Sunday, December 28, 2008

A unique television channel under threat

The withdrawal of government funding threatens South Korea's innovative RTV, writes ELLIE RENNIE

PRESS and broadcasting institutions the world over are struggling to survive in the turbulent climate we call “media convergence.” So what’s the big deal about one new name on the endangered media list?

Unfortunately, the television channel under threat this time is South Korea’s RTV and it is a rare species as far as broadcasters go. The station provides access, funding and training to producers from all walks of life and strives to assist underrepresented communities. Until now, RTV and its programmers survived off money from satellite provider SkyLife and the Korean Communications Commission (KCC). The money from KCC will dry-up in a month’s time, leaving only the SkyLife funding (around 400 million Won), which is barely enough to cover transmission costs. Korean media activists, who fought long and hard to establish and maintain the channel, are now desperately looking for a means to keep RTV alive.

I first visited Seoul in autumn of 2007 to participate in RTV’s fifth birthday celebrations. Ellie Rennie and others at the 2007 celebration of RTV.
I was invited to speak about community media in my country, along with six other international alternative media pioneers and researchers (DeeDee Halleck, Supinya Klangnarong, Jon Stout, Katherin Araujo, Adilson Cabral, Kate Coyer and Gabi Hadl). At the massive banquet dinner we stood in front of towering wreathes of flowers and ribbons – gifts from various government departments and corporations. We listened to enthusiastic speeches as DeeDee went up on stage to cut a large jelly-like rice cake. It looked to us as though RTV had a bright future and wide support.

Public access television (also known as community television) is not an easy project to undertake. I have visited stations around the globe and seen only the occasional success amongst countless variations (there are over 2000 access channels in the United States alone). Before YouTube, public access television was the only systematic means for non-professionals to screen DIY videos. Today, the more successful access stations do more than YouTube, performing a curatorial role whilst still adhering to community governance principles. When the formula is right, a community television channel can be kaleidoscope of local culture, an industry training ground and an important tool for social movements. The Koreans were late starters in the community TV game. After a couple of shaky years, RTV did their research and consulted with communities and media centres at home and abroad. By the time it turned five, RTV had pretty much hit upon the perfect model.

Here’s how it works: RTV is a cable and satellite provided, non-profit organisation, committed to openness, independence and fairness. By “independence” they mean that the programming and operations of the station are free from political and economic interests. “Openness” describes the access policy, whereby members of the general public can submit programs for screening, free of charge. “Fairness,” however, is what distinguishes RTV from many other community television channels. To achieve this, RTV established two committees to oversee program planning, selection and grants. These committees are intentionally separate from station management and give priority to underprivileged and minority groups as well as issues not dealt with in the mainstream media. By providing funding, training and free equipment loans to programmers, RTV has nurtured small production groups committed to documenting the things that really matter. Regular shows include migrant and Korean workers’ news, disabled rights and media education. When I visited in 2007, RTV had a budget of 3.17 billion won ($A3 million), including 1.5 billion won ($A 1.6 million) in grants from the government’s Broadcasting Promotion Fund. Approximately 800 million won ($A900,000) went directly to programmers.

I learnt of RTV’s dramatic change of fortune at a symposium in Seoul this month, sponsored by the newly merged Broadcasting-Telecommunications Commission. Our host was Kim Myoung Joon, or “MJ” to his Western friends, director of the community media centre MediAct. MJ expects that RTV’s staff will try to keep the station running on volunteer time for a few months at least. As Korea has a compulsory redundancy policy, when staff officially leave then the station assets will need to be sold to cover their redundancy packages. In order to avoid that, station workers will probably live off welfare payments while they try to find alternative revenue sources.

So why was RTV’s government-derived budget terminated? South Korea elected a new president, Lee Myang-bak, in December 2007. The former CEO of Hyundai has been pursuing conservative, free-market policies since he came to power, including the controversial free trade agreement with the US and the importation of American beef. A publicly supported, community-run television channel doesn’t fit within President Lee’s national vision, apparently. Looking back at my photos from RTV’s fifth birthday a year ago, I now think of funeral wreaths when I see the towers of flowers in the banquet hall. Some of those gifts were delivered by the same corporations that support President Lee, or by government agencies that will administer the station’s demise. But it’s not over yet. RTV has that amazing Korean combination of activism and hard work on its side. And although RTV may be endangered, the Korean alternative media movement is growing stronger. •
by Ellie Rennie

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Peoples' Production House Takes Part in Community Media Gathering in Seoul

Photo by Ellie Rennie
People's Production House attended an international seminar on community media in Seoul, Korea, December 17-18, 2008. The seminar, was organized by Korean community media centers Mediact and CAMF and sponsored by the Broadcasting-Telecommunication Commission.

“This is an honor for People's Production House and our innovative integration of participatory media production and media policy advocacy,” PPH Interim Executive Director Don Rojas said. “We are excited to discuss our local work in an international context and to learn from the other participants.”

Participants are traveling from Korea, the United States, Canada, Japan, United Kingdom, and Australia to discuss the role of community media and media activism in this time of media convergence. The other participants from the United States are Hye-Jung Park of the Funding Exchange, Joel Kelsey from Consumers Union, Louis Massiah from Scribe Video Center, and Sasha Costanza-Chock from the USC Annenberg School for Communication.For Korean participants, as for those from the US, this discussion takes place during a moment of great political transition, though the media activists in Korea are shifting to a less hospitable regime, while the incoming US President is more supportive of progressive media policies. MediAct emerged from the successful social movements in Korea that overthrew the military dictatorship. Over the years, it has provided fundamental infrastructure for participatory media democracy and secured government support for community radio, public access on cable and satellite, and local media centers.

MediAct is part of a National Media Activist Network in Korea responding to two overlapping challenges. First, the new President is pushing neoliberal reforms, including an assault on public media and restrictions on Korea's advanced broadband infrastructure. The second challenge is the fast process of media convergence. The speed of technological and industrial developments have created a situation where the traditional regulatory framework has become obsolete. Commercial interests are placing immense pressure on community media as a public activity.

People's Production House Co-Director Kat Aaron and Policy Director Joshua Breitbart will be presenting the organization's successful multimedia and media policy training program for youth and community media organizers. We will be looking to learn strategies for synthesizing various methods of media activism, integrating media production with social movements, and forming national alliances for promoting media policy reform. Together, all participants will also be discussing the challenges and opportunities for funding in this economic, political, and technological moment.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Declaration from Local Radio in Latin America Conference in La Paz

For more pictures of radio stations in Latin America, go to

Reunidos en la ciudad de La Paz, Bolivia, del 19 al 21 de noviembre de 2008, los participantes del Seminario Internacional sobre la “Radio Local en América Latina: Políticas y Legislación”, suscribimos el presente documento.


Que la Convención Americana de Derechos Humanos y la Convención sobre Diversidad Cultural de la UNESCO, tratados internacionales vigentes como la Declaración de Principios sobre Libertad de Expresión de la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos (CIDH) y la Declaración sobre Diversidad en la Radiodifusión de los Relatores de Libertad de Expresión de la ONU y la OEA establecen el derecho a la comunicación y a la libertad de expresión a través de la radio.

Que ha sido iniciado un proceso de elaboración de estándares para legislación de radiodifusión comunitaria por la Comisión Interamericana de Derechos Humanos y la Relatoría Especial para la Libertad de Expresión de la OEA.

Que ya se cuenta con un documento que establece los “Principios para un marco regulatorio democrático sobre radio y televisión comunitaria” elaborado por AMARC (Asociación Mundial de Radios Comunitarias) en consulta con otras organizaciones de la región.

Que hay un creciente reconocimiento del sector de la radiodifusión local, independiente y comunitaria en América Latina, a partir de políticas públicas y marcos de regulación establecidos recientemente donde destacan los casos de Uruguay, Ecuador y Colombia.

Que los aspectos anteriores abren una oportunidad histórica para que Bolivia profundice y avance, desde la experiencia lograda hasta ahora por el movimiento de la radiodifusión local y comunitaria, hacia una democracia participativa en la comunicación, en correlato con el proceso de democratización de la sociedad.


Que las libertades de expresión e información y los derechos a la comunicación y a la cultura son derechos humanos inalienables garantizados por tratados y declaraciones internacionales.

Que la comunicación es un derecho humano fundamental que debe ser promovido y protegido por el Estado, lo que supone ampliar las libertades de expresión e información diversas y plurales, así como garantizar su ejercicio mediante el acceso, la participación y la gestión en los procesos y medios de comunicación, creando condiciones para un desarrollo humano integral como premisa de la convivencia democrática, participativa, plural e incluyente.

Que tales derechos, incluido el acceso equitativo y la participación en los medios de comunicación, deben protegerse y extenderse en el contexto de los rápidos cambios en las tecnologías de la información y la comunicación en convergencia con las formas tradicionales de expresión.

Que el ejercicio efectivo de los derechos a la comunicación, a la información y a la libertad de expresión no se alcanza si no se garantiza la igualdad de oportunidades de acceso y participación en los medios de radio y televisión, evitando su concentración en pocas manos.

Que la participación comunitaria y ciudadana son indispensables en el proceso de democratización social, política, cultural y económica de los pueblos, porque permiten que la sociedad en su conjunto tome las decisiones sobre su presente y futuro.

Que el Estado debe garantizar tanto el pleno ejercicio de la libertad de expresión y de los derechos a la comunicación e información de forma plural y equitativa, lo cual implica reconocer y hacer efectivas las dinámicas, procesos y uso de los medios evitando prácticas discriminatorias.
Que la generación de legislación en comunicación y de políticas públicas locales, regionales y nacionales acordes al mismo sentido de este proceso, debe contar con la participación ciudadana en su propuesta, diseño, implementación y veeduría.
Que la autorregulación debe enmarcarse en las disposiciones creadas por leyes, asociaciones de medios y constituciones en la medida en que permite a los medios construir acuerdos éticos y comunicativos que se deben respetar en la práctica y vigilar con el apoyo de la participación ciudadana.
Que la diversidad y el pluralismo son objetivos fundamentales de cualquier marco regulatorio democrático en la radiodifusión.
Que el espectro radiofónico es un recurso natural reconocido como bien público y patrimonio común de la humanidad y por tanto el Estado debe administrarlo en función de este objetivo.
Que la radio y la televisión locales, independientes y comunitarias son medios que brindan un servicio y utilidad social respondiendo a un proyecto político de comunidad y sociedad, pluralista e incluyente.
Que las emisoras comunitarias, locales e independientes de los intereses comerciales, religiosos y partidistas deben promover la participación ciudadana así como la promoción y defensa los Derechos Humanos.
Que las radios y televisoras comunitarias, locales e independientes pueden ser actores privados que tienen una finalidad social o pueden ser iniciativa de organizaciones sociales de diverso tipo, sin fines de lucro, siendo su característica fundamental la participación de la comunidad en la propiedad, la programación, la administración, la operación, el financiamiento y/o la evaluación del medio.
Que no se trata de medios ni gubernamentales ni comerciales, pues no realizan proselitismo religioso o partidario y son independientes de los partidos políticos, las iglesias y/o las empresas comerciales.
Que una legislación adecuada sobre medios comunitarios, locales e independientes no debe imponer límites técnicos, territoriales, étnicos, de generación de recursos o tecnológicos arbitrarios, ni requisitos y condiciones de asignación discriminatorios. Más aún, debe proveerse de mecanismos y criterios diferenciados con respecto a otros sectores de la radiodifusión.
Por lo tanto concluimos y recomendamos que,

El movimiento boliviano de comunicación comunitaria y democrática tiene una responsabilidad histórica para reafirmar, profundizar y desarrollar la normativa, a partir de los avances logrados en el proyecto de la Constitución Política del Estado sometida al referéndum el 25 de enero de 2009.
Una primera tarea es que los medios comunitarios, locales e independientes bolivianos desplieguen los máximos esfuerzos para explicar los cambios que en materia comunicacional y en otros rubros claves para el futuro de Bolivia, están contenidos en el nuevo texto constitucional tan larga y trabajosamente construido.
Una vez aprobada la Constitución Política del Estado, corresponde al movimiento comunicacional boliviano desarrollar un intenso proceso de diálogos públicos y democráticos, así como la construcción de propuestas para la estructuración de la comunicación democrática en Bolivia a partir de los artículos 106 y 107 referidos al tema de comunicación.
Se debe iniciar un proceso de socialización del significado, trascendencia e implicaciones que tendrán para la comunicación en Bolivia los artículos mencionados, en el contexto de otros importantes cambios en la organización del Estado y de la sociedad bolivianos.
Entre las primeras medidas luego de aprobada la Constitución Política del Estado debería promoverse la formulación de un nuevo marco regulatorio en radiodifusión que reconozca la presencia y convivencia de tres diferentes sectores: público, comercial y comunitario, asegurando así un sistema de medios plurales y diversos.
Para ello se deben tomar medidas efectivas para democratizar el uso del espectro radioeléctrico estableciendo una reserva de por lo menos un tercio para la radiodifusión comunitaria (sin fines religiosos, partidistas o de lucro) y asignando las frecuencias a través de mecanismos transparentes y ágiles con participación ciudadana. Lo económico no debería ser el criterio que defina a quién se le asigna una frecuencia.

Los cambios legales deben ir acompañados del establecimiento de políticas públicas para promover y fortalecer el sector de los medios comunitarios, locales e independientes, tales como fondos públicos concursables, exoneraciones impositivas, y otros; el Estado debe también garantizar el acceso tecnológico digital a las comunidades.

Se deben adoptar medidas efectivas para evitar la concentración de medios en manos privadas, tanto de carácter oligopólico como monopólico.

Es necesario articular el movimiento de comunicación comunitario con otros sectores del ámbito comunicacional con los cuales se puede construir propuestas concertadas. Es también necesaria la articulación de alianzas con otros sectores sociales y actores claves para conseguir la aprobación y reglamentación de una nueva legislación sobre comunicación.
En este marco, hacemos un llamado público para constituir un Comité de Acción que impulse la construcción de propuestas, donde estén representados los radiodifusores locales, el sector académico y las redes de comunicación nacionales, con acompañamiento de redes regionales de comunicación. Damos nuestro voto de confianza a los organizadores del seminario para facilitar el proceso de constitución del Comité de Acción.

La Paz, 21 de noviembre de 2008

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Greek Youths Take over Television Station

This picture taken from Greek state NET televisoin shows a group of protesters holding banners at a brief occupation of a studio during a news bulletin, Tuesday, Dec. 16 2008. Some 10 youths took part in the protest, interrupting footage of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis. The main banner reads: "Stop watching, get out onto the streets." Earlier Tuesday, masked youths attacked the Greek riot police headquarters in Athens and other protesters clashed with police in a northern city, in a revival of violence sparked by a teenager's fatal shooting on Dec. 6. (AP Photo/Nikos Paphitis)

ATHENS, Greece – Greek protesters pushed their way into television and radio studios Tuesday, forcing broadcasters to put out anti-government messages in a change of tactics after days of violent street protests. A group of about 10 youths got into the studio of NET state television and turned off a broadcast of a speech by Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis, station officials said. The protesters forced studio cameras to instead show them holding up banners that read: "Stop watching, get out onto the streets," and "Free everyone who has been arrested." No one was hurt, and no arrests were reported.

NET chairman Christos Panagopoulos said the protesters appeared to know how to operate cameras and studio controls. "This goes beyond any limit," he said. In the northern city of Thessaloniki, protesters made their way into three local radio stations, agreeing to leave only when a protest message was read out on the air. Violence also broke out again after a two-day lull as masked youths attacked riot police headquarters in Athens and protesters clashed with police in Thessaloniki. Police said 30 youths threw petrol bombs and stones at the riot police building, damaging seven cars and a police bus parked outside.

In Thessaloniki, riot police fired tear gas to disperse 300 youths throwing fruit and stones outside the city's main court complex. The disturbance followed a court decision that found eight police officers guilty of abusing a student following riots two years ago. Overnight, arsonists attacked three Athens banks with petrol bombs, causing extensive damage. The fatal police shooting of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on Dec. 6 set off violence that led to more than 300 arrested and left hundreds of stores smashed and looted. Retailers say the damage will cost them euro1.5 billion ($2 billion) in lost income.
Protesters have called for riot officers to be pulled off the streets and for police to be disarmed. But the protests tapped into wider discontent with Karamanlis' conservative government and there have been widespread calls for the government to revise its economic, social and education policies.

Higher education in Greece has come to a standstill. Lessons have stopped at more than 100 secondary schools that are under occupation by students, according to the Education Ministry. Scores of university buildings across Greece are also occupied.
Greece's opposition Socialists, who are calling for early elections, accused Karamanlis of mishandling the crisis which they said had worsened the effects of the international economic downturn.

"Greeks are losing their patience. Their salary is running out before the end of the month as they endure a major economic crisis, and at the same time can see the state collapsing," Socialist spokesman Giorgos Papaconstantinou said.
"People want answers to their problems, not speeches." Karamanlis insisted his government has acted "calmly and responsibly" in dealing with riots, avoiding the loss of life. But for the first time since the violence erupted, he acknowledged the public's sense of frustration. "Of course there are broader issues," he said. "People experience a lack or merit, corruption in their daily lives, and a sense of social injustice."
In Athens main Syntagma Square, Mayor Nikitas Kaklamanis relaunched holiday celebrations after the city's Christmas tree was torched by rioters last week. A small group of protesters chanted slogans during tree-lighting ceremony, as hundreds of revelers looked on. The protesters, mostly students from various drama schools, handed out fliers that read: "Lavish storefront and Christmas Trees will not hide the reality."In a symbolic protest against how the tv stations are covering the events and in general against the television, activists gathered and smashed television sets in downtown Athens. The national and international media that appeared were moved away.

The following was published on Greek Indymedia:

On the 6th of December 2008, a police man pulled a gun and shot dead a 15 year old child. Peoples’ rage is growing despite the attempts of both the media and the government to mislead public opinion.
It should be evident to all by now that this uprising is not merely an honorary response to the death of Alexandros. Ever since, there has been much talk about theft, burning and looting. For media and politicians, violence is understood only in terms of what disturbs the public order.
For us, however:

Violence is working non stop for 40 years and wonder whether you will ever retire.

Violence is the stock market, stolen pensions and shares.
Violence is to be obliged to take on a mortgage which you end up repaying double
Violence is the managerial right of an employer to dismiss you of your duties any time he or she likes.
Violence is unemployment, precarity, 700 Euros salary.
Violence is “accidents” in the work place, because bosses reduce their costs against the security of their employees.
Violence is being on prozak and vitamins in order to cope with overtime.
Violence is to be an immigrant, to live in fear that you are likely to be deported any time and experience a constant insecurity.
Violence is to be a housewife, a wage labourer and a mother at the same time.
Violence is to be sexually harassed at work and being told: “Smile, we are not asking you for much are we”.
The uprising of school children, students, unemployed the workers on temporary contracts and the immigrants broke through the violence of normality. This uprising must not stop! Syndicalists, political parties, priests, journalists and businessmen are determined to maintain the type of violence in which we refer to above.
It is not just them; we are also responsible for the indefinite continuation of the situation descried above. This uprising has opened a space for communication where we can finally express ourselves freely. We therefore decided to occupy the town hall of Agios Dimitrios and the call for a popular assembly, open to everyone
An open space for dialogue and communication, to break through the silence, to take over our lives!

Occupation of Agios Dimitrios town hall- Athens, Greece

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Colombia community radio station suffers another technical setback by the forces of terror in Cauca

Members of the Communication Team during the "Minga" the historic march from Cauca to Cali and Bogota.
This is the English translation of the communique put out by ACIN on Monday regarding recent acts of sabotage against the community radio station, Radio Pa'yumat. It is urgent that the national and international community make known their repudiation of these ongoing acts of intimidation and terror against one of the most important community media in Colombia. ACIN's primary community radio station suffers another technical setback by the forces of terror in Cauca

12/15/2008 Author: Communication Team for External Relations, Life and the Truth
ACIN (Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca)
(Tejido de Comunicacion y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida-ACIN)
We are the victims of an integral plan of aggression that clearly emanates from all the armed actors operating in our territories. In the name of the struggle of the people for a country without owners, we reject these actions, come from where they may! We call your attention to events that occurred on Saturday, December 13th, in the mountain of Munchique de los Tigres, in northern Cauca, where the small shed housing the transmission equipment and the antenna of ACIN's community station Radio Pa'yumat was ransacked and damaged. The perpetrators stole the copper wires that protect the
equipment, causing severe technical damage to all the transmission equipment of Radio Pa'yumat, the voice of theNasa people,

It is important to point out that this is not the first time that such acts of sabotage have occurred against our radio station, given that in previous occasions, not only have they robbed the copper protective cables, but thugs have also stolen the broadcast equipment from within the station's studios in Santander de Quilichao. Not coincidentally, these prior acts of sabotage have occurred at the precise time that our communities were initiating major mobilizations and important actions against the armed actors that constantly provoke war in our territories.Therefore, the assault against our community radio station is not an isolated incident, but is part of a deliberate strategy of silencing the indigenous movement of northern Cauca, because the radio station is the most important medium within the community. It allows us to listen to one another, to discuss important issues, reflect on them, make decisions in the interest of the community, and take actions collectively in defense of life and of our territory.From the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca, ACIN, we publicly denounce these acts of aggression against the word of the indigenous movement, because to silence us within this context of aggression that we are living is to shut down the voice of resistance, and put us in immediate risk. This is because when something severely urgent occurs in our territory, the important mechanism of communication that is radio will no longer be at our disposal to alert the community and to create solidarity in times of emergency. From our own experiences, we know that when there are persecutions, kidnappings, threats, attacks and all the other acts of violence, radio is our primary means of communication.Therefore, the intention of this latest act of sabotage is to silence the voice of the Nasa people, to weaken the political and organizational process, and the ability to react immediately to acts of violence in our territory. This is already evident in the resguardo of Munchique, where we currently have an entire family disappeared-- the Sanchez-Serna family; Florentino Sanchez, 55, Aminta Serna, 47, and Carol Ximena Sanchez, 12.

Precisely at a time when we need this important communication medium to move the community in search of this family, we cannot count on the station to carry out our work more effectively. Furthermore, we currently have information about diverse acts of terror, mobilization and defamation being planned against the indigenous processes, specifically against the resguardos of Corinto, Tacuey, and Huellas-Caloto, among others.

These are actions that present themselves with different justifications, they are nefarious crimes carried out by actors who hide themselves from the public, with the objective of intimidation and terror. We denounce these acts of aggression with anticipation, come from where they may, considering that they only benefit those people who want to rob and displace us of our territory, and they work against the interests of the popular struggle, for the dignity that we defend through the agenda of the Social and Community Minga, la Minga Popular.For all the reasons cited above, we reject the sabotage carried out against the indigenous movement, the Communication Team of ACIN, and specifically, against Radio Payumat, because these acts once again prove the systematic strategies of repression and defamation being carried out against the indigenous communities of northern Cauca.

Finally, we put out a call to the indigenous authorities for their help in investigating these acts and catching those who are responsible, and to the national and international community, to denounce this aggression against our process and to mobilize the economic resources of support that might help us to recuperate the equipment that was damaged.We are victims of an integral plan of aggression that undoubtedly emanates from all the armed actors in our territories. In the name of the struggle of the people for a country without owners, we reject these actions, come from where they may!
Tejido de Comunicacion y Relaciones Externas para la Verdad y la Vida-ACIN Santander de Quilichao, diciembre 15 de 2008.
An earlier photo during the "Minga" march to Bogota. Members of the Tejido de Comunicación (Communications network of the Association of Indigenous Councils of Northern Cauca) preparing for the assembly.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Report by Mario Murillo from Colombia: Attack on CRIC

This morning, at about 4:00am, on the road between Inza, Tierradentro, and Totora, on indigenous territory, the official car of the Regional Indigenous Council of Cauca, CRIC, was shot at 19 times by a column of the Third Division of the Army, fatally wounding the driver, Edwin Legarda Vazquez, Quilcua's husband. Quilcua is the Chief Counsel of CRIC, and one of the most visible leaders of the recent Indigenous and Popular Minga that began on October 11th, culminating in a massive march and rally in downtown Bogota¡ on November 21st.

Three bullets penetrated Legarda, who did not survive the emergency surgery he was given after being rushed to San Jose Hospital in Popayan, the departmental capital.

But most people close to CRIC believe the bullets were really meant for his wife, who apparently was just returning from Geneva where she had been participating in the United Nations Human Rights Commission sessions on Colombia. She was not in the car when the attack occurred.

Ernesto Parafan, the lawyer for CRIC, believes it was a deliberate act committed against the organization, and specifically an attempt on Quilcua's life by the government's security apparatus. According to the indigenous leadership, Quilcua, along with other prominent leaders, has received numerous death threats in recent months, especially during the six weeks of mobilization and protests that captured the attention of both national and international public opinion.....

Silencing the Truth in Northern Cauca
The senseless tragedy befalling Quilcua, her family, CRIC and the entire indigenous community of Colombia is currently being reported peripherally by the corporate national news media such as El Tiempo, Caracol Radio and other sources. However, one media outlet where it is not currently being reported is on the community radio station of the Nasa people of northern cauca, Radio Payumat, licensed to the ACIN.Over the weekend, the station's transmitter equipment, and antenna were severely damaged in an act of sabotage by as of yet unnamed actors, although the community refers to the perpetrators as the same forces of terror that continue to try to silence the indigenous movement with acts of violence. ACIN has denounced the latest assault on their primary communication vehicle on its website, stating that it is part of an ongoing process of intimidation and fear:

"Not coincidentally, these prior acts of sabotage have occurred at the precise time that our communities were initiating major mobilizations and important actions against the armed actors that constantly provoke war in our territories. Therefore, the assault against our community radio station is not an isolated incident, but is part of a deliberate strategy of silencing the indigenous movement of northern Cauca, because the radio station is the most important medium within the community. It allows us to listen to one another, to discuss important issues, reflect on them, make decisions in the interest of the community, and take actions collectively in defense of life and of our territory."This is a photo, taken in 2007 of Mario Murillo and the staff of Radio Payumat, whose transmitter was destroyed in the recent violence.

It is understood by most observers that the indigenous communities that have been most successful over the years at confronting the myriad threats to their autonomy throughout the country, are those with the strongest organizational structures, legitimized by being in a constant dialogue with the base. These are the same communities that continue to play the role of interlocutor with other, non-indigenous actors, be they state institutions, different social sectors like the peasant or trade union movements, and international solidarity organizations.

And not surprisingly, many of these communities, like the cabildos that make up ACIN, maintain their own, independent media channels as essential components of their collective resistance. These community media channels spring from a long tradition of grassroots, independent, citizens' media projects that have emerged throughout Colombia over the past 35 years, and that coalesced alongside broad based social movements with the rewriting of the Constitution in 1991. Naturally, these community-based media are only as effective as their organizations capacity to successfully confront the destructive, militarist, and undemocratic models that surround them. In the long run, strong organizational bases make them more secure and protect them from the inevitable, reactionary backlash, given the high levels of violence that has always been directed towards independent voices in Colombia. But sometimes that high level of organizing is not enough to prevent the kind of sabotage that occurred over the weekend.

"Those who carried out this act of sabotage knew what they were doing," said Dora Muñoz, Coordinator of the Radio station. She added “all of this points to a systematic wave of terror. I'm afraid we're only just beginning to see what may come in the coming days and weeks, directed against us."

The Nasa communities of Cauca, with their long trajectory of mobilization spearheaded by CRIC and ACIN, in the spirit of constructing sustainable, democratic alternatives, are working alongside truly revolutionary, transformative practices in communication. Radio Payumat happens to be one of the national models of these transformative communication practices, rooted in indigenous traditions of bottom-up consultation and community reflection. However, it is not supported in any way by state institutions.

If there were some state communication policies that were in defense of the rights of the people, the immediate reaction of the government would have been to repudiate these acts of sabotage and provide some resources to support the radio station's efforts, efforts that we depend on for our security and well being while we are under constant attack," said Ezequiel Vitonas, a member of the council of chiefs of ACIN.

Today, December 16th, 2008, on the 17th anniversary of the massacre of 20 Nasa on the Nilo estate, on the same day that the husband of CRIC's chief spokesperson was killed by a fusillade of Army bullets, ACIN's radio station remains off the air due to ruthless acts of sabotage.

For more information go to Mario Murillo's blog from Colombia:
or the CRIC site:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Celebration for Communication Anthology

Jose Antonio Quiroga, Director of Plural, with Thomas Tufte and Luis Ramiro Beltran

The second launching –after Mexico last October- of the Communication for Social Change Anthology took place in La Paz (Bolivia) as part of the International Seminar on Local Radio in Latin America: Policies and Legislation, on November 2oth 2008, at Plural Editores bookstore. The presenters were former President of Bolivia Carlos D. Mesa, who also wrote the foreword, and Luis Ramiro Beltrán, one of the early pioneers of communication for development in Latin America. Both Alfonso Gumucio-Dagron and Thomas Tufte, the co-editors, were in attendance, as well as several authors such as Erick Torrico (Bolivia), Rosa María Alfaro (Peru) and Cicilia Peruzzo (Brazil).

Carlos D. Mesa mentioned that the title of the book was limited, since its content covers a much wider effort: “We could say that this is a universal anthology of communication, because it contains much more than what is specific to communication for development… This is a book of global features, the most complete, exhaustive and above all the most rigorous, as it gathers and interprets the views on communication for development since the criteria itself originated in the 1950s, until today”.
Luis Ramiro Beltran and Alfonso Gumucio at the launching in La Paz

During his intervention Luis Ramiro Beltrán said: “The way texts are arranged, first those considered of historical value and then those of the contemporary debate, makes the reading very easy and helps to understand the evolution of the discipline as well as to absorb both the pioneering ideas and the current thinking. We can at the same time compare the contributions from various continents and within our own region… Can we ask for more? Think about the advantage that this brings to professors and students of the field, as well as researchers and historians”.
To purchase a copy go to

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Encuentro for Community Infocenters in Venezuela

Encuentro de Experiencias Comunitarias
¡Hacia el II Encuentro de Experiencias Comunitarias de los Infocentros!
El II Encuentro de Experiencias Comunitarias de los Infocentros se realizará desde el día 08 hasta el 11 de diciembre de 2008,
Lugar: plaza Pueblos y Saberes, Torre Ministerial, Av. Universidad, esquina El Chorro, La Hoyada, Caracas- Venezuela
El II Encuentro será un espacio para divulgar las experiencias significativas realizadas desde los infocentros, para vernos y mostrarnos, para el debate y la generación de nuevas propuestas, también se establecerán articulaciones entre infocentros, comunidades, participantes y organizaciones sociales.

Gracias a los facilitadores y facilitadoras, coordinadores y coordinadoras quienes, con su diaria labor y sentido humano, construyen un mundo distinto donde las Tecnologías de Información y Comunicación se encuentren a disposición de la organización popular. Continuemos profundizando nuestra hermosa misión:
Impulsar el proceso de apropiación de las tecnologías de información y comunicación por parte de los sectores populares, mediante la consolidación de los infocentros como espacios comunitarios que faciliten la construcción colectiva y transferencias de saberes y conocimientos, las relaciones de colaboración y coordinación, fortaleciendo el desarrollo de las potencialidades locales, las redes sociales y la participación protagónica de nuestro pueblo.
Fundación Infocentro Organismo adscrito al Ministerio del Poder Popular para Ciencia y Tecnología E-mail:

Friday, December 5, 2008

Kate Coyer and Others on Meaningful Research

The Social Science Research Council has published several interesting essays about communication research.
The following is an excerpt from the essay by Kate Coyer
Community Media:
Scholarship, Policy Advocacy, and Power Tools

I was once quoted in a magazine article saying that I never wanted to attend a conference again if it didn’t involve power tools. At the time, I was likely holding a soldering iron in my hand. In my ideal world I would have the time, resources and commitment to be a scholar, a policy advocate, and a community media volunteer. In reality of course my interventions vary in their efficacy.

What I do take away from these experiences of helping build (literally) community radio stations with the Prometheus Radio Project and train volunteer producers is what I hope to be a deeper understanding of what goes into building and sustaining independent, not for profit media; what some of the practical research needs are related to increased pressure from funders to measure impact (as well as a desire to better understand one’s audiences and communities being served); and a desire to see the sector grow and evolve. The question is how can I translate this into meaningful research.

Background: Low Power Movement and Policy-making
The movement for Low Power FM Radio (LPFM) in the United States in the was fought and won by activists with groups like Prometheus and what was then the Microradio Empowerment Coalition with little if any academic research to draw on for support. Many case studies and scholarly pieces have been written about the success of stations on air and the model of communities coming together to collectively build their own stations pioneered by Prometheus called “Radio Barnraisings.”

For the rest of this essay go to:

Kate and workshop participant in Tanzania. Prometheus Radio Project technicians and trainers joined forces with the United African Alliance Community Center in Imbaseni Village near Arusha, Tanzania

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Alternative Media Cover the Colombian "Minga"

From (Mario Murillo's coverage of the Indigenous March to Bogota):

It's been a busy series of days here in Bogotá as the MINGA Popular continues to expand and flourish. From the streets in the center of the city, to the Plaza del Ché at the National University where an international forum was held on Saturday, from the media centers of the indigenous movement to the dozens of meetings taking place around the city where "Mingueros" are discussing the five point agenda with all the sectors that are interested to listen, the enthusiasm and energy of the popular movement can be felt.

After Friday's massive march through Bogotá that started at the campus of the National University, one that brought together over 20,000 people into the Plaza Bolivar for a spirited rally under a consistent rain, Saturday was a day focused more on concrete work that needs to be carried out to continue the organizing of the people. The highest profile meeting was held at la SENA, where government ministers and the indigenous leadership met for several hours in a tense session to discuss the government's failure to fulfill its obligations to the communities under previous accords, and the ongoing violence being carried out by the state security forces against indigenous people.....

.....There have been a number of other big stories making headlines in Colombia the last several days, pushing the coverage of the Minga to a second, third and even fourth tier in terms of the commercial news agenda. The ongoing crisis caused by the financial schemes known as "Pyramids" continues to generate the most attention, followed since Friday morning by the natural disaster unfolding as a result of the eruption of the Nevado del Huila volcano. Latest reports say that at least ten people were killed and another 150 remain trapped as of Sunday morning as a result of the avalanche and mudslide caused by the melting of the snow after the eruption. The departments affected by the eruption include Huila, Tolima and Cauca, in particular the indigenous territory of Tierradentro.Face of one of the indigenous guards that provide security for the march.

Yet despite the limited commercial media coverage of the important events related to the protests and meetings this weekend, it is quite apparent that the Minga has developed a life of its own, and is not dependent anymore on getting the attention of these corporate information channels. The representation of the Minga on the major news channels has been problematic from the start. The evidence is clear: The National Indigenous Organization of Colombia, ONIC, has been documenting every news piece that has come out on just about every media outlet since October 11th, so anybody interested can check for themselves. The public, unfortunately, remains extremely uninformed about the historic developments that are unfolding before them.

Today, there are many alternatives! The massive presence of independent media at all these events - video cameras documenting the marches and rallies, photographers clicking away at the dramatic militance of the protesters, community radio producers gathering natural sound, speeches, and interviews for their respective outlets - are presenting a comprehensive alternative narrative - the people's narrative - that undoubtedly is having an impact on how the Minga is playing out with public opinion. It has resulted in tremendous solidarity from abroad, and unprecedented collaboration and participation from ordinary people here in Colombia since the Minga began.
Despite the false accusations of the government, despite the racist underpinnings of the media coverage, and the almost deliberate mis-information that has accompanied it, the people have come out in small towns and large cities to welcome the mingueros, and join with them in solidarity. No doubt there is still profound opposition to the Minga from a certain, very powerful and intolerant sector of Colombian society. I am not naive to think that the indigenous movement has reached everybody with equal amounts of empathy and solidarity. If you read the comments section on the websites of El Tiempo and El Espectador, for example, the vitriolic hate speech comes across loud and clear. But undoubtedly there is widespread support from a broad cross section of the Colombian population who have simply had enough of the Uribe propaganda machine.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Deep Dish DIY Forum on Anti-Globalization

Manuel Perez Rocha, Brooke Lehman, Rick Rowley, Bitty Lukose, Sameer Dossani, David Solnet at NYU, November 21, 2008. The evening was presented by Deep Dish TV and organized by Mark Read, the third part of a series entitled DIY Media: Movement Perspectives on Critical Moments. The project is about collecting and distributing the narratives that social movements have currated for themselves; telling the histories that are always in danger of being drowned out and forgotten. It is the task of this project to ensure that this doesn't happen. For more information:
Brooke Lehman and Rick Rowley. Brooke is Co-Founder of Bluestockings Bookstore and the Direct Action Network. Rick is a producer with Big Noise Films.

Bitty Lukose is an NYU Professor and author of a book on anti-globalization in Kerala, India
David Solnet was an organizer in the WTO struggle in Seattle. He currently works with Courage to Resist, supporting GI resistance.After the forum a group of panelists and audience members held up this banner: "In solidarity with indigenous, labor, and other activists who are potential targets of increased militarization funded and pushed by the U.S., we have some responsibility to stop it. Here's one campaign targeting it. (And we're open to learn about your ideas and others)".

Friday, November 21, 2008

Anniversary of the AMARC Declaration

WE, the representatives and members of AMARC from Africa, Asia and the Pacific, Latin America and the Caribbean, Europe and North America,
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the Amman Declaration, ratified by participant community radio broadcasters members of AMARC during its 9th General Assembly in Amman, Jordan, November 16th 2006.

TAKING INTO ACCOUNT the Joint Declaration on Diversity in Broadcasting adopted on 12 December 2007 by the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media, the OAS Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and the ACHPR (African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights) Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information.
State Obligations
That the principles set out in AMARC’s Principles on Democratic Regulation in Community Broadcasting (May 3, 2008) should be respected by governments as appropriate standards in this area. As such, they should be integrated into legal and policy frameworks, taking into account different cultural and development contexts.
* States should ensure respect for their international obligations in the area of freedom of expression, including in relation to community media.
* Community broadcasting should be recognized in national laws and policies as having distinct characteristics, and community broadcasters should be guaranteed fair and equitable access to the radio frequency spectrum and other broadcast distribution platforms, including digital platforms.
* Procedures for allocating licences and frequencies to community broadcasters should be fair, open and transparent, and the
implementation of these procedures should be overseen by an independent regulatory body.
* Community broadcasters should have access to a diversity of funding sources free of unreasonable restrictions. This may include public funds which are administered in a manner that does not compromise their independence.
* States should take adequate measures to end the climate of impunity, and such measures should include devoting sufficient resources and attention to preventing attacks of governments and others on journalists, community radio stations and independent media and newspapers exercising their right to freedom of expression, investigating such attacks when they do occur, bringing those responsible to justice and compensating victims.
* States should take appropriate steps to ensure that community radio and television broadcasters have access to digital and all new technologies to assist them in their work. States should also take the steps needed to ensure reasonable and equitable access by community broadcasters to satellite radio.

Community Broadcasters
We commit ourselves to challenge the dominant negative and stereotypical images of women in the media. We reaffirm our commitment that women’s access to and participation in decision-making in the media should be guaranteed at all levels and that producing programs that celebrate women’s diversity and highlight their contribution to society should be promoted.

We remain committed to addressing the specific needs of children and youth both in our programming and through promoting the participation of children and youth in the production of community broadcast programming.

We are committed to supporting the development of community radio in new countries and to developing solidarity and lobbying for further international and national recognition of community radio’s social contribution where it is in jeopardy.

We are committed to enhancing the role of community radio in achieving the millenium development goals, conflict resolution, peace building, poverty alleviation and confronting disaster management, climate change and environment deterioration by reinforcing the links and coordination between community radios and NGOs, researchers, civil society movements and stakeholders .

We stress the critical importance of community radio in empowering local communities through education, learning knowledge exchange and building capacities in communities.

We stress the role of community radio as a producer of culture, in strengthening cultural rights and, in particular, the rights of
linguistic and cultural minorities. We recognize that community radio plays an important role in helping particularly to communicate and in protecting francophone culture in Canada.

We conclude this event by reaffirming our commitment to realize our demands in this Declaration and we pledge to continue our work for the promotion and protection of people’s communication rights and all rights embodied in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Montreal, 7 November 2008.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Beyond TV

Undercurrents is holding a "Beyond TV" Film Festival in Swansea, Wales. Their site has many streamed segments. This one is an interview with Rick Rowley of Big Noise Films

Community Media Covers the US Election In Vermont

Raising the antenna at the new Vermont station.
Election night 2008, with no television reception nor high speed internet service, I wondered where I might catch the results of this year's exciting election. On election day, I received an e-mail from a fellow DJ from Brattleboro Community Radio asking for help from any and all volunteers at 107.7-WVEW to report live coverage on election night. Instead of passively watching the news, I could be part of it and potentially part of history in the making.

A few members of the WVEW team phoned around and were able to coordinate both citizens and politicians from throughout Windham County and the state to call into our station to report live coverage.

As we waited for the outcome of the evening we joined together in lively discussion, encouraging community members to phone in and participate. We received phone calls from listeners as far as Hawaii and one audibly relieved voter from Florida. A little after 10 p.m., DJs Wayne, Rip Van Winkle and Mr. Apocalypse headed downtown for local festivities of the Brattleboro Democratic Headquarters (and beyond) that took place at the Riverview Cafe and the streets of Brattleboro. They then phoned the station to continue with their live coverage which included local community members and their perspectives on the happenings from throughout the county, state and nation.

We heard from Floyd Meese Assistant Majority Leader of the Vermont House who called in from Burlington to give us a statewide update; Anthony Pollina, Independent candidate for Governor and his campaign party called in from Montpelier; a local volunteer named Cindy who helped to organize the festivities for the local Democratic Party along with Betty Frye, Coordinator of the Brattleboro Democratic Headquarters as they began dancing up Main Street with the band Simba. During the on air conversation with Betty, at around 11:15 p.m., the computer screen began to provide an update of electoral votes, showing Obama had jumped from 220 to 324. My surprise leaped from my mouth over the phone, hit Betty's ear, and soon she was gleefully screaming those results to the crowd on Main Street.

WVEW also had late night communication with Penny Harrington, Town Clerk of Brookline who reported record voter turn out and results. DJ Rip Van Winkle went to great lengths to reach out to people from different political affiliations, including the Republican Party, unfortunately, by air time, we had not heard back from representatives from either the Douglas or McCain offices. This may have given our coverage a huge imbalance, but it was not for lack of trying.

If you listened to our broadcast, you were able to hear how a small group of community members could access local news and events. Maybe not so polished, but definitely worth a listen.

Special thanks to the efforts and enthusiasm of Aaron Ryan, Wayne Griffis, Jay, Tom Grasso, Deb Witkus and support calls and feedback from VEW's own Cam Goodwyn in making Live Election Coverage 2008 so much fun. Just one more example of what community radio can do for you.

Lori Greenberg,

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Two New Books about Community Radio in Ireland

This radio promotion is for a new station in Northern Ireland. "Our emphasis is to provide a comprehensive news, sport and obituary service seven days a week".

Community Radio in Ireland: Participation and Multi-flows of Communication
Rosemary Day (2008) Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press
This academic text investigates the fundamental tenets of community radio as a movement through the examination of the experience of six contemporary Irish community radio stations. The issues explored focus on the concept of community and how it is constructed through communication, on an interrogation of the role and meaning of participation by people in a mass medium and on the creation of the multi-flows of communication that are facilitated by this participation.
The research spans a ten year period covering licensed community broadcasting in Ireland from its infancy to adulthood but the lessons learned are generally applicable. The theoretical frameworks introduced will be of interest to academics in the fields of communication theory, radio research, new media research, community development and sociology.

Bicycle Highway: Celebrating Community Radio in Ireland.
Rosemary Day (Editor) (2007) Dublin: The Liffey Press
This edited book provides an illustrated road map to the vibrant community radio movement in Ireland today. Written by people from all over Ireland who are actively involved in making community radio happen, the authors include volunteers, managers and regulators from the community radio sector. Organised in three sections, the book ranges from history, philosophy and reflections on best practice to the personal reminiscences of those who were actively involved in establishing radio stations in their own local communities. Section One charts the development of community radio in Ireland from its early days in the pirate era to the present. Section Two looks at the aims, issues and main concerns of community radio in Ireland today. Each chapter explores an area of major importance for community radio activists through the example of individual stations. These issues include the empowerment of marginalised people, adult education, the participation of women and the Irish language. Section Three is a delightful freewheel down memory lane, as the people who make community radio reminisce about the joys and difficulties of running a radio station where the people who listen can also have their say.

Thanks to Salvatore Scifo for sending these reviews!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

World Social Forum Video Clips

In preparation for the World Social Forum in January in Belem, there are now posted video clips which address different social movements.
Shalmali Guttal- India- from Focus on the Global South
Manaus 4° forum PanAmazzonico 2005.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Pandora: The Can Opener

The mass media in Italy is pretty much controlled by billionaire/politician Berlusconi, but a new initiative has been announced called Pandora. Their opening manifesto declares that they are an independent source on the web, regional networks and satellite. Pandora is started by independent communication professionals, but is open to "anyone who has something to say." They deny that they will be a "megaphone for anyone or anything" but say they will give voice to those who have none. Pandora non è il megafono di qualcuno o per qualcuno, Pandora vuole dare voce a chi non ce l'ha.Pandora wants to be a model of authentic television as a public service. The only publishers are the readers themselves. " Pandora vuole proporsi come esempio autentico di televisione di servizio pubblico, cioè una televisione che risponde ad un unico editore: i suoi telespettatori..."
With little resources for advertising, the network depends on "word of mouth" (solo sul passaparola). They hope to make Pandora a diverse voice with "remote control capacity." (a "portata di telecomando"... )

Many of the Pandora initiators are long-time politicians on the Italian left (such as Giulietto Chiesa) but Pandora hopes to mobilize younger activists and grass roots movements to become involved. Several years ago a similar initiative called NOWARTV, worked with Candida TV and Telestreets, to transmit alternative programming in several cities throughout Italy. A documentary about telestreets with an interview with Frano Bernardi (Bifo) the founder of Orfeo TV is posted at It is worth noting that both Orfeo and Pandora make reference in their name to powerful Greek myths!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

NYC Pranksters Recreate the New York Times

Early this morning at several key locations around Manhattan, copies of an "alternative" New York Times were distributed. The website
New York Times Special Edition Video News Release - Nov. 12, 2008 from H Schweppes on Vimeo.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Corporate Encoding and Indymedia

Indymedia and the Enclosure of the Internet
Published: Sunday 09 November 2008 16:54 by Yossarian
There has been controversy recently on the global imc-communication and imc-tech lists over the issue of a $200,000 grant application sent to the Knight Foundation by IMC Boston to do Drupal development work for Indymedia sites.

The grant application was blocked by IMC Rosario in Argentina. As a working technical volunteer who has been building a new Indymedia website for the past year or so, I think this whole debate has raised some interesting issues related to code, corporate monopolies, and the dilemmas faced by a humble developer who's trying to help start a revolution.

Places: brixton Some background
First, a little bit about me. I live in London, I'm a programmer for a living, and I have been involved with Indymedia since the autumn of 2000. Like many other people, I have been thinking about Indymedia's technical platforms.
Indymedia Exhibit, Summer, 2000, Berkeley Art Museum (UCB)

Some problems
I think that we are in bad shape when compared with the predominantly corporate-owned sites that political organizers are often turning to. People are generally not putting their videos on Indymedia anymore - those go onto Youtube. Photos are going into Flickr. There has been an explosion of good political content being published on the net, but it's not happening on our sites, because in many cases it's easier for people to register an account on and put it there instead. Political groups don't advertise their presence on Indymedia anymore, they set up a MySpace group. For that matter, most political people don't register email accounts with or or one of the other activist-run email services, they get a Gmail or Hotmail account instead. This is a general problem and is much bigger than either Indymedia or left activism, but it's worth thinking about how we can respond to it.

One necessary response is education. Activists who would never consider eating meat or crossing a picket line think nothing of putting their entire communications infrastructure into the hands of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and Rupert Murdoch. There are enormous practical problems with respect to communications security, data ownership, privacy, censorship of content, and data mining by both corporations and law enforcement agencies. From what I can see everyone from the left-liberal NGOs and environmentalists, to the unions, and over into the extraparliamentary anarchist and communist groups all have the same attitude: there is no problem. Move along. Shut up about it, you're being a geek.

We need to be explaining these issues to people in a consistent and effective way. Perhaps explaining that it's like holding all your political meetings at McDonalds, and ensuring that the police come and film you while you do so, would be one approach to take.

Education alone will not solve the problem, though. We need to provide self-managed alternatives.

David vs Goliath Redux

There are a few obvious problems here. The combined development budgets of Yahoo, Google, and Microsoft alone runs into billions of dollars a year, and they can basically deploy an army of coders to solve any problems they encounter. Although they are highly bureaucratized, they also have the luxury of billions more dollars with which they can buy hot young startup companies.

In contrast, we have a relatively few hard-working geeks and a wealth of code provided by the Free Software movement. While in the past this alone was enough to sustain us, I would like to suggest that we are in the middle of a monopolization process that has destroyed other forms of radical media in the past. This new stage will bring additional problems with it.

Basically, I think that we are facing related problems of undercapitalization and corporate monopolization.

I was recently doing some historical research regarding the labour press, which was very vibrant in the early part of the 20th century, and I ran across this analysis by Noam Chomsky:

The Daily Herald in England ... if I remember correctly [had] twice the subscriptions of the London Times, the Financial Times and the Guardian put together in the early 1960s, and in fact, the polls showed that it was more intensively read and more eagerly read by its subscribers, but it was a working class newspaper. It presented an alternative view of the world. Now it doesn't exist. The working class newspapers have become cheap tabloids, which are sex, sports, and so on, part of the decerebration of the masses. This [did not] happen by force. The police didn't come in and close them down. It happened by market pressures. Newspapers are corporations that sell a product, namely subscribers, to buyers, namely advertisers. So a newspaper or any journal is basically a corporation selling a product to other corporations. The way you sell them is by looking at the profile. If you want to have resources in this system, you are going to have to have advertiser support in capital. And that means for one thing you are going to have to adhere to their view of the world, but it also means that you are going to have to be oriented towards the wealthier readers with the normal advertising profiles that all of these guys run on. These factors are going to drive out an independent press. It happened in the United States a long time ago. It happened in England fairly recently and the effects are very striking....

In my opinion, a process that took perhaps 70 years to play itself out in the case of the print-based radical press of the late 19th and early 20th centuries is repeating itself much more rapidly in the case of radical internet media today. If this assessment is correct, our problems are much bigger than most of us think. We have already recognized that police seizures of our servers, and the arrest and killing of our journalists, are major problems. I think we are also going to have to contend with a less blatant but perhaps more powerful erosion of our ability present the news online in a way that's relevant to people using our sites. We are seeing the beginnings of this already.

A potential Indymedia contributor thinks: I can upload a video but nobody can see it conveniently in the page? I'll put it on Youtube. I can put up a text report but my friends aren't immediately notified via Twitter text messaging? Forget it, my Blogger account can do that. I can announce the existence of my new political group but I can't conveniently link all my articles together and have them accessible via an API for reprocessing and filtering? I'm off to Facebook and Yahoo Pipes.

Note that in these examples, it's not merely the existence of a social networking effect and nice graphic design that people are looking for (although they want those too). They also want a huge amount of functionality and increasing interoperability with a host of corporate services which I haven't noticed anyone analysing in a systematic and radical way. So it's not only the development budgets of the big media corporations we need to contend with, it's their control over services and de facto standards which are also going to be increasingly problematic for us.

Something as simple as putting a "Digg this" link on a page in an Indymedia CMS would probably cripple the Indymedia network globally by triggering a discussion about the relative merits of open content aggregation versus the support of capitalist business.

What are our options?

One solution would be a short term approach. We are currently undercapitalized, let's write a grant application and inject some cash into the system. This may sound familiar given recent news headlines about the current worldwide economic crisis: it'll keep things running in the short term but if the problem is systemic, it's not going to do much in the longer term. Let's lay aside for the moment the tactical questions about whether Indymedia coders should be used as a cheap development resource for the Knight-Ridder newspaper chain, and whether an Indymedia group which can't set up a Drupal website in three years is likely to be handed $200,000 to spearhead a big Drupal development project. The bigger question is, how long can we sustain ourselves with this approach? What kind of development process is it likely to lead to?

In the past year, I've probably put about a thousand hours of work into writing code for Indymedia. Taking foundation money from a media corporation runs right behind getting addicted to heroin as something I want to do, and I think it would have roughly the same effects on our development efforts. I'm sure everything would seem pretty great at first, with lots of development getting done, and everybody would be real happy. Then the money runs out, and suddenly we're no longer able to function. At that point, it all comes crashing down.

This is not to say that I oppose paying people for doing Indymedia coding work in all situations. For example, I would not be opposed to running some kind of donation drive, as has, and paying people to do development out of that (also getting new equipment, etc). I can also see that an Indymedia code base could be a generally useful thing. It might be possible to design our code in such a way that it would be attractive for lots of people who need distributed websites to use the code in their normal commercial work. They could then contribute changes back to the codebase (this is one reason that Drupal and Zope have so many contributors). In both of these cases, we would at least have some control over the situation in a better way than we would if we were repeatedly applying for foundation grants.

My point is that we're in this situation for the long haul, and paying five or ten geeks for a year isn't going to get us out of it - the scale of the problem is much larger. The intelligent use of freely available code, which leverages the work of thousands or tens of thousands of people, is one start.

A better organization of our coding efforts (currently being attempted by the imc-cms group) can also go a long way towards helping the problem of undercapitalization. A network of a few dozen motivated and well-organized coders with the support of a larger community of politicized free software developers for whom monopolization is an issue of freedom, is sustainable over a period of years, and might actually be able to acheive something. A small number of people paid out of grant funding will probably just lull us into a false sense of security. I think that the answer to the resource problem is political and social, not economic, because no matter how much grant money we can lay our hands on, it's always going to be a tiny fraction of what the corporate giants can blow on the purchase of a single startup company.

The other problem, the one of de facto standardization and monopolization by for-profit businesses, is a harder nut to crack. It is partly being addressed by the Free Software Foundation: the new Affero Gnu Public License (AGPL) stipulates that a company like Google using AGPL code must make all of its modified AGPL source code publicly available, something that wasn't necessary under the older GPL version 2.

The AGPL is going to help level things out a bit by letting us see more corporate code from the Web 2.0 giants. It will not change the fact that most peoples' experience of the internet now happens inside the online equivalent of gated communities owned by the world's largest media corporations. Obviously, we are organizationally outside those gated communities (I say organizationally because I suspect that many Indymedia people do actually use corporate platforms like Facebook while regarding it as a sort of dirty secret). The question of how we interact with these heavily-defended enclaves on the internet is a crucial one, because they are where the majority of the world's online population live and work. If we want to change society, we need to deal with this, or we're no longer a group of radical media producers with advanced technical platforms (which we were in 2000-2003), we're the equivalent of a Geocities page - lost, lonely, and slightly crazy-looking. Maybe it's time to change the white text / black background of, by the way?

The problem is made worse by the fact that many free software libraries are actually being written to support corporate services. So, for example, within the coding environment I use (Ruby on Rails), there are 5 libraries which support Google Maps/Yahoo Maps/ but none that support OpenStreetmap (the only equivalent non-corporate service). As a radical coder, what's my move? I want to provide mapping services on the event calendar that I've written, so that people can easily find their way to events. Do I integrate with Google Maps (which would take 5 minutes), or do I integrate with OpenStreetmap (which would take several days and doesn't work nearly as well as Google Maps)? This is only a small example but it gives an idea of the practical side of the monopolization in services which I'm trying to illustrate.

I think that at this point it might be necessary to bring these concerns to both the Free Software movement and also to make an effort to bring it to the wider public, starting with our own users. The Free Software Foundation people are an intelligent bunch, and often overlap with people in our own milieu. While some of them probably see "the internet" (as opposed to the code that runs it) as a politics-free place, I suspect that many of them are concerned with the uses of their code. Having put two decades worth of work into enlarging the boundaries of software freedom, I doubt that they are enthusiastic about having it used to trap computer users inside an interlocking set of corporate monopolies which happen to run free software.

Besides alliance-forming and awareness-raising, we also need to concentrate on building our alternatives. Anyone interested in this should take a look at the activities of the Indymedia CMS group, there's an email list for this at:

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Civil Society Information Advisory Council's Recommendations for Participation in Internet Regulation

How to create a governance structure for an open, just and equitable INTERNET?
Many of the civil society representatives who were active at WSIS--The World Summit on the Information Society--have been working for the past few months on a document to define future public participation (they call it "multistakeholder") in internet governance.
The metaphor "multistakeholder" is itself instructive.
Is this about real estate? Is the Internet property?
Who holds the stakes?
Do community media makers have the same stakes as Microsoft, or, say, the French Government?
Years ago PAPER TIGER TV made a program called Staking a Claim in Cyberspace which asked similar questions. --DeeDee Halleck

Katitza Rodríguez is the Director of EPIC´s International Privacy Project and Coordinator of The Public Voice Coalition

On behalf of The Public Voice Coalition, we are pleased to enclose the civil society proposal for the establishment of the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Committee (CSISAC) to be submitted to the ICCP Committee for its approval at its meeting on 11-12 December 2008.
1. Background

At the OECD Ministerial Conference on the Future of the Internet Economy, the OECD Secretary General expressed support for an effort to formalize the participation of civil society in the work of the OECD concerning the future of the Internet. This
recommendation follows from almost two decades of civil society participation at the OECD and the specific proposals of civil society put forward to the 1998 OECD Ministerial Conference and again in the Civil Society Declaration at the 2008 Ministerial Conference.
2. Mission
The main purpose of the Civil Society Information Society Advisory Council (CSISAC) is to contribute constructively to the policy work of the OECD Committee for Information, Computer and Communications Policy (ICCP) and to promote the exchange
of information between the OECD and the civil society participants most active in the information technology field. Information from the OECD will provide civil society participants with a stronger empirical basis to make policy assessments; inputs into research and policy development from civil society will provide the OECD with the essential perspective of stakeholders "at the receiving end" of policy. Strengthening the relationship between civil society and the OECD will lead to better-informed and more widely accepted policy frameworks.

3. Activities
The CSISAC will undertake the following activities:
• Engage in constructive input and dialogue with the ICCP Committee about policy issues of interest to civil society;
• Pursue the agenda set out in the Civil Society Seoul Declaration of 2008;
• Report to civil society organizations about the OECD publications, events, and policy recommendations of interest to civil society;
• Identify and publicize opportunities for participation by civil society organizations in the work of the OECD;
• Maintain appropriate communications tools (e.g. content management system, mailing list, social network platform) that highlight key OECD-ICCP developments of interest to civil society and facilitate broader civil society participation; and
• Report on an annual basis the accomplishments of the past year and the goals for the next year.
4. Proposed Structure

In keeping with the structure of other non-governmental stakeholders at the OECD, the CSISAC proposes a structure that seeks to facilitate the participation of interested parties in the work of the OECD and to promote effective communications
between stakeholders and the OECD.

The CSISAC includes the CSISAC Membership, the CSISAC Steering Committee, and the CSISAC Liaison. The roles and structure of these entities are outlined below. The effectiveness of the proposed structure, including the working of the CSISAC Liaison and the CSISAC Steering Committee, will be evaluated after one year.

CSISAC Membership
CSISAC Membership will be open to civil society participants who:
• Endorse the Civil Society Seoul Declaration
• Demonstrate a commitment to the public interest; and
• Do not represent any business, technical organization, government entity or other institution that sets public policy (e.g., ICANN, RIR, WIPO staff).

All civil society participants that signed the Civil Society Seoul Declaration shall be considered founding members of the CSISAC. Particular efforts will be made to ensure that the interests of disadvantaged groups are represented within the CSISAC.

CSISAC members will provide expertise in policy issues relevant to the work of the OECD-ICCP committee and its four working parties.

CSISAC Steering Committee

The CSISAC Steering Committee will represent the CSISAC Membership in the work of the OECD-ICCP. Members of the Steering Committee will have access to all OECD draft documents made available for OECD committee members with the
understanding that OECD rules regarding disclosure must be respected. The Steering Committee will also be responsible for assembling ad-hoc working groups who can review OECD policy issues.

The Steering Committee will be comprised of 6-8 individual or organizational representatives, who will serve two-year terms. The Steering Committee will be accountable to the CSISAC membership, with selection done in such a way as to account for regional and issue diversity.

An interim Steering Committee, comprised of individuals and organizations that contributed to the OECD "Future of the Internet Economy" Ministerial in June 2008, will develop a formal process for selection of the Steering Committee by early 2009. CSISAC Liaison Charity Gamboa has worked with NGO's in training out-of- school youth in Computer Literacy and Basic English in the Philippines and she has been a delegate to the OECD discussions about internet governance,

The CSISAC Liaison will facilitate communication among the OECD-ICCP, the CSISAC Membership, and the CSISAC Steering Committee. The CSISAC Steering Committee will select the CSISAC Liaison. The Liaison will serve as a point of contact and primary conduit for information flow between the CSISAC and the OECD-ICCP, with decision-making capacity reserved for the Steering Committee. Additionally, the Liaison and one other member of the CSISAC Steering Committee will be expected to participate regularly in OECD-ICCP meetings. The Liaison will serve a two-year term, which coincides with the OECD-ICCP committee work cycle.

An interim Liaison will be provided by The Public Voice Project for 2009-2010 and will serve as the initial point of contact with the OECD and be responsible for facilitating CSISAC participation.

5. Participation of CSISAC at the OECD
It is anticipated that the CSISAC will have the same standing at the OECD-ICCP committee as do the BIAC and the TUAC.

6. Evolution of CSISAC
It is the hope of civil society that, over time, the CSISAC will evolve into the Civil Society Advisory Council (CSAC) and provide the basis for civil society input to all OECD activities, comparable to the BIAC and the TUAC.

7. Reference Documents

• Civil Society Seoul Declaration, June 2008
• Civil Society Background Paper, June 2008
• OECD, “The Future of the Internet Economy OECD Ministerial Meeting,” 17-18 June 2008, Seoul, South Korea, FutureInternet
• “Closing remarks by Angel Gurría, OECD Ministerial Meeting on the Future of the Internet Economy,18 June 2008.,3343,en_2649_201185_40863240_1_1_1_1,0,0.html
• OECD, Convention on the Organization for Economic Co-operation and
Development (1960).,3343,en_2649_34483_1915847_1_1_1_1,00.html