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

Friday, November 7, 2008

Letter Asking for Support of Canadian Community TV

Dear Friends of Community TV,

I want to thank all of you for your interest and interventions so far on behalf of community television in Canada.

We are slowly being heard. The CRTC "Diversity Hearings" held in the fall of 2007 received over 1500 interventions on behalf of community television, even though the focus of that hearing was not community TV.

In the spring of 2008, the cable distribution hearings, which proposed to remove the community channel from the basic cable tier also received many interventions in opposition. The CRTC last week released their rulings from this hearing. For now, the community channel is safe in the basic cable package, although it (and other channels in the basic cable package) no longer necessarily have low numbers.Because of the number of interventions on behalf of community television, the CRTC also committed to do a full review of the community TV sector in 2009.

In preparation for those hearings, on the strength of my research into community TV policy and practices in other countries, I have been asked to write a report summarizing my findings.

So all this is good news, and it has only been possible because of the interventions of many of you at each of these hearings. As a CRTC policy analyst whom I met at the Quebec Federation of Independent Community Television stations told me two weeks ago, they get lobbied by the cable industry and invited to events all the time, hearing that industry's point of view. It is much more difficult for them to get an accurate picture of how the public feels, unless we persist in writing to them at hearing time.

Consequently, I would like to ask for your support via another intervention this coming week for Campbell River Community Television. It is cable co-operative (owned by its 13,780 resident members) on Vancouver Island that has been providing cable service and a community television channel run by volunteers for 50 years. As such, it's one of the few remaining community
channels in English Canada that has genuine access by its community.

In April of this year, Shaw Cablesystems received approval (without a public hearing) from the CRTC to offer competitive service within their license area. Shaw mailed an offer to buy the cablesystem for $3,000 per member to each household in the community (which is not legal... the proceeds of a non-profit society cannot be distributed among its members) and rumours also started to be circulated that if the co-operative didn't sell to Shaw, that Shaw would have the power to cut off or interfere with the co-operative's access to channel signals and bandwidth. In fact, the latter is also not legal under CRTC regulation. (It's like different long-distance telephone providers all being allowed to use the Bell/Telus phone network.)

The co-operative also had a clause in its constitution that stipulated that 75% of the total membership had to approve any sale in writing. That clause was rewritten to be only 75% of the members present at any given meeting (a process that the BC Societies Act has also confirmed as not legal), and fewer than 500 members present at an August meeting voted to sell to Shaw.

This week, the CRTC is asking for public opinion on the sale of the co-operative to Shaw, and the dead-line for comments is next Thursday, November 13th. This hearing is also a "closed hearing", in that the commissioners who will decide will do so on December 8th in Ottawa/Gatineau, with no opportunity for the Campbell River residents to appear in person.

So, while you may not wish to comment on details of a sale process about which you know very little, CACTUS, and the "Save the Campbell River TV" committee would like to ask for your help in writing in this week to share your experience of:

a) the importance of community TV channels that are genuinely accessible by the community (please share any details of what
participation at your local community channel in the past has meant to you)

b) for those of you who live in areas serviced by Shaw, your first-hand experience of what happens to community TV in a Shaw service area

c) your support for the idea that no further sales should be approved that could further weaken the position of the few surviving genuine community-access television channels in English Canada, prior to the sector review in 2009.

If you have a specific interest in the details of the transaction in Campbell River, the attached document is CACTUS' draft intervention to this process, which outlines the key events that have occurred, with links to the Campbell River Television Association's own web site and to relevant documentation.

But even without knowing all the details, it is CACTUS' view that a sale of a 50-year-old locally run cable service and community channel should not be allowed to pass until all information are openly available and understood by the community. We would like the CRTC to delay this hearing and to move it to the community in question, so that a full and open process can occur.

If you would like to lend your support:

1) Click this link before next Thursday:

2) Click to put a checkmark in the box next to:

200811879 Shaw Cablesystems.

Then Click "Next". The rest of the process is pretty self-explanatory, but
just in case...

3) If you oppose the sale to Shaw, click the drop-down box that says:

"My comments are in OPPOSITION".

4) On that same page, either:

a) Type your comment directly into the comment box, or
b) Attach a document with your comments.

If you type your comment directly into the comment box, copy it (highlight
and click Ctrl-C), because you will be required to send a copy of your
comment to Shaw later in the process.

Click "Next".

5) If you want to present your point of view in person, indicate this and
why on the next page. Click "Next".

6) On the next page, fill out your contact information, and make sure you
click the final box, indicating that you are going to send a copy of your
intervention to Shaw. If you don't do this, your intervention will not be
included on the public record.

Click "Next".

7) Click "Submit".

8) Either mail, fax or e-mail a copy of your comment and your contact
information to:

Shaw Cablesystems Limited
630 - 3rd Avenue North-West
Calgary, Alberta
T2P 4L4
Fax: 403-716-6544

Thanks and good luck! Your support does make a difference.

Cathy Edwards
Canadian Association of Community TV Users and Stations
1 (819) 772-2862

Monday, November 3, 2008

Guatemala-- Community Station Raids

Rosendo Pablo Ramirez, 34, and his five-year-old daughter, Abeth, beside a wireless antenna/transmitter.
Promoting the Rights, Voices, and Visions of Indigenous Peoples
If there's a model of hope for the world's indigenous peoples, it is the town of Todos Santos Cuchumatnin in northwestern Guatemala. The Mayans who live here still wear their traditional clothing with pride and practice their traditional ceremonies and customs, and 95 percent of the population still speaks Mam. At the same time, the people of Todos Santos also participate vigorously in the larger society and have a thriving economy. The key to this indigenous success story is Radio Qman Txun, the town's community radio station.

But in recent weeks police have confiscated equipment at four radio stations near Todos Santos. Radio Qman Txun, along with all the other community radio stations in Guatemala, is at extreme risk. The Guatemalan constitution guarantees to the right to community radio, but the national telecommunications law does not, and government forces are using the pretext of this law to shut down the stations and cut off this vital cultural lifeline. This assault on Mayan culture has to stop, and right now we have a unique chance to do it: a new telecommunications bill has been introduced in the Guatemalan Congress, and recent elections resulted in 94 (of 158) new members of Congress. We have a very short window of time to reach these new legislators before they are swamped with conflicting agendas. For the new bill to pass, 80 legislators must vote for the bill. Currently, we have the support of 24; we need 56 more.