Jul 19, 2010

PEG channel conference shows move toward "community media centers"

An often-overlooked corner of the evolving pubmedia ecosystem hides PEG access (public access, educational, government) channels. But the recent conference of the Alliance for Community Media PEG advocacy group revealed the trend that more of the channels are transforming into "community media centers" to further their public-service mission, write Bill Densmore and Colin Rhinesmith at the New America Foundation blog Sustaining Democracy in a Digital Age. The support once required from the cable industry is fading away; cities including Los Angeles and Las Vegas have totally pulled the plug. But the Web offers low-cost (or free) ways to deliver information to Web-savvy citizens, PEG supporters say.

Part of the discussion at the confab focused on that growing use of online media -- and the concern it raises regarding audiences with no access to the Web. One solution may be inspired by Access Sacramento's "hyperlocal news bureaus" in libraries and other community spaces to serve as a bridge between those online and those yet to be trained. “We are proposing that we create stories of a neighborhood nature that would be relevant," said Ron Cooper of Access Sacramento at the conference. "We are training folks and providing them with the lowest-possible learning threshold for loading digital content of any kind whatsoever."

Cooper said he encountered reluctance among the city's cable regulators who oversee the PEG channel's $400,000 annual budget: Why should they pay for a website? He overcame that by pointing out that this would reach new audiences and the video training would create “new fresh programming that will run on the cable channels and complete the loop of why are we spending money on a website.” In a nutshell: “It creates programming for the access channels."

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