form colleges – without any input from the schools they came from, or of any acknowledgment of the roles the schools played.

I think it’s good that funding sources are putting the wants of the young people before the notional whims of the adults, that absolutely fine, but for the projects to be robust, ‘honest’ and longlasting, funders shouldn’t just dangle money with principled caveats, but rather work harder to actually build relationships between organisations and young people, in the equally principled desire to build sustainability for the young people and the people who try to support them.

Obviously all my own humble opinion of course. Feel free to disagree! LOL

Taste of the Future

Local Public Service Television

Early Day Motion for Local Public Service TelevisionArticle from Community Media Association


On 21 February 2008, Ian Stewart MP, Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM 1013) calling on Ofcom to ensure access to local television for every household across the UK on Freeview. This comes exactly one year after Ian Stewart tabled EDM 922 which called on Government to make more substantial commitments to licensing and funding Community Radio and Television.

So far 148 MP’s have signed the EDM – visit the EDM 1013 website for an up-to-date list of signatories.

Take Action – Contact your MPThe CMA is asking community media organisations (radio, new media and television) and anyone who wants to help ensure that local TV does not become a thing of the past to contact their MP’s and urge them to sign the Early Day Motion.

To find out who your MP is and to contact them visit the ‘They Work For You’ website.

The full text for the Early Day Motion (1013) to send to your MP follows


Stewart, Ian

That this House congratulates Ofcom in finding a means to deliver local television to every household across the UK on Freeview; and looks to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport to introduce a licence for the provision of local public service television during the roll-out of digital switchover.


Will the real Renaissance please stand up?


Culture Secretary James Purnell says in today’s Guardian (5 Jan 08);

“Community arts in many ways can be excellent in a different way from, say, the National Theatre. But what I wouldn’t say is, ‘We’ll tolerate average work because it happens to be in a particular location.”

In another part of the article the MP says, “If any part of our cultural sector is substandard, it’s not worth subsidising. Garbage in, garbage out.”

The article, by John Harris continues;

“He (Purnell) talks about ‘engagement with communities’ and the need ‘to spread the best culture around the whole country’. The (Sir Brian) McMaster review outlines the need for some big institutions – the Royal Ballet springs to mind -to get out more; the new idea, Purnell says, is ‘touring in a strategic way”.

The McMaster policy review’s official title is Supporting Excellence in the Arts and will be published by the government next week. Purnell is an enthusiastic advocate of the review telling the Guardian, “When Brian talks about the potential for a New Renaissance, I don’t think that is an overstatement. It’s exactly true.”

The idea of a renaissance in the arts is an in interesting one, but also problematic in the terms of how Purnell describes it. To dictate from the top-down the approach that the renaissance will take goes against the very nature of reactionary rebelliousness that lay at the heart of 15th Century Italian forerunner that Purnell and McMaster are prophesising. The heretic notions such as; the fact that the earth travels around the sun; the ‘right’ to publish and own personal Bibles translated into native languages other than Latin; and the realisation that the monarchy and clergy were not divine and citizens were equals with rights in society, were aspects of the anti-establishment feelings of the time that gave rise to the renaissance period. The leaders of the day were quick to captalise on the turning tides and cleverly appropriated renaissance ideas to suit their own ends in the tense relationships between church, state and nations, but the fact remains that the reformation spirit of the times were underground and punishable by death for treason and heresy.

Radical alternative media was at the centre of this spark for new thinking. As James Curran describes in ‘Communication, power and social order’ in Culture, Society and the Media (1988 – page 218);

“In a more general sense, the rise of the manuscript and subsequently of the printed book also fostered the development of an alternative culture. Although the bulk of scribal and early print output was in Latin and religious in content, the production and dissemination of vernacular texts helped to foster a parallel secular culture based on national languages and dialects, drawing upon indigenous cultural traditions.”

So, what is the refomation thinking in the UK today that this new Purnell/McMaster renaissance will follow? Well I would say that it will only come within a hair’s breadth of being a renaissance if it is led by the citizens not the leaders, and certainly broader than National Theatre and the Royal Ballet. It is all well and good for the financial gate-keepers of culture like James Purnell to say that ‘average’ and ‘substandard’ work will not be tolerated, as they want value for money. And I would also argue that cultural creative endevevours should be of a high standard to marry content with style, but as Purnell describes it is to see a renaissance as a glorified cultural tour, brining quality works to the people. As noble as that may, be, that is no renaissance, that is still a form of cultural imperialism.

A true renaissance cannot and will not be brokered by leaders or gatekeepers. It will be in places anarchic and in other places passivley (and maybe ignorantly) building on the shoulders
of those anarchic pioneers. At present the early (and I mean early!) signs of any new renaissance is in Web 2.0, in illigal counter-cultural activities such as graffiti, and also (of course) in the activities of the home bedroom music makers, film makers and other DIY producers of modern culural artefacts. Community & Independent media producers are the Galilleos and Martin Luthers to Mass Media’s Papacy, Emperors, and, ahem, Murdochs. But the 15th Century renaissance didn’t effect and influence the arts. It changed governments, influenced religions and shaped the cultural and moral values in the Western worlds. As idealist as we may be today, we still have a long way to go.

Are we actually in the midst of a new renaissance? It would be great if we were, but alas I guess I will never know as that surely is not the within the grasp of any of is to really know. We will be long gone and in a few centuries time it will be left to the historians of the day to define our ra for us. We are too close to recognise a renaissance if it came and gave us a lapdance! It’s also probably arrogant of us to even try define our endevevours in terms of refomations, renaissances, etc, but when people are passionate about what they do, what they believe in and the connection between the two, then, with feet firmly on the ground (like Galillio), it is good to think big.

I agree with James Purnell when he says, “Why shouldn’t we be that ambitious?”

Yes, as long as we are not attempting to shape others’ ambitions for them.

© Shawn Sobers 2007

Visit our new website!

Please go and visit our new website at www.cmsw.weebly.com

We are in the process of moving the proper cmsw.co.uk address there, but in the meantime please look at the new site at Weebly and send us your comments.