Local Television & Social Enterprise A Model for Sustainable Community Media Organisations in Merseyside and Lancashire Johan S. Gowing-Jakobson May 2012
The author would like to thank all the participants and contributors to this research*, especially dedicated staff from local community television organisations in Merseyside and Lancashire, without whom this research would lack its main subject. Special thanks to all the family and friends for their support and understanding.
* This publication was originally published as an MA Thesis, submitted as part of the MA in Documentary Production at the University of Salford, UK, in May 2012.
Abstract The introduction in 2012 of commercially-based local television in the UK raised questions about the nature of Public Service Broadcasting, considering the recent history of privatisation and deregulation of the previously centralised media industry. Contemporary theory of communications offer an alternative approach to the mass media paradigm, which developed from previously marginal participatory culture of the 1970s, and is rooted in active civic participation aimed at the sustainable development of local communities. The concepts of co-production of services and social capital are introduced into the framework of participatory video production within community television social enterprises which already exist in the UK's North-West. Original research of three community TV organisations suggests a variety of forms of accumulated social capital, resulting from the application of participatory video within the media social enterprise model. This offers a possible sustainable solution for local public television services. This research contributes to a wider discussion on the future of local PSB in the UK, as well as on the current redistribution of power relations within the operations of the new media landscape, as it places selected community TV projects in the context of recent history and dynamics of the UK's media policy.
List of Abbreviations General: BIS – Department for Business Innovation and Skills Ctv – community television CPT – community partnership trust CMC – community media centres (UK government's initiative) DCMS – Department for Culture, Media and Sport DfES – Department for Education and Skills DTI – Department of Trade and Industry DTT – digital terrestrial television ERDF – European Regional Development Fund ESF – European Social Fund EU – European Union IPTV – Internet protocol television LCC – Liverpool Community College, Liverpool NEET – not in education, employment or training NESTA – National Endowment for Science, Technology and Arts, London PCT – primary care trust (NHS) PSB – Public Service Broadcasting PV – participatory video PVT – Public Value Test RCUK – Research Council UK SE – social enterprise UCLan – University of Central Lancashire, Preston VOD – video-on-demand Local TV organisations: CMA – Community Media Association, Leicester CSV N-W – Community Service Volunteers, North-West, Preston CTVT – Community TV Trust, London FACT – Foundation for Art, Culture and Technology, Liverpool LMHTV – Liverpool Mutual Homes TV, Merseyside MonTV – Monmouthshire TV, Monmouth SBF – SoapBoxFilms, Liverpool SUP – SpeakUpPreston, Preston, Lancashire TTV – Toxteth TV, Liverpool WTV – Wirral TV, Merseyside 4
List of Figures and Tables Table 2.1
Mobilisation of Social Capital in Community-based PSB.......................................15
Market failures addressed by community-based media social enterprises........... 18
Online Popularity of Local/Community Video........................................................ 35
Community TV Online Content Viewings...............................................................39
Online Popularity of Local/Community Video........................................................ 40
Possible Core Models of Sustainable Local TV, UK (2005)...................................41
Revenue, Costs & EBITDA for UGC scenario of Local TV, UK (2005).................. 41
Community TV Operational Structure....................................................................41
Normative dimensions of Social Enterprise...........................................................18
Participatory Video Process...........â€Ś....................................................................13
Reliability of Media Counters.................................................................................37
Table of Contents Acknowledgements.......................................................................................................................... 2 Abstract............................................................................................................................................ 3 List of Abbreviations......................................................................................................................... 4 List of Figures and Tables................................................................................................................. 6 1. Introduction: Participation, Local TV & Development? .......................................................... 8 1.1 Research Problem............................................................................................................. 8 1.2 Methodology...................................................................................................................... 9 2. Community-Media-Politics....................................................................................................... 11 2.1 Participatory Media: A Tool for Sustainable Communities................................................ 11 Community Communications....................................................................................... 12 Sustainable Local Media.............................................................................................. 13 Public Value, Social Capital and Civic Participation......................................................14 Social Enterprise and Community Media..................................................................... 17 2.2 Background: Policy Role and Historical Context of Local TV in the UK...........................18 UK's Public Service Broadcasting: 1980s-2000s.......................................................... 18 Public Interest in Broadcasting and Public Value Test (PVT)........................................ 20 3. Case Studies............................................................................................................................. 24 3.1. Wirral TV: Embedding Skills in Disadvantaged Communities......................................... 24 3.2. ToxtethTV Media Cluster of Regeneration: Soapbox Films.............................................27 3.3 Speak Up Preston/Bespoke â€“ Empowering Community Through Innovation..................29 4. Measuring Local TV Performance........................................................................................... 32 4.1 Participatory Video through Social Enterprise................................................................. 32 Social Enterprise models and Ctv case studies............................................................32 4.2 Reaching Online Audience.............................................................................................. 37 Online Performance..................................................................................................... 38 4.3 Financial Viability of Ctv Operations................................................................................ 40 5. Conclusions.............................................................................................................................. 43 Appendix A: Interview List.............................................................................................................. 44 Appendix B: PV Production in Ctv's (2006-11)................................................................................ 45 Bibliography................................................................................................................................... 52
1. Introduction: Participation, Local TV & Development? 'Public Service Broadcasting will soon be dead...because it relies on an active broadcaster and a passive viewer' (R.Eyre, 1999) 'Rather than watching television, we can participate in television' (McCain, 1998)
The importance of local television, both for information citizenship and for providing choice within television markets, has been well reflected in recent academic and professional literature (Berringan, 1977, 1979; Comedia, 1984; Downing, 1984, 2003; Kurpius, 2000, 2003, 2010; Couldry, 2003; Hewson, 2005; Rennie, 2006; Gordon, 2009; Fenton, et al., 2010; Shott, 2010; Witschge et al., 2010). Debates about the shortcomings of the local provision of public service broadcasting (PSB) in the UK have been influenced by various perspectives, including sociohistorical (Hewson, 2005), political-economic (Freedman, 2008), technical (Rushton, 1993) and economic (Spectrum Group, 2005). In two of his initial speeches in 2010, UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt (DCMS, 2010) pointed out the weakness of the UK's local broadcasting sector and, hence, of local democracy and identity compared with publicly-financed local TV services in other European countries. Thus the goal of creating a sustainable local media sector in the UK by 2012, envisaged by the national Government in its January 2011 Local Media Action Plan (DCMS, 2011) has the dual aim of: (i)
ensuring plurality and democratic accountability at the local level, and
developing potential for new business and innovations.
However, as analysts note (Tambini, 2006), an important question remains: Is it possible to deliver broader social and civic values (the goal of introducing local public television in the first place) within the current market-led approach to local/community television in the UK? This uncertainty has been consistently expressed despite the current government's position that the public value of community television (Ctv) will only be fulfilled through its economic sustainability (e.g., Ofcom, 2006, 2007, 2009, 2011). Indeed, over the last 30 years, a clear movement towards pluralism within the democratic system and towards consumerism in the commercial television model (e.g., Leys: 2001) has redefined the ethical guidelines of public broadcasting, thus shifting such ideas as 'impartiality', 'truthfulness', 'trust', and 'public duty', towards consumer preferences and the marketability of individual desires/experiences' (Born & Prosser, 2001). Yet the right 'to be heard' closely corresponds to the provision for public needs in the community, based on principles of universal access and participation. Moreover, it has been suggested (Cairns, et al., 2005; Gillespie, 2011) that the process of shifting central government's devolved responsibilities down to the local tier ('Localism') requires high levels of community capacity building, largely based on the voluntary sector and coproduction practices (Deacon, 1996; Ostrom 1996; Boyle & Harris, 2009). In theory, both co-production and participatory techniques (Berringan, 1979; Carpentier, 2003; Bassette, 2004; Lunch, 2006; Rheingold, 2008), as applied to media practices, were thought to enable communities to continue and excel in providing local public services in the areas of: local news, documentaries, education, arts, community events, disability and ethnic diversity, since these became increasingly sidelined by major national commercial broadcasters. As this and other research demonstrates (e.g., Batchelor, et al., 2005; Kurpius, 2010; Fenton, et al., 2010) â€“ in many cases the lack of stable funding sources, project continuity, and organisational inwardness prevent many established as well as new community-based media projects from building capacity 8
to become community media centres – anchors of nascent local digital media networks. Therefore, in discussing a sustainable model for local TV in the UK's north-west, this research will focus on those models which allow for more involvement of civil society associations and which stress public service content, rather than on the most economically viable or commercially successful models. One such model could well be social entrepreneurship, whose purpose is to maximise social value with innovative means and limited distribution of the resulting financial profit. Within this approach, can participatory production practices, applied within the framework of the social enterprise model, offer a sustainable solution to local television services in the UK? In exploring this question, this research contributes to a wider discussion about the future of local PSB in the UK. It considers the current redistribution of power relations within operations of the new media landscape, by looking at the history and dynamics of selected community TV projects. Secondly, by identifying their characteristics, limits and constraints, it examines the successes and limits of particular social enterprise models, and evaluates their effectiveness and impact in the community, which, potentially, could represent a shift towards non-commercial, citizenship-oriented public service broadcasting as the guarantor of local democratic empowerment.
This is qualitative research, which means it will explore in some depth the views of respondents in order to give directional steers to further research. As it is not primarily a quantitative study, the results cannot be extrapolated to represent the views of the wider local television community. Thus it has potential to contribute to policy considerations, but is not in itself conclusive about how community television (Ctv) will develop in the future, or what are the various funding mechanisms which should be considered in order for it to be self-sustainable. The study is based on analysis and evaluation of different SE models of Ctv organisations currently operating in the regulatory/funding vacuum of the local TV sector in the North-West (Merseyside and Lancashire). The empirical data, collected through pre-arranged field study sessions at designated Ctvs, allowed the analysis of programme/production output, which is freely available online on the respective organisations' websites and through their video channels via free-access commercial web video platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo. Several semistructured informal interviews were conducted with a number of organisations' managers and tutors in situ (handwritten notes were taken). These interviews focussed on the following areas, which were crucial for comparative analysis:
The organisation's history,
Main funding sources,
Principles of work,
Vision for future integration into the UK Local PSB system after 2012.
Comparative analysis of selected case studies and the relevant empirical data collected (see Appendix A) has allowed observation of differences and commonalities between the varied types of community television organisations, in order to understand which model performed best under which circumstances. The thesis structure is as follows. I will begin with a theoretical framework (Chapter 2) highlighting the issues and concepts relating to: community media, public value in local/community/national broadcasting, considerations of ethical choice between production/consumption in current media practices, and an examination of Social Enterprise (SE) as a potential economically-sustainable socially-orientated model. This will be followed by placing the existing notion of community television practice in the context of changing local television policy in the UK. In Chapter 3 I will examine three case studies (Wirral TV and Toxteth TV in Merseyside, and 9
Prescap/Bespoke project in Preston), looking at different models of sustainability for local TV, and examining: the objectives, extent and nature of community involvement in local TV production; their financial support; and overall social impact. This will be concluded with a discussion of research findings (Chapter 4), examining the link between participatory output and sustainability.
2. Community-Media-Politics 2.1
Participatory Media: A Tool for Sustainable Communities
Recent advances in internet and computer technology1 have enabled previously passive media audiences to create and publish content in a variety of ways and for various causes, one of which is civic engagement on the local, communal and grassroots level. A clear dissatisfaction with the centralised cultural model of 'one-to-many' brought about notions of radical/alternative media in the early 1970's (Downing, 1984, 2001), which, with the rise of the new media 'many-to-many' model (Rice, 1984; Manovich 2003) led to the advance of participatory and community media approaches (see, e.g.: Couldry & Curran, 2003; Bessette, 2004; Rennie, 2006 and 2010). In fact, as Trippenbach (2011) notes, 'the new medium in the renewed news landscape is the users themselves', not the internet, digital broadcasters or hyper-local news agencies. In this regard, Pateman (1972: 71) sees the concept of participation as a process whereby individual members of a community have a certain degree of power to influence or determine the outcome of that process. While 'participatory media' and its impact on the changing role of the consumer into a 'participant' in the field of journalism were highlighted by Willis and Bowman (2003), the potential of participatory culture for civic engagement and creative expression has been investigated by Jenkins et al. (2006). Thus the term 'participation' which, according to Jenkins, et al. (2006: 8), cuts across educational practices, creative processes, community life, and democratic citizenship, proved to be instrumental in providing both a theoretical and structural framework for understanding and building a new, inclusive media culture and civil landscape in a world of corporate media domination and further fragmentation of national public broadcasting systems. Furthermore, seeing community media as a non-commercial means for the maintenance and extension of civil society by itself and for itself (Rennie 2006: 4,36,41) through sustainable social change (e.g. by developing new skills and accumulating social capital within a community), has advanced explanations as to how and why community media performs and is treated in a certain way. In particular, noting the shift of focus in analysing new media: from access and production â€“ to use and consumption, Rennie, et al. (2010:16), as well as Tarkka (2003:10-16) consider that community media offers an ethical choice to users in producing and distributing public content in an era of digital abundance. Recently, some UK and American community media practitioners (Schaffer, 2005; Copitch, 2011; Interview A2) have stated that presenting a 'new style of news', not based on a polarising conflict or a disaster, but instead on 'success stories' 'good news' stories, is able to stimulate participation and raise individual and community aspirations. Indeed, it has long been recognised that the creative industries require individuals with both 'hard' technical skills and knowledge 'soft' skills such as interpersonal skills, confidence and networking. The predominance of the 'hard' values of competition law over 'soft' values of PSB system (Born & Prosser, 2001), combined with the culture of targets, standards and best practices tends to omit the impact and outcomes that come from 'soft' skills, which have lately become essential for innovation in the area of co-production of public service broadcasting (Boyle & Harris, 2009: 23). Meanwhile the emphasis on soft targets in community media projects not only removes the need to assess the outcomes purely in bureaucratic/fiscal terms (Bespoke, 2011), but also has helped to promote 'a culture of reflection... oriented towards learning rather than judgement' (NESTA, 2012: 22), thus creating 'an opportunity to learn from what has been happening and use this learning as a resource for growth'. Such practice, indeed, differs very much from the traditional media culture which usually uses judgement, debate, controversy and conflict to antagonise the parties involved and by packaging information about social realities in overdramatised media product sold through centralised distribution network to passive consumers. 1
According to Hilbert and Lopez (2011), between 1986-2007, the worldâ€™s capacity for bidirectional telecommunication grew at 28% per year, while Humankindâ€™s capacity for unidirectional information diffusion through broadcasting channels has experienced comparatively modest annual growth (6%) (Hilbert, M. & Lopez, P. (2011) 'The World's Technological Capacity to Store, Communicate and Compute Information', Sicence, 332 (6025): 60-65).
However, following Sparks' (2007) criticism of participatory media culture and practices, Rheingold (2008) argues that, although the emergence of participatory culture of 'prosumers' (producerconsumers) will enable deep and positive social change through new media, it remains to be seen 'whether participatory media will be enclosed economically and centrally controlled or co-opted politically, or whether they will enable broad cultural production and authentically democratic political influence'. For example, Cleary and Bloom (2011) note that even though the American local TV news websites now comprise more than half of user-generated content (UGC), currently it is mostly designed to capture audience, rather than engage them into the production process. In a similar critical vein Carpentier (2003, 2009), while investigating participatory techniques employed by national broadcasters in UK and Holland, noted the possibility of the mass communication paradigm persisting even in participatory media. Kurpius' (2003) research based on McQuail's (1992) broad theory of democratic media performance, concluded that while well-funded local, innovative civic-driven media projects in the US succeeded temporarily and then disappeared, normative performance of the majority of market-driven local media, which usually accommodates audience targeted advertising, inevitably won in the long-term. However, analysis of the demise of the current normative relationship between advertising and media industry predicts the future development of organisation- and community-based media (Dawson, 2012) whereby 'new revenue models will be based on community, notably by driving transactions rather than simply exposing the audience to advertiser messages'. Thus, the above issues of media order and culture 'illuminate the fragmentation of the audience and the resulting effects on culture in the constantly changing media landscape' (Kurpius, 2003: 77). The existing body of research shows that while changing perceptions and practices in media production and distribution offer unlimited opportunities for democratic and creative engagement of the wider population, setting them in place and maintaining them successfully over the long term remains a problem. This, in turn, opens up the issue of locality as a democratic and sustainable basis for open-ended, participatory communication. Community Communications Following structural and subjective reconceptualisation of the term 'community' in academia as subjective (Clark, 1973: 411) and even 'virtual/online' (Jones, 1995), rather than simply 'geographical' commonality, it is accepted that communities can now span 'across conurbations, nations and continents' (Lewis, 1993: 13). To avoid a further bias towards mere 'prosumerism' within community media Rodrigues (2001) promotes the term 'citizens' media' by linking it to forms of active citizenship practice and empowerment that are strongly tied with the everyday lives of citizens, thus making them somewhat different from dis-engaged and merely interactive civic participation, usually preferred by the current model of market-oriented rating-driven media. In Rheingold's (2008b: 101) view, an individual or a community which is moving from private selfexpression to public voice within a Habermasian understanding of 'public sphere' (Habermas, 1974) and thus has the power and freedom to influence policy and grow from the open, rational, and critical debate among peers â€“ is an essential instrument of democratic self-governance. Altogether, however, Jenkins et al. (2006) see the emergence of an entirely new kind of culture from the use of participatory media, which shifts individual expression to community involvement. As a result, today, according to Gordon (2008), 'community media is using old and new techniques to provide forums for public discussion and culture' and in doing so 'is providing a powerful and fast dissemination of events and enhancing the ability of ordinary people to communicate on matters of public concern'. The following definition of community media developed by Berringan (1979) eloquently sums up the above points: '[Community media] should mean more than programming designed for special or selected groups. They are intended to be based on more than assumed audience needs and interests. Community Media are adaptations of media for use by the community, for whatever purposes the community decides. They are media to which members of the community have access, for information, education, entertainment, when they want access. They are media in which the community
participates, as planners, producers, performers. They are the means of expression of the community, rather than for the community. [Community media] describe an exchange of views and news, not a transmission from one source to another.'
(Berringan, 1979: 8) [authors' emphasis] This definition reflects an up-to-date understanding by Rennie (2006) of community media which becomes integrated into community through independence from commercial interests and through accountability in the form of community ownership. This definition has also been adopted within the EU community media policy, which recognises its broad social value stemming from its important role in strengthening cultural and linguistic diversity, social inclusion, local identity and pluralism (e.g., European Parliament, 2008; Council of Europe, 2009). Elaborating further on different approaches to participation in communication, Carpentier (2008) singled out three such types: community media, alternative media and civic or society-centred media, whereby different degrees and forms of public involvement and action both in and through media allow it to become less geographically oriented and more inclusive vis-a-vis the state and market, and, thus, more sustainable and 'macro-participatory' in character, without losing its organisational distinctiveness. Sustainable Local Media Some distinctive features of citizens' participation are that it creates spaces of empowerment, mobilises community engagement, and ensures local sustainability (see, e.g.: Skinner, 1995; Rocha, 1997; Wilson&Wilde, 2003). According to Adams (1992) television has the ability to 'create' public spaces, which are essential for the functioning of democracy both at the national level (hence the existence since 1950s of various national PSB systems) and at the local level. In a recent UK study Fleming (2008) concluded that 'creative place-makers' – six local media centres in English cities 'represent an emerging type of cultural and creative infrastructure, where consumption and production, art and economy, innovation and creativity come together' in an engaging, educative and cross-boundary manner. Furthermore, in his seminal work on community media Berringan (1979: 7) makes a poignant conclusion that communications media can indeed contribute towards development. For example, Servaes (1999) and Bessette (2004), while building upon a vast developmental literature from the 1960s, treat communication as the development process itself, whereby stakeholders become development communicators who interact with their own environment. In practice, as noted by Lunch (2004, 2006, 2007) and Lunch & Lunch (2006) participatory video (PV) has demonstrated a great potential for enhancing traditional means of communication – visual and verbal, allowing communities to share local knowledge and innovations among themselves, with future generations, and with the global audience (See Box 2.1). For Example, Lunch (2004, 2006, 2007), defines PV as an engaging process which 'moves progressively from action to analysis' (Lunch, 2007: 28), thus allowing local people to document, share and communicate their knowledge and experiences with each other and with the outside world. It can also be used as a problem-solving tool designed for monitoring and evaluation of local development, as well as for empowering the community (through generating and sharing common knowledge of specific local issues and problems, locating them within wider contexts of socioeconomic and political trends, and sharing views with other stakeholders). Box 2.1. Participatory Video Process • Participants rapidly learn how to use video equipment through games and exercises. • Facilitators help groups identify and analyse important issues in their community. • Short videos and messages are directed and filmed by participants. • Footage is shared with the wider community at daily screenings. • A dynamic process of community-led learning, sharing and exchange is set in motion. • Communities are involved to varying degrees in editing their films,but they always have full editorial control. • Completed films can be used for horizontal and vertical communication. Lunch, C. (2007: 28)
Some benefits of PV are that it is a: low cost, self-perpetuating, inclusive grassroots-based process, which can be facilitated with little outside involvement, and replicable throughout many 13
locations with different socio-economic levels. While investigating the economic aspects of early community media back in the 1980s, Kelly (1984: 100) pointed out that, in terms of sustainability, the only way to overcome this sector's essential weakness (i.e., minimal participation) was to extend the reach of its potential audience. Although, considering the wide availability of the Internet and social media technologies among the general population, this may appear today as a seemingly small structural obstacle, Tibbit (2011) stresses that 'building a sustainable relationship with a local audience and developing it into a community of 'engaged' citizens' matters more than maintaining the online content. In addressing this issue further, Carpentier's (2008) 'rhizomatic' conceptualisation of community media has the potential to overcome this structural impediment, by promoting trans-local 'macroconnectedness' of community media both to state and commercial sector. However, the emergence of a new participatory media culture in the UK – one of community's self-construction/representation, goes even further than 'citizen engagement'. Indeed, it can be closely linked to and its sustainability indeed depends upon introducing co-production into the running of public services, including public broadcasting – a radically new approach of sharing the design and delivery of public services with users (Cahn, 2001; Boyle & Harris, 2009; Martin & Webb, 2009). However, as analysts (Collins, 2007: 29) point out so far: co-production – originally borrowed from Moore's (1995) New Public Management doctrine in order to rework public value theory in particular for its current application in UK's media sector (e.g. Holden, 2004) – has been used by BBC only in the sense of co-decision regarding public preferences and society's needs. So far, only limited steps have been taken by the BBC to engage with local communities, following the Corporation's 2008 withdrawal from the local TV scene. These can be most clearly exemplified through the 2009 Memorandum of Understanding signed between the BBC English Regions and the Community Media Association, which primarily focused on sharing and co-producing local radio content. Despite this, Hewson (2005: 93) believes that the generation of content which 'adds local value' might provide televisual counterpart to the already existing community radio's 'social gain model'. The latter being defined under the 2004 Community Radio Order as: … provision of services to the underserved population, with the aim to facilitate discussion, provide education and training, strengthen the community, and includes achievement of other social objectives, such as delivery of public services, promotion of social enterprises, provision of work experience, employment and civic participation.
DCMS (2004, July) Could co-production be an answer to sustainable local media? Recent research into sustainability of the relatively novel industry of community-based new media organisations has concluded (Kurpius, et al., 2010) that hyper-local news enterprises in the US are subsidy-driven rather than market-driven, and thus operate on the 'financial brink' (Picard & van Weezel, 2008). Among the main problems Kurpius', et al. (2010: 373) research sites are those related to the changing online advertising models (from 'klick-through' to complex geographic and demographic analytics) that best gauge online news traffic, as well as branding, which has potential to attract new audiences; and, last, but not least important – efficiencies in controlling the cost of gathering and editing content, which although citizen-generated and free, bears high costs of training and editing. In the UK, Media Trust research (Fenton, et al., 2010: 39) suggested that various innovative and alternative media aim to be self-reliant, but small grants or public funding would help them ensure more consistent and smoother running, while they fear that significant subsidies may bureaucratise and make inflexible these emergent models. Public Value, Social Capital and Civic Participation In general, although the concept of social capital remains vague, its application within the model of community media social enterprise allows a demonstration of the economic role of communal media resources in the form of participatory video, which cannot be reduced to purely financial, physical or human capital. To paraphrase Putnam (1995: 677-78) in the 20th century '[traditional] television has destroyed social capital' by 'reducing people's willingness to engage in communal activities, turning them into passive consumers of television rather than active members of society'. 14
On the contrary, in 21st century community television has the potential to completely reverse this trend. For example, UK's Media Trust (Fenton, et al., 2010: 10, 11) supports the view that the 'facilitation of citizen involvement in feeding and shaping stories, and an emphasis on collaboration rather than competition is best suited to the digital age' and that 'particular emphasis should be placed on establishing new ownership models rooted in the local community, harnessing local innovation and enthusiasm'. Bringing this conceptualisation further into the public sphere, Brookes (2004: 5) provides understanding of the economic rationale behind current UK's PSB system in terms of creation of social capital – a concept which, while based on such arguably, non-economic dimensions as 'community' and 'citizenship', nevertheless conveys wider economic benefits, thus contributing to economic growth and well-being. Although traditionally group membership is considered as one of the indicators of social capital, 'building social capital is not just about audience or 'reach' as measured through individual programmes' (Brookes, 2004: 7). Recently, qualitative research into the role of social enterprise's (SE) contribution to local regeneration through social capital (Bertotti, et al., 2011) has concluded, that although in general social capital was facilitated through the work of the SE, its role in building a 'linking' social capital, which is vital for empowering local community, was insignificant. While research in social capital development on the internet via social networking websites (e.g., Facebook) has identified the prevalence of 'bridging' capital (Williams, 2006; Ellison, Steinfield, Lampe, 2007), there seems to be a lack of research into the concept of social capital as applied to community media production, whereby it can be used to highlight the relationship that potentially exists between the participatory techniques of video production that contribute to sustainability of social enterprise in community media. Both internationally (LaPorta et al., 1997) and in the UK (Casey, 2004), researchers have associated – among other measures of social capital – civic participation and membership in civic organisations with improved economic performance. Thus, according to Putnam (1993, 1995) – who closely observed the link between performance of local government and social institutions and citizen engagement in community affairs – social capital, derived from 'human capital' (Coleman, 1988), can be defined as 'features of social life – networks, norms, and trust – that enable participants to act together more effectively to pursue shared objectives'. Interestingly, this definition closely resembles that of the community media for social action, expressed fully in the notion of PV. Indeed, for example, Coleman (1988) sees social capital as a 'resource for action' in the form of 'obligations and expectations', as well as 'information channels'. Following Putnam's theory of social capital, Woolcock and Sweetser (2002: 26) also distinguished 'bonding capital', which reinforces a homogenous group, from 'bridging capital' which, being a step higher, links together people from similar groups but with only indirect connections. A further type, 'linking capital' (Woolcock, 2001) refers to relations between different groups, including those in power. This categorisation is helpful in differentiating new forms of value that can be produced and disseminated within the new 'many-to-many' PSB model, based on citizen participation, for example, through social enterprise. Table 2.1. Mobilisation of Social Capital in Community-based PSB. Type of social capital
Type of mobilisation General Outcome
Outcome in a media SE
Reduces transaction costs
- reduces uncertainties and facilitates co-operation, builds trust
- creates project record and acts as a trusted communication channel
Reduces production costs
- integrates volunteers & users
- builds capacity for community service, allows sharing of best practices & co-production
Creates more social capital
- enables mutual understanding and shared belief in community power
- promotes sense of belonging & develops further community service
As a factor of democratisation
- allows direct expression to develop a common understanding of common good
- mediates a public sphere where stakeholders can maintain open discussion & mobilise social action
Specific form of social capital
- facilitates proliferation of 'civicness'
- stimulates pursuit of public sphere for collective information through citizen participation
(within homogenous group)
B. Bridging (between similar groups)
C. Linking (between diverse groups)
Source: modified from Laville & Nyssens (2001); Woolcock, 2001; Woolkock & Sweetser (2002).
In conventional broadcasting media, according to Brookes (2004: 5, 6) 'social capital results from broadcasting through [network] externalities', such as provided by the existing PSB broadcaster, while 'free market in broadcasting would likely produce less and less programming that sustains social capital'. Thus, while in general the BBC has equated generating public value with the idea of '...generating social capital' (Grade, 2005), in practice, however, it has identified social capital (or 'citizen value') merely as a 'difference between the total value and consumer value' of PSB output, estimated, with certain adjustments, within a range of 7-21% (BBC, 2004: 13). On the contrary, as Laville and Nyssens (2001: 314) argue, third sector media organisations 'unlike public sector corporations, are not dependant on the type of collective interest whose standards must be established by the mechanisms of representative democracy, but 'incorporate a goal of service to the community' through 'explicitly enhancing collective externalities and equity issues'. Thus, according to Evers (1995) social capital can be an end in itself, because it is a 'civic' capital, contributing to a democratisation process. Moreover, since social capital appears to be indivisible, and cannot be individually appropriated, it constitutes a 'local (quasi) public good' (Laville & Nyssens, 2001: 317). Therefore, within community media â€“ which can be organised through a particular form of social enterprise (SE) â€“ social capital can acquire more concrete and identifiable parameters, as it 'crystallises around projects that incorporate the dimension of community service' (Laville & Nyssens, 2001: 319). Indeed, as is the situation with any public good, the perceived vagueness of the social capital concept, highlighted by its critics (e.g., Harper, 2001), creates difficulties in measuring it, in order to, for example, ascertain its share in the financial or physical capital necessary for sustainable operation of a socially-oriented venture in the community media sector. However, one such parameter, as identified by this research, can be the amount of PV produced and distributed through different community projects. Moreover, the mechanisms of social capital mobilisation and distribution can be explained by the phenomenon of the SE itself, which is usually set up when a group of citizens initiates the creation of an independent space within the public sphere, in order to provide an expanded range of service (e.g., PSB) for the community (Laville & Nyssens, 2001: 312). While in a SE the financial and other capital is often a collective resource which is rarely held by an individual, in a similar way, the benefits of forms of social organisation, embedded in SE, and reinforced through social capital, are not held by actors, but are the results of the participation of actors in advantageously organised groups (Bankston & Zhou, 2002). Thus, a distinguishing characteristic of SE is that 'part of their resources come from a social capital based on reciprocal relations developed in the public sphere' (Laville & Nyssens, 2001: 313, author's emphasis). From the above follows that, in the long term, the issue of sustainability of SE can be equated with the issue of sustaining or reproducing the right mixture of social capital, while trying to reconcile it with mobilisation of funds from public redistribution and those acquired through market transactions (Laville & Nyssens, 2001: 318). Therefore, Laville and Nyssens (2001: 313) believe that the kind and form of initial mobilisation of social capital in SE are specific to and can vary according to how SE combines different ways of distribution of economic goods and services through relations of exchange, redistribution and reciprocity. The forms of social capital useful for analysing the production of PV in SE can be summarised in the Table above. Although built from and around specific types of social capital, the above forms of its mobilisation and use in community media production for the purposes of social action can be mixed together at different stages and in different forms of social enterprise operations. Laville and Nyssens (2001: 326) highlight a number of important shortcomings: hybridisation of three economies (non-market, market and non-monetary) which must be kept in balance; previous absence, or difficulties with mobilising social capital through volunteers requires public funding ('the philanthropic shortfall'), while singling out support of specific groups or causes ('philanthropic particularism') and singlehandedly determining the allocation of revenues/funds ('philanthropic paternalism') â€“ can all affect the sustainability of the SE. If these shortcomings could not be surpassed through an open and accessible model of governance in SE, then the hybridisation will fail, giving way to what other researchers have termed as 'institutional isomorphism' (e.g., Di Maggio & Powell, 1993), whereby over time the SE comes to resemble either forms of other public institutions or enterprises in market economy (Laville & Nyssens, 2001: 327). 16
Thus, as in the conventional media, the question of ownership and governance becomes paramount to the goals and functioning of the media organisation and, even within the form of SE community television, the perceived democratic diversity of local media can become fragile. For example, as Laville & Nyssens conclude (2001: 316), a heterogeneity of ownership (many different stakeholders) in SE creates an unsteadiness which sometimes facilitates the development of 'a charismatic leadership and the progressive establishment of a single stakeholder ownership that eliminates the original heterogeneity'. However, it is specifically the dimension of diverse ownership and the production of social capital which makes SE provide a service to the community, and which characterises it apart from the other models that mix private and public funding (i.e., PFIs and charities). In fact, the community media SE model becomes a focal point of this analysis as it appears to encompass in itself the above concepts: production of public sphere and value, as well as social/communal participation through media production and distribution. Let us now consider it briefly in detail. Social Enterprise and Community Media The above model of broadcasting on a communal level bears striking similarity to what was described by Nicholls (2006: 1) as a 'global phenomenon' of social entrepreneurship, which 'borrows from an eclectic mix of business, charity, and social movement models to reconfigure solutions to community problems and deliver sustainable new social value', and is driven by 'pragmatic, innovative, and visionary activists and their networks', who bring 'systemic change by influencing social behaviour on a global scale'. In the same way as alternative and, later, community media did – the now autonomous field of social entrepreneurship has turned from a marginal activity to represent an umbrella term for 'innovative and dynamic international praxis and discourse in the social and environmental sectors' (Nichols, 2006: 5). However, interestingly, almost ten years since the introduction of the SE model into the mainstream British politics and economy (DTI, 2003), so far there were very few – both in the UK (e.g., Haydon, 2007) and internationally (see, e.g.: Podkalicka & Thomas, 2010; Rennie, 2011) – analytical attempts to apply the social entrepreneurship approach to local/community media production as a mechanism for public service content delivery in a changing media landscape. Nicholls (2006: 13) defines social entrepreneurship by two of its constituent elements: 'a prime strategic focus on social impact and an innovative approach to achieving its mission'. While Smallbones, et al. (2001: 18) highlighted the number of recurring objectives that usually guide SE such as: provision of goods and services which the market or public sector is either unwilling or unable to provide; developing skills and creating employment; as well as increasing inclusion; Bornstein (2004) extended the main SE operational areas to include: poverty alleviation through empowerment; health care; inclusive education; environmental preservation; and community regeneration. Despite its shortcomings (Dart, 2004) the social enterprise (SE) model has adapted itself 'to exploit a range of organisational forms – from charity to not-for-profit to commercial venture to maximise social value creation' (Nicholls, 2004: 10-11). Overall, for any form of SE, the social mission is explicit and central, and thus mission-related impact becomes the central criterion of performance, not wealth creation (Dees, 1998a: 2). Further conceptualisation of SE as a dynamic continuum (Dees, 1998b; Alter, 2002; Nicholls, 2006) allowed an understanding of its flexible nature, which over time, depending on societal priorities, can adapt various existing or innovative funding streams to ultimately become sustainable (see: Figure 2.1). In addition to these, Nicholls (2006: 13) also includes a public sector dimension to accommodate the introduction of co-production of public services, as well as network models which combine organisations and individuals dynamically. As such, these would in my analysis relate to participatory local media and local civic information/media hubs respectively.
Normative dimensions of Social Enterprise
Source: Nicholls (2006: 12), adopted from Dees, 1998b, and Alter, 2002.
This fluid economic conceptualisation of social action for change also allows categorisation of SE according to various social market failures (Nicholls, 2006: 16). Its application within the specifics of the current PSB landscape (Table 2.1), allows close examination of the dynamics and forms of the whole spectrum of social entrepreneurship in community media sector which have evolved throughout the last decade in this region of UK's North-West. Table 2.2 Market failures addressed by community-based media social enterprises in NW Origins
Social market failure
Lack of institutional support
Critical social entrepreneurship
Co-ordinated creation of social capital through local/community action
Media co-operatives : *SoapBox Films *Prescap/Bespoke -Tenantspin/LMHtv -BayTV; MonTV, ManTV
Changing social landscape
Normative social entrepreneurship
Promotion of new social institution
*WirralTV - People's Voice Media
Retreat of central government regulation from society
Introduction of enterprise/private sector market philosophy into public sphere
- Comm.Media Assoc. *ToxtethTV - CSV N-W
Philanthropic Lack of finance for Foundations Link business and social developing social coordinating charity innovation capital funds for start-ups Source: adopted from Nicholls (2006: 16). *current case studies.
- NESTA - MediaTrust - Community TV
Whether the SE model of social and economical change will eventually be picked up by, or will itself be able to reverse the current institutional framework of, the centralised and increasingly incorporated PSB environment remains to be seen. Meanwhile, the cases considered in this study provide an insight into the practical application of the SE model in the field of community media and their performance has to be evaluated within the analytical framework as well as against the established normative media policy framework, which will be discussed in the next section.
Background: Policy Role and Historical Context of Local TV in the UK
UK's Public Service Broadcasting: 1980s-2000s Historically, communications policy has had direct consequences for community media. As discussed in the literature review above, central themes of community media, in any form, are access and participation. Media policy can either strengthen these democratic principles or conversely form barriers to the enhancement of civic society as it pertains to media. As Tracey (1998: 39-40) points out: 'the definition of policies of national [public] broadcasting systems is 18
necessarily suggestive of a definition of policies for the whole society'. The issue of local television and questions about its future survival/renaissance in the UK can only be understood within the historical and political contexts of media policy in Britain in general. The future of the public service broadcasting (PSB) system in Britain as a whole is undergoing significant transformation. This can be seen in the numerous regulatory and departmental deliberations over the issue in recent years â€“ as reflected in the political and economic agenda of the late Labour and current Conservative governments. Current policy on local television in the UK is similar to the approach taken towards community radio under the 2004 Community Radio Order, which treated it as the 'third sector media' (characterised by participatory, non-profit production). In a similar manner, several attempts to introduce local television in the UK under the 1984 Cable and Broadcasting Act, 1990 Broadcasting Act, and 2004 Restricted television Service Licences have kept this new media sector without much attention or support, thus constantly pushing it to the margins of the existing system which, eventually, has led to its decline (Rushton, 1993; CMA, 1998; Hewson, 2005). The Community Media Association's (CMA, 1998) main policy position included 'participation' alongside the other three principles of PSB in the UK: to educate, inform and entertain. In 2009, the UK's broadcasting regulator Ofcom confirmed (in its characteristically ambiguous form) that 'the success of community radio in particular shows that voluntary and community based local... television has the potential to deliver public purposes, whether through commercial or not-for-profit services' (Ofcom, 2009 [my emphasis]).
One-to-many model Thus the concept of PSB and its core purpose to inform citizens in a democratic society is important in understanding the prerequisites and solutions for a sustainable model of local television. Throughout the large part of the 20th century factual programming, including news, documentary film and television has played an important role within the intra-national penetrative functions of the public service provision, successfully exercised by many states around the world since the end of the WWII. In the words of Gary Carter (2006: 7) 'this was the era of television as social instrument, the era of the rise of the public broadcaster'. According to Boyne (2000: 321) 'TelevisIon in its Public Service guise is an extension and expression of the welfarist schemes of the past...' that kept citizens informed 'as part of its public-service orientation'. Described in a more critical approach by Herman and Chomsky (1988: 1), as a propaganda model, this was a system 'for communicating messages and symbols to the general populace... to amuse, entertain, and inform, and to inculcate individuals with the values, beliefs, and codes of behaviour that will integrate them into the institutional structures of the larger society'. Therefore the current form of PSB, in a similar way to early documentary forms, has helped agents of the welfare state and social citizens to construct and shape their reality, and enable 'particular capacities and possibilities for action' (Palmer, 2003:4). Thus, paying tribute to these longestablished norms of the PSB system, the 2006 White Paper on broadcasting policy in the UK, has specified, in addition to promoting education and learning (i.e., functions, directly related to penetrative nature of public services of the state), that the BBC â€“ UK's main public broadcaster will have a clear role in '[s]ustaining citizenship and civil society' (DCMS, 2006 :3). It is expected that by engaging viewers in a dialogue about public life, public broadcasting would thus facilitate creation of common public space rather than a distinctive market space, based purely on individualised market transactions. PSB was thought to be based on the rejection of 'the market definition of broadcasting as the delivery of a set of commodities to consumers' and instead aimed towards 'the establishment of a communicative relationship' (Garnham, 1994: 18). However, the evolution of communication technologies throughout the last two centuries, which has led to an ever-growing dissemination of information to a greater number of people, has also spurred an evolutionary transition (Biggam, 2009: 166) â€“ the transfer of many national PSB systems in Europe from public to private ownership and funding. Increasingly, as can be witnessed in the UK, the ability to sustain the ever-growing number of services and diversity of messages is seen as a lucrative business that can be best accommodated by private corporate bodies and funding. By paraphrasing Tracey (1998) above, one can say that the definition of policies of national PSB determines policies for the whole society and vice versa. This view, for example, is clearly reflected 19
in the current radical intra-national split in the definition of policies on competition and public provision of common public goods that have developed recently both in Wales and in Scotland (see e.g.: Martin & Webb, 2009). In England it is now accepted that 'plurality and competition are an important aspect of PSB provision' (Burns, 2004: 10), Conversely, in Scotland in particular, the government has recently decided not to follow the market-based provision of local TV and, instead, opted to create its own, independent, national Scottish Digital Network (Scottish Government, 2011). This move, in particular, can be seen as Scotland forging ahead of the rest of the UK, independently towards, what Freedman (2008: 176) termed as 'digital broadcast nirvana'. If the English market-orientated competition model is accurate, attainment of this 'digital broadcast nirvana should have coincided with the relentless marketisation of the PSB during the previous decades, but, in reality this is still far from being achieved. (Cabinet Office, 2003) Moreover, Scotland's strategic move is justified if one accepts an assumption that 'a digital broadcast environment dominated by existing voices and organised along commercial lines is likely to serve unequal consumers and reproduce well-established patterns of concentration and influence' (Freedman, 2008: 178). In his review of the substantial amount of literature2 on the issue of neo-liberal influences on media policy in Britain, Freedman (2008: 47) suggests that the trends of deregulation, liberalisation, privatisation and marketisation have 'worked their way through the British and American media since the early 1980s'.The current commercial regulator's (Ofcom) position on the issue of local television in the UK, is that it will be 'automatically' solved by way of the purely technological Digital Dividend Switchover (DDS), aimed at new re-distribution of regional/independent media ownership. However, Freedman (2008: 49) believes that the widespread liberalisation of media ownership in the UK, which began under the 1996 Broadcasting Act, was a deliberate, state-driven ideologically-motivated process. Its aim then, as it is now, was to provide new owners with increased opportunities for accumulation and profitability, and in pursuit of this, it draws heavily on arguments of 'technological imperatives' and 'consumer sovereignty' and other 'free market' terminology of 'competition' and 'de-regulation' borrowed from and sponsored by neo-liberal policy circles and lobbyists, since: 'Neo-liberal media policy relies not simply on the use of market mechanisms in media environments, but on the recognition that market forces provide the most powerful logic for the organisation of the environment as a whole' (Freedman, 2008: 50)
Such understanding inevitably leads to further investigation of 'hypercommercialism' (McChesney, 2000:34), whose increasing expansion into our daily lives may be affecting democratic and collectivist values (Freedman, 2008: 52). In connection to this, for example, Peters (2004: 72, 80) notes that contemporary faith in market forces is backdated so that historic commitments to freedom of expression come to be articulated through concepts concerning economic exchange rather than the political struggle for social justice.
Public Interest in Broadcasting and Public Value Test (PVT) The understanding and interpretation of the concept of public interest (PI) underlies the very institution of Public Service Broadcasting (PSB) and plays a crucial role in the development and application of media policies (Freedman, 2008: 63). According to Napoli (2001: 63) it lies at the foundation of all other principles in communications policy. According to Freedman (2008: 65), 'public interest presupposes the existence of a 'common good' above and beyond the interests of individual consumer choice or of particular political or economic elites, from which follows the supposition that:
2 See, e.g.: Chakravartty, P. and Sarikakis, K. (2006) Media Policy and Globalisation. Edinburgh: Edinburgh UP, 2006; Hamelink, C. (2002) 'The civil society challenge to global media policy'. In M. Raboy (ed.), Global Media Policy in the New Millennium. Luton: University of Luton Press, 251-60; McChesney, R., (2000) Rich Media, Poor Democracy, NY: The New York Press, 6.
'Broadcasting should be publicly owned or regulated so that it serves the public good rather than private gain.' (Curran and Seaton, 1991: 348)
However, since the 1980s, the deregulation of the economy and telecommunications, which started in the US, and followed the logic dictated exclusively by individualised economic values, has resulted, according to Feintuck 'in a failure to serve the “public interest” that exists in the fundamental democratic expectation of equality of citizenship' (2004: 24). In Britain, this was reflected in the introduction by the New Labour of the 'public value test' in 2003, which was supposed to re-regulate the media sector based on principles of plurality of ownership, diversity of sources, economic benefits and market effects (DCMS/DTI 2001: 47). According to Horwitz (1989: 26), there is a fundamental weakness of PI conceptually 'because public interest theory is tied to a pluralist theory of power, it slights the structural importance of the economy and of economic power', and thus creates backdoor for private and corporate interests. This was illustrated when, in 1999, the then-CEO of ITV, Richard Eyre argued that in a multi-channel, viewer dominated digital media, the old paternalistic system of PSB would die out to be replaced by a more dynamic and less regulated system of 'public interest broadcasting'. (See also: Rushton, 1993: xiv). Such corporate encroachment is seen by both Freedman and Baker – agreeing with Habermas on 'refeudalisation' of the public sphere (Habermas, 1989) – as individualisation that threatens to eliminate 'a common public realm of discourse' (Baker, 2002: 290). According to Doyle (2002: 11-12), 'citizens expect and need a diversity and plurality of media content and media sources'. Thus, according to Freedman (2008: 72) 'while pluralism refers to the wider political context in which media operate, diversity is related to the media's ability to acknowledge and express existing social differences through maximising the choices offered to audiences'. Structurally pluralistic media is a prerequisite for media diversity – according to McQuail (1992: 147), the latter referring to 'variability of mass media (sources, channels, messages and audiences) in terms of relevant differences in society (political, geographical, social-cultural, etc.)'. Quite obviously, the introduction of a local tier of TV in the UK could be seen as directly contributing to the pluralism of the British TV landscape. However, if one takes Napoli's (2001: 137) warning that increased diversity of sources might not necessarily lead to greater diversity of content, then it is reasonable to foresee obvious problems emerging if new ownership of the nascent local media will require disproportionate allocation of national programming at the expense of local programming, for reasons of greater advertising margins. Another problem with the notion of 'pluralism' of UK media sources is that this version of 'commercialised liberal pluralism' Curran & Seaton, 1991: 296, Gibbons, 2000: 307) is fundamentally different from the established idea of democratic pluralism which initially defined the shape of the the public media space during the 20th century. In particular, according to Freedman (2008: 76-77), the 2000 Communications White Paper defining plurality of media services as 'the choice people can make between different providers of those services' (DTI/DCMS, 2000: 6), has clearly shown that the 'discourse of pluralism and diversity is... being... increasingly conceptualised in terms of efficiency, consumer satisfaction and customer choice', and that conceptualisation of media diversity and pluralism 'as twin outcomes of strategies' is 'designed to maximise consumer choice and market competition' (Freedman, 2008: 78). This push to maximise consumer choice and market competition culminated in the 2003 Communications Act, which 'conjoin[ed]', according to Livingstone et al. (2006: 22) the notions of 'citizens' and 'consumers' into 'citizen-consumer' under Ofcom's remit, while foregrounding 'competition as the primary instrument to further both consumer and citizen interests.'. This act also paved the way for developing objective 'hard evidence' quantitative measures (such as an 'economic value' and 'public value test') designed to 'measure' public realm pluralism, in order to produce models for a variety of (mostly privately owned) media structures (Freedman, 2008: 99). In contrast to this market-focussed model, the Community Media Association (CMA), define public value in quite different terms: “Community TV may be regarded as a merit good. There is no reasonable methodology to place a monetary value on such public benefits as educated citizens, 21
informed democracy, cultural understanding, access and inclusion and quality of life” (CMA, 2010: 16). As Ofcom (2006) itself notes, explaining why monetary value cannot be placed on such social benefits: “Many of the potential benefits of local services are social benefits that are unlikely to be taken into account by the market: social cohesion, democratic engagement, better-informed and more active citizens.” (Ofcom, 2006)
Despite resistance from Ofcom and the UK government, CMA believes that a network of local and community TV services is potentially, in itself, the new PSB system (as in other European countries), capable of providing a local voice that fulfils all the main objectives of public service broadcasting – informing ourselves, reflecting cultural identity, increasing knowledge and supporting tolerance and understanding (CMA, 2010: 17). The European Parliament resolution on community media in September 2008 called on all Member States: 'to make television and radio frequency spectrum available...bearing in mind that the service provided by community media is not to be assessed in terms of opportunity cost of the cost of spectrum allocation but rather in the social value it represents' (European Parliament, 2008 [my emphasis]). As has been observed in the European context (Rennie, 2006: 5, 78), community broadcasting through local television networks, in the majority of cases, was established as a result of continued bottom-up pressure from community groups, dissatisfied with the breakdown and decentralisation of the PSB monopoly structure, rather than through the topdown process of government-enacted legislation. Rushton confirms (1993: xiii) that Ctv must start with the ground-level involvement of citizens and community groups as active participants rather than passive viewers: citizen television testifies to the public's demand and desire for local forms of television, because 'if citizens are encouraged to participate in the expansion of broadcasting they can make a contribution to a shared understanding of the social and cultural processes which affect us all in our immediate lives'. Thus, Rushton (1993: 187) refers to local television primarily as an experience related service, rather than a vicarious service, which tends to come through the centralised PSB system in the UK. However, 'local television is a public service issue not so much because it has not been established commercially [in the UK so far] but because the involvement of the community in the service is the democratic demand that the service can achieve. Citizen can speak unto citizen' (Rushton, 1993: xiv). Indeed, 'the 'local' in local broadcasting raises questions about the control and representation of television... So local television is an economic strategy issue as well as an expression of the vitality of our local entertainment, education and culture.'(Rushton, 1993: 5). Yet, according to Rushton, 'the struggle in Britain to develop television to include local forms of communication, as a focus for cultural and social exchange and to enable local voices to be taken up nationally or shared with other local services has at every turn been undermined' (Rushton, 1993: xvi).3 A brief summary of the most recent public policy developments in regulating local broadcasting confirms the theoretical deliberations that both Freedman and Rushton have separately arrived at through their research in this area: that neo-liberal ideas of market economy have persistently dominated, to detrimental effect, the development of citizen-led, socially-viable local television service in the UK. Thus, in conjunction with wider world trends in PSB 'democratic decentralisation processes', the BBC in a 2004 review of its Royal Charter, announced its willingness to create a local service 3 Heading the Institute of Local Television in Scotland at the time, Rushton's team undertaken a study detailing the twists and turns of the Cable Authority and then its successor the ITC to protect cable operators in the UK from their legal responsibilities under the 1984 Cable Broadcasting Act (see, e.g.: Adrian Friedli, January 1991, in D. Rushton, op. cit., 1993: 41-76; and D. Rushton 'Reading the ITC's Mapping Regional Views', in D. Rushton, op. cit., 1993: 116-132). In July 1992 across 55 broadband franchises (out of 135 licenses awarded by ITC in 1990) 1,5 mln homes were passed by cable in UK, with some 330,630 ppl subscribed to cable services, with share of homes taking cable 21%.
network of some 60 stations and in late 2005 launched a pilot project in West Midlands to test local demand and provide evidence for a subsequent Public Value Test (PVT). Even then, however, Ofcom's Digital Local document (Ofcom, 2006: 3) favoured the principle of viable commerciallyfunded, metropolitan-based local television services above any other model, and warned against a possible 'overcrowding' effect of BBC's involvement with it. Once the PVT was concluded, it was deemed that local online BBC services would reduce commercial revenues by 4% and have a serious negative effect 'on future commercial innovation in online local news, sports and weather services' (Ofcom, 2008). Ofcom's response to this drastic withdrawal of the public national broadcaster – and also the independent Channel 3 broadcasters (ITV) – from the contemplated local media market, proposed the creation of the Independently Funded News Consortia (IFNCs) the following year, on the basis of restricted cross-media ownership. Three such collaborative groups were formed and won bids in Scotland, Wales and in England's North West and North East, thus leaving the rest of predominantly Conservative England without coverage, except for the major independent and other corporate media companies, increasingly falling under control from the Murdoch media empire. However, when the new Conservative-led Coalition government that came to power in the UK in May 2010, this plan was abandoned. That same year, adhering to the principles of the new PVT neo-liberal doctrine, Ofcom ordered a feasibility study into the sustainability of local TV in the UK based on the 'city-TV' model. Produced by the Lazard investment bank's CEO (Shott, 2010), the study confirmed the high costs (£2.5m/y) of an old-type of advertisement-based television model for local TV. However, further analysis into this issue (Enders, 2011) concluded that it would be possible to run such services with a budget comparable to that of current local newspaper operations (i.e., £0.5m/y). 2011 and 2012 finally saw the conclusion of the process of the Digital Dividend reform: Ofcom (2011, 2012) announced the rolling-out of the city-based commercially-viable local television scheme across the UK. The main points of this scheme can be summed up as follows: the first 20 Digital Terrestrial Television (DTT) licences (for the total period of 12 years) will be awarded to citybased companies; all cross-media ownership rules have been removed; independent production companies can now own more than the previously capped 25% of local media business; the new local channels will be freed from commissioning a minimum of 10% of production from the independents, and will have to produce a minimum of 1 hour of local news content per day. The local channels will benefit from the BBC's commitment to spend up to £15m on acquiring local content (up to 125 stories/month per licence, with an annual reverse progressive allocation, and under limited exclusive rights) for the duration of 3 years (beginning from April 2014), and £25m – on technical support for a single multiplex (MuxCo) local TV operator (DCMS, 2011). An industry body for local TV services is also expected to be created as a condition of licensing, for the purposes of advertisement sales, standards regulation, and audience assessment. As such, Ofcom has now taken a neutral position regarding 'the business model of the potential applicants', recognising 'the potential benefits of not-for-profit model, functioning solely for the interests of the local TV services', as well as allowing for 'a market-driven process' (DCMS, 2011: 26).
3. Case Studies â€œMedia becomes a place where groups can come together and achieve some sort of shared goal rather than just a source of information...â€? (Shirky, 2008)
The participatory production of video content is important for creating community spaces, which engage community members with civic issues through the acquisition and sharing of skills/knowledge within the context of sustainable development. Therefore there is a strong need to incorporate these components into the study of participatory community media. The previous chapter presented a complex theoretical and political background against which the case studies can be analysed and evaluated in relation to locally-produced television in Merseyside and Preston (Lancashire). In the last 5 years various types of not-for-profit organisations, including social enterprises, have set up and successfully run community-based video projects in the region, resulting in a sizeable social impact which can be measured in many ways. Many organisations, apart from offering micro-advertisement schemes for local businesses and promotional video coverage for large public and private organisations, have also used educative as well as participatory techniques for producing community- and citizenship-related content which is now widely available on-line. The case studies differ in the type of community organisation they represent, and in their basic structuring logic: while one (WirralTV) is a neighbourhood trust-based institution, primarily promoting community skills for low-income clients, ToxtethTV/Soapbox Films is a loose community-based educational/regeneration organisation, while Prescap/Bespoke is essentially an engaging co-operative-type experiment in social innovation through community media. Diverse in size and scope of operations, the three cases below demonstrate how structure and management practices of social enterprises in the communication sphere affect the media outcome, when analysed from a participatory-level perspective. In terms of participation, the social enterprises in question bear certain similarities as they generate various forms of participation, where the power relationship between media professionals and participants is fairly balanced, thus allowing the production and dissemination of community-important video content. However, in terms of social enterprise (SE) structure and the role participatory video (PV) plays within these communities organisations, they vary widely.
3.1. Wirral TV: Embedding Skills in Disadvantaged Communities History The establishment of Wirral TV (initially proposed as Birkenhead TV) is attributed (Interview A1) to the fact that in the early 2000s the whole metropolitan areas of Liverpool and Birkenhead (Wirral) re-qualified for another round of the EU regional development regeneration programme, financed through the European Social Fund (ESF). Its primary aim was to encourage local communities with severe deprivation levels (48 out of 354 in 2004, and 60 in 2007, according to EIMD scale; see: Communities and Local Government, 2008) to take responsibility and ownership of regeneration of this area. As a result of this process, 13 community partnership trusts (CPTs) were set up in the form of co-operative social enterprises, to run and subsidise provision of certain social services in the area, including social care, advice, and vocational education. Wirral TV (WTV) was set up through a regeneration-funded pilot project, following a feasibility study commissioned by Job Centre Plus and carried out in 2005 by Kerr and Kellgren (2006) of Bright Field media/creative industry consultancy firm, which had previously advised local authorities on a number of earlier successful, albeit short-lived, Community TV (Ctv) projects in the Liverpool Metropolitan region (e.g., in Knowsley, 1998, and Kensington Fields, 2005). It was precisely around this time that, on 21 March 2005, the then- Media and Heritage Minister, Lord McIntosh, while addressing the Scottish Local TV Forum, pointed to the potentially important role community TV could play in promoting the governmentâ€™s digital inclusion strategy:
'We envisage that local television will play a valuable role in keeping communities informed and in particular, help keep in touch those most socially isolated members of the community who may not have access, or are uneasy about using, new technology. Local television will also bring economic benefits to areas in terms of employment and training....' (DCMS, 2005)
Encouraged by the above statement, the guaranteed flow of EU funding that was available at the time (c. £70m over a 5 year period for the area involved) and technical advice (BrightField Ltd.), as well as secure organisational backing from one education partner (Birkenhead Six Form College), and an interested public sector partner (the JobCentrePlus became a guarantor for fund management), six CPTs (known as Birkenhead Community Regeneration Partnership) eventually came to a collective agreement to set up a collective service. This collective service would be for the purpose of promoting training and employment for local disadvantaged communities through the acquisition of new skills, IT, and media training. In December 2005 the concept of a community TV service was proposed and a 12 months feasibility study commenced. This culminated in the establishment of Wirral TV Ltd. in June 2007, in the form of a social enterprise limited by guarantee, which was officially launched on April 18, 2008. As the option of a more market-oriented Community Interest Company (CIC) was abandoned outright, the main establishing principle of WirralTV was that the new media service would become not a local channel, but a communityowned, not-for-profit resource. Vision Overall, the Bright Field-prepared feasibility study created a brief for the establishment of the Birkenhead-based community-shared TV service to be 'a tool of neighbourhood regeneration, democratic renewal and community empowerment' (Kerr & Kellgren, 2006: 4). It was 'not to compete with other television channels but to complement them' (Ibid., 20). A Steering Group was also set up, comprising all the stakeholders in the proposed Community TV project, and a Community Forum was suggested as a feedback mechanism for the project. The Study identified good practice, potential for job creation, training/education possibilities and future development models. As a socially responsible public service provider WTV was to implement a number of professional codes of conduct (Libel, Privacy/Consent, CRB checks, Environmental policy, Risk Assessment, and Financial Risk Management Plan). The company's primary objectives were identified as: training the community in new skills; establishing a web-based media service reporting on local issues; and supporting the Routeway to Employment generic skills building programme together with Jobcentre Plus (JCP) (Kerr & Kellgren, 2006, Appendix 1.1 a & b). The delivery mechanism was identified as community generated and produced local content – 'by community and for community' (Kerr & Kellgren, 2006: 5, 12), while the then very new Internet-based broadcasting was chosen as a platform for delivery, whereby a regional (NTL) provider's parter company was involved at an early stage (A1). Organisation As such, it is believed (A1) that the Pilot Project was much more of a compromise between different local/regional actors-stakeholders with different but overlapping interests. As a result, the project in its initial form was not able to process such a large volume of funding effectively (£350K over the last 4 years), due to the low level of operational capacity, and so it had to concentrate on building concentration streams. Structurally it became an amalgamation of organisations, with Birkenhead Development Trust as its anchor, providing office/studio facilities, and the other Local Community Trusts (Leasowe DT, Lairdside Communities Together Ltd., The Lauries Centre, N. Birkenhead Community Trust and Beechwood CT) – as partners. The strength of relationships between these actors proved to be a crucial factor in deciding the company's future, and the Steering Group, which later became the Governing Board of Directors, was set up with two directors from each Trust. Thus, after a drastic change in ownership of the enterprise, followed by the loss of one of the major funding streams (Working Neighbourhood Plan) in 2010, the Memorandum and Articles of Association governing Members' Board was changed to include 3 directors from Lairdside Trust and 1 other from North Birkenhead Development Trust. This Board 25
change undermined the plurality of vote and drastically diminished diversification/breadth of skills among the trustees, further exacerbating the existing issues of continuity/contingency, related to the minimal staffing policy, which from the beginning of the project was ingrained into the company's structure (Kerr & Kellgren, 2006: 7 and 8). Funding Initially several funding streams were successfully identified and deployed for the project: the government's Neighbourhood Renewal Fund (NRF), Single Regeneration Budget, and the EU Social Fund. One of the primary concerns regarding this model was twofold: the total start-up costs (some £200K for the Pilot Project), and financial sustainability in the future. The 2008 Memorandum of Association for Wirral TV assumed that the newly created service would become self-sustainable within 5 years, and in just 3 years would establish core renewable project work based on contracts or commissions. By then the grant dependency was hoped to be reduced to only to 10% of the total budget. Currently WirralTV's annual turnover is at its lowest - £60K, with one third of it being sourced through grant applications, and another third through cash-flow reserve, the rest being filled through the inflow of occasional residual advertising/project revenue inflow (A1). In 2009, when the initial Pilot was coming to an end, an application for funding to continue the Pilot Project for another 2 years was made to the Working Neighbourhoods Fund, but was eventually refused. At the same time there was no indicative growth of the established social enterprise business as a company, which was aggravated by cash flow problems from the ongoing projects/contracts (A1). Thus there was a need for a cash reserve, and the Steering Group asked the founder's trusts to provide £5000 each in funding. As a result of negotiations only the largest of the trusts (Lairdside Communities Together) agreed to provide the necessary money for the continuation of the project, thus becoming the sole founder/funding body of Wirral TV since then. Among the latest big undertakings for WTV was the Cascade project, run as part of the Government's informal adult learning strategy (the Learning Revolution), and administered through the Department of Innovation and Skills (DIS, 2009). Having successfully secured a small-scale (in terms of the DIS framework) £10K grant from the DIS's Transformation Fund, WTV successfully partnered other local community-based and social organisations for four months, to provide the 'use of broadcasting and technology to stimulate and support learning' for the delivery of some 60 informal training workshops around the Wirral (A2). Impact As viewed currently by its management, WTV is still in the early stages of establishing its social business, whereby it still has to prove its productivity level and establish its social product as intended in the Memorandum (A1). Although its brand was envisaged to cover the whole of the Wirral peninsula's diverse communities, WTV remained in essence a Birkenhead TV, as it was initially named in the feasibility study. Even though increasing numbers of people know about its services either through participation or referral, there is still a feeling among the people I have spoken with during this research, that it remains largely unknown among the majority of the borough's population of some 300,000. Despite this, over the four years of its existence it provided quality training for some 233 people in the area, including 84 trainees and 24 volunteers, all of whom have contributed to the production of over 200 short videos of varying content, more than half of which was created using participatory techniques (see: Appendix B). Some 75% of its trainees have since found employment, and for a period of time selected WTV shorts were shown on Sky Community Channel OC167. Over the last four years WTV has provided regular coverage of some major regional and community events within its social webcasting remit, concentrating on areas of local healthcare, jobs, government, environment, arts, history and education. However, despite having an established production office/studio in a Trust-owned community/business centre, no regular shows/webcasts were developed during this time, with the exception of some regular astrological forecast and some home cookery shorts (A2). The company's website which hosts the media 26
output has also provided online advertising opportunities for local businesses; now it mostly displays social advertising banners. After the initial successes with the general set-up of the digital platform during the Pilot, the Greater Merseyside Digital Development Agency (GMDDA) was consulted in 2007 on the matter of integrating WTV's services into a wider regional framework, but did not receive much input, aside from a suggestion to form voluntary alliances with similar partners in the North-West (N-W) region (A1). In a similar way, WTV initially considered expanding its training/consulting operations to a regional scale. As the project was supported by Birkenhead Sixth Form College, the intention was to develop and accredit full- and part-time media training programmes within the Creative Media Employment Routeway scheme (NVQ level). However, after initial consultation, no further partnership was established to achieve this objective. Similarly, after just a few months of running in 2008, a privately owned subsidiary of WTV which managed an Adult Enterprise Mentor Programme aimed at training new industry entrants did not take off and the company left WTV. Moreover, since the success of the Cascade/Transformation Fund (BIS, 2010) project in 2010, a clear specialisation has started to develop in WTV's product provision, which is related to building soft skills through multimedia support of a learning project for different social clients (e.g., NEET: young people Not in Education, Employment or Training), based in partnering the community trusts that initially established WTV back in 2007. Most recently – undertaking commissions through Acceler8, LiverpoolOne, and WirralWings – skills learning projects have confirmed this initial trend (A2). As of now, WTV still retains a competitive portfolio of media services with a clearly defined and marketed training offer, and maximises opportunities through building partnerships locally, in order to survive in the fast-changing market environment of local media (A1, WTV Business Development Plan, LCT, June 2010).
3.2. ToxtethTV Media Cluster of Regeneration: Soapbox Films History Soapbox Films Ltd. (SBF) was established in 2006 as a co-operative of education and media industry professionals within a larger and older community media organisation – ToxtethTV (TTV). However, before considering the SBF example, the short story of ToxtethTV community media organisation needs mentioning. ToxtethTV currently provides space and delivery platform for 8 other similar community-based art, media and consultancy micro-businesses. It was initially set up in 2002 as a company limited by guarantee by a private-public consortium, within the Community Media Centres (CMC) concept. Under the Government's UKOnline (DfEES, 2000) vision, whose aim was to increase facilitation of creative and cultural production, formal and informal media training, some 600 of these CMCs were to be rolled-out with the help of £10m funding across the country. However, only two such centres came into existence (TTV in Liverpool and Youth Culture Television – YCTV, in London), with the assistance of the incumbent Department for Education and Skills (now DIS). One of the notable (Hewson, 2005: 87) economic benefits that could have arisen from this abandoned marriage of broadcasting media with the IT sector, was the fact that 'with the continued expansion of mobile communication services, citizens have proven that they are willing to pay for practicable and user-friendly one-to-one telecommunications services, thus providing a potential revenue stream to be utilised in the development of community content'. TTV however, was initially a local regeneration project, which sprung out of co-operation between a local media production company (Exterminating Angel) and Liverpool Community College (represented by Media Station training enterprise). It was supported by funding from the European Social Fund (ESF) (circa £200K match funding) and aimed to provide free or subsidised media training to local people. Initial public sector investment was required for rebuilding and upgrading media centre facilities in Toxteth (£1.8m from Capital Modernisation Fund, £980K from ERDF). After this, the project, was to become self-sufficient (through managed office space, rented out to creative sector firms to cover £80K in maintenance fees), except for the educational stream, which required a continuous subsidy throughout the project's life (Aitken, 2003: 3,17). The operating model of the project was therefore designed along the mix of private and social enterprise lines. Thus, operating on several independent levels – media training, workspace, and community 27
resource centre – the newly-founded creative media hub had among its ambitious objectives both: - Creation of 'a sustainable media cluster contributing to Merseyside creative media industry', and - 'Stimulation of a more active and effective community' (Aitken, 2003: 12). As of today, the first objective is still functional, mostly in relation to the creative sector living off the residual legacy left after the 2008 Liverpool Capital of European Culture. However, combined with recession and cuts in funding, many small independent company-tenants are starting to feel the strain of diminishing funding sources (C1). With regard to the second objective: despite receiving praise for being a genuinely locally-based and maintained initiative, TTV still had much work to attract other community organisations, in order to truly become a local resource and media hub.4 In this respect, some of the failures of the technology-only based approach of CMCs as they were originally proposed, highlight the fact that: 'funding should be aimed, in the first instance, towards community development, rather than technology roll-out, and this should be assessed in the light of an audit of existing local technology use, and additionally community partnerships should be placed on a legal footing at an early stage, providing adequate back up and training, and considering long term sustainability issues and nontechnological goals, including the recognition of 'soft targets' (e.g., personal confidence) via 'informal learning strategies'. (Hewson, 2005: 87)
This statement is partly true in TTV's case, which, following the successful example of YCTV, from the start invested heavily in the acquisition of local venue and operations space, including professional video studio, as well as modern audio/video production kit. This, however, was done with no previous research into the customer base, and it was assumed that simply providing access to modern media tools in a socially deprived area would work magic. TTV's ongoing work has been in renting out work- and studio space to its tenants and social clients, as well as occasional major commissions (such as the Transformation Fund In Focus project, 2009-10). However, the organisation now also runs its own brand of media educational programmes (a BTEC accredited 'College First Media' course) with support from Liverpool Community College, and has recently (December 2011) acquired a People's Voice Media licence to run a citizen's journalism programme and related training in the local community. Although belated, with time these measures will hopefully develop the critical level of community involvement necessary to make this project sustainable in terms of its local outreach, its function as a media hub, and its objective in stimulating “a more active and effective community”. Purpose and Operations SBF, which rents space at TTV, also collaborates with them on a regular basis on many educational media projects. SBF states its aim as to 'enable and support individuals and groups, from deprived, excluded and diverse communities, to use digital video for their and/or their community’s benefit' (SBF, 2006). As its key purposes are access and equal opportunities, this media co-operative provides access to video training skills and/or video production possibilities for groups who are traditionally excluded from the mainstream media production, and 'seeks to bring out the often hidden creativity and artistic capabilities of the people...', as well as to 'enhance transferable skills, such as self-confidence and the ability to develop ideas, all of which is achieved through involvement through video production process' (SBF, 2006). SBF recognises the value of PV in many ways, in particular stressing that the 'learning process that participants go through during the training projects is one of the most important aspects and one of our key aims for the training projects is that the participants feel ownership through the project and take on lead roles throughout in areas such as writing, directing, sound recording, editing and production management (SBF, 2006). Because of the learning specialisation of SBF, all of its PV projects have gained an OCN accreditation with the Liverpool Community College, whereby one of SBF's 4
For example, in 2011 ToxtethTV set up a charitable arm, Splendid Things, in order to attract extra funding for projects, such as neighbourhood green regeneration projects with another local social enterprise, Squash Nutrition, as well as Home Office/Liverpool Youth Service-funded CAGGK (Communities Against Guns, Gangs and Knives).
tutors is currently teaching a media course. Another important aspect of SBFs work through participatory production is the organisation and supervision of peer support activities, which is part of the usual follow-up to every PV project, going alongside consulting on further education and funding opportunities for youth enterprise start-ups (C1). Thus, the peer education model offers a potentially natural and non-hierarchical way of disseminating knowledge related to PV among the wider community. However, as recognised by SBF, the major setback to this participatory framework is that the timeframe of 6-12 months for an average project is not enough to see through all such start-ups (C1). Funding At the beginning of its activities in 2006 SBF had successfully run 10 PV projects of varying scale with disadvantaged youth in collaboration with other media charities (Media Trust and Mediabox/First Light Film). Following this success, in 2008 a Lottery grant was awarded to run an Expanding Horizons stream of 37 projects worth £99K with match funding from some 20 other public and third sector organisations (e.g., Children in Need, Liverpool PCT, etc.). However, due to economic recession, only 74% of funding has found its match so far, which made delivery of these PV projects at the same level as in the 2006-08 period more difficult if not impossible (C1). In 2010 the City of Liverpool and PCT provided some funding from their 2010 Year of Wellbeing programme and SBF was able to run a 58% discount service on a number of health-related and issue-based music PV projects. However, by March 2011 SBF had to make all its staff redundant and undertake work on a project-by-project basis, simultaneously re-negotiating delivery standards with the Lottery (C1). Falling back on co-producing summer community video courses with TTV seems to act as a 'safety net' in difficult times. Impact The output of almost 40 PV productions over the last four years, with minimal staffing and funding resources, resulted in SBF training some 264 young people from disadvantaged areas of Liverpool and the surrounding areas, 42% of whom have gained an OCN accreditation, almost two thirds wanted to be involved in another PV production and almost half wanted to proceed with peer education on an independent basis (SBF, 2011). Given these encouraging participatory results, SBF's management hoped that the new Coalition government's priority of developing the potential of cooperatives and social enterprises would facilitate SBF gaining public sector contracts in the near future (C1). Whether this aspiration will materialise in the current media policy environment, as discussed in the previous Chapter, remains to be seen. Meanwhile, however, after its successful record of community service delivery through mixed funding, SBF has now gained a two year contract with Knowsley Borough Council, commencing in 2014, as their approved supplier of positive video-related activities for disadvantaged young people.
3.3 Speak Up Preston/Bespoke – Empowering Community Through Innovation Speak Up Preston (SUP) – a community-centred news and information portal – was set up by a local group of media projects and charities: Prescap (a culture and arts charity organisation); Blog Preston (a hyper-local civic journalism social enterprise); PrestonFM Community Radio; CSV N-W (a branch of the national volunteering and training charity); and the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan) School of Journalism, Media and Communication's Bespoke research project. This group of media projects and charities were successful in applying for NESTA's Neighbourhood Challenge Lottery funded programme in November 2010 (NESTA is the National Endowment for Science, Technology and Art: a charitable arm of the Department for Technology and Innovation). SUP was run in parallel with UCLan's School of Journalism, Media and Communication's Bespoke research project, funded by the Research Council's (RCUK) Digital Economy programme. Working in partnership with PrestonFM and CSV N-W, SUP's aims were to: create 'a surge of community journalism, enabling anyone to use technology and report and question what is happening around them', and thus provide not simply 'a platform for these communities', but to connect 'collective voices for positive change'. (NESTA, 2010)
Parallels can be drawn here with the recent controversy over the introduction of a decentralised model of local TV in the UK 'from scratch'. Initiation of small community-innovation projects such as SUP is thus ultimately tied up with a higher agenda of understanding 'what conditions beyond top-down regulation such as the Localism Act, can help create an enabling environment for community-led action' (NESTA, 2012: 4). In short, the answer to this from the SUP project was twofold: I) that citizen-led innovation on the ground is catalysing change, and, II) that funders and support agencies can play their role by 'creating programme-level conditions that encourage ... change and unlocking [of] untapped assets... to flourish through... a combination of flexible support, relationships and small amounts of catalytic funding' (NESTA, 2012: 33). Thus, since SUP is by its nature a complex customised and collaborative project, its assessment requires a brief background overview of its partner organisations. History As lead organisation in the project, Prescap, which was itself born out of the local community back in 1985, has used a range of art forms in a dynamic way to support regeneration, social cohesion, and community development in several of the most deprived areas of Preston (some of which have levels of deprivation of 48; see: Communities and Local Government, 2008). In 2005, after the closure of the local radio station, UnityFM, Prescap founded Preston FM – another community radio station, which now reaches a local audience of some 40,000 (19% of Preston/Chorley area), broadcasting some 80 hours of original home-grown radio each week (B1). In April 2010 the Neighbourhood Management Area Based Grant (which had previously supported 4 teams, a total of 30 people, working with deprived communities) was severely cut by the current government. This created a gap in the provision of community-based services and also indicated that the current community financing instruments are not sustainable (B1). Through practical engagement with a number of communities throughout Preston in summer 2010, Prescap was able to identify areas of social need and also potential partners for the project. For example, while partnering with UCLan's Bespoke project based around Callon and Fishwick, the short residence in the communities of Ribbleton and St.Matthews prompted the extension of the SUP project to these areas too (B1). Bespoke is a digital design project which, using the method of 'insight journalism' – a participatory process that involves people in designing solutions to their own needs – explores the impact that different digital media outlets can have on wider consultation, regeneration and innovation processes within the community (Bespoke, 2011: 1). Yet another partner organisation, Blog Preston, is a micro social enterprise which was originally set up in January 2009, and now covers local news for some 5000 online monthly readers, aiming 'to establish a space for collaborative community media' bringing together Preston's communities. The Community Service Volunteers (CSV) in Preston is a north-western branch of the national training and volunteering charity, which works towards a society where everyone can participate fully to create healthy, enterprising, inculsive communities (CSV, 2012). In the two years prior to collaborating with SUP, CSV also sucesfully delivered, together with UCLan's School for Communities, Rights and Inclusion, an 'Ambassadors for the Future' media project - designed to creatively engage NEET youths through citizenship education - and financed through the EU's ESF and the Learning and Skills Council (LSC, 2009). In this way, all the colaborators in the project were from the same area and have either worked together on previous projects or were aware of each other's work and priorities. Funding Prescap runs both charity and training activities, as well as some commerical operations, such as letting out its conference/office space. Some £50-40K a year (10% of its overall budget) comes from the Radio FM commercial activity, while the rest is sourced through grant funding and charity. Over time Prescap itself became a project-resource centre which helps (by overseeing & preparing) other smaller community organisations with funding applications (of funds less than £10K) (B1). The Bespoke project was generously funded with £1m Research Council UK (RCUK) money from their Digital Economy fund for the last two years. CSV is a national charity with some 30
£31m worth of charitable activity, which has also established a number of community-owned social enterprises across the UK and spends 70% of its funds on training and enterprise, including some 40 social action media centres across the UK (CSV, 2011).5 Thus, although the SUP/Bespoke project has had stable grant-dependent funding so far, its sustainability is essentially understood by project organisers to be dependent upon 'maximising local assets, not addressing local needs', which, therefore shifts the role of funding 'away from a providing role to a more enabling role' (NESTA, 2012: 22, author's emphasis). Impact According to Mills (Bespoke, 2011: 39), local partnerships 'have a tangible impact' in improving communication and better understanding between social organisations involved and social tenants. As Egglestone observed (Bespoke, 2011: 15) on discussing the outcomes of this project: it attempted to 'adapt stories to exploit the technologies potential for connecting with people in a more meaningful way or to encourage them to participate on their own terms'. In this respect, this echoes Hewson's (2005: 87) argument above, regarding the aspirations for rolling-out new digital/IP platform for local television across some (mostly urban) locations in the UK, in that the SUP project has clearly demonstrated that: 'spreading locally-led innovation is less about the invention and rolling-out of new and off-the-shelf engagement tools and methods' and more about 'drawing on what we collectively know from years of best practice in community participation' and 'applying new combinations of tools and methods in a more collaborative, asset-focused and locally led way' (NESTA, 2012: 33). Thus, for example, the Bespoke project, which has initially spanned over two years, had first to recruit and train up to 50 community journalists, launch the online media site, and get the reporting underway, and only in the second year, using a wellestablished participatory production process, could they create five final 'community-centred' rather than 'user-centred' product concepts for further replication/adaptation through text, video, audio and photographic stories shared through a hyper-local website (Egglestone/Bespoke, 2011:12). In this way, the online technologies were used only to provide a repository for the digital materials and documents collected throughout the project, which, in the end, sought collaboration with Contour local social housing and People's Voice Media (PVM) to provide proper infrastructure and/or expertise for connecting people and information in a locally meaningful way (Mills/Bespoke, 2011: 20), while Bespoke provided the so-called 'physical apps', designed together with the community to collect/relay hyper-local information (Rogers/Bespoke, 2011: 38). Training of some 15 community journalists using its temporary base at Contour Housing in the Callon area, has resulted in the establishment of a self-organised, voluntary media group – CAve Media, which has maintained its collective and individual information blogs, alongside producing some 50 short videos about their community (during the 6 months of their rather brief existence). More than 70% of their work consisted of producing participatory, issue-driven content (See: Appendix B). However, as a result of their relentless work, by luck and coincidence one of the journalistvolunteers was later employed as a permanent member of staff within Prescap's media department (B1). Despite these relative successes, the head lead of the SUP project – Prescap – had to close down in March 2012 due to the harsh economic environment, having successfully employed 94 local artists for participatory projects and raised some £1.2m of funding through various sources to finance these community projects throughout the last 3 years. Thus, while at the beginning of the project all of the communities involved characterised themselves as places with low levels of participation and underdeveloped participation infrastructure (i.e., community facilities and organisations) (NESTA, 2012: 9), towards the end of the six months, even if such infrastructure was created with a limited lifespan, it provided a brief catalyst for people to start thinking and talking collectively in order to decide, what they want to change (Ibid.).
5 As part of its contribution to the UK's share of 2010 European Year for Combatting Poverty and Social Exclusion, CSV produced some 14 hours of airtime for local BBC radio stations, potentially reaching some 1.3m listeners (CVS, 2011).
4. Measuring Local TV Performance 'The Internet, particularly through its linkages into traditional media, now gives any local actor the potential to reach global audiences' (Hardt & Negri, 2000)
4.1 Participatory Video through Social Enterprise The analysis of primary and secondary data related to the issue of sustainability of local community television practices in three selected cases rests on understanding how participatory methods in media production are suited to the attainment of the overall goals of these social enterprises. The three case studies were selected through preliminary research that verified them against the following criterion: that cases are social enterprises in some form or another, i.e. their goal is to deliver affordable community communication and media educational services for a common good. At the moment, due to the economic recession, all the community media organisations reviewed are currently operating at the minimum staffing level under reduced funding levels. Therefore, it was challenging at times to get access to the necessary information about current activities, and some organisations proved to be quite insular, distrustful of motives (given the current unstable financial situation and increased competition for funding), and uncooperative with the research. None of the case-study community television organisations has been using participatory video (PV) techniques explicitly as their preferred delivery choice, but in some cases (especially in Soapbox Films/TTV) it was implicitly recognised as the most suitable method by the professionals involved in the delivery of service (C1). In the case of Wirral TV, PV methods were considered from the pilot stage, but were never formalised within the day-to-day running of the service and their application is implicit. The following analysis shows that there were both benefits and disadvantages in applying this approach in practice.
Social Enterprise models and Ctv case studies In general, it is understood that the entrepreneur support model of social enterprise (Alter, 2007: 32) which sells business support and financial services to its target population (its 'clients': selfemployed individuals and firms), is an 'embedded' model, whereby the regeneration program is the business and its mission. This model can also be easily combined with the so-called 'fee-forservice' model (Alter, 2007: 42) by commercialising its social services and selling them directly to target populations with the aim to render social services in the sector it works in (health, education). Thus the social enterprise here achieves sustainability by charging fees for services, and income is used as a cost-recovery mechanism, while any surplus is reinvested to subsidise social programs that do not have a built-in cost-recovery mechanism. The combined model of social enterprise clearly fits the example of Toxteth TV (TTV), which, from the very beginning, had strong backing from private local businesses, while the community media centre itself can now be considered as relatively self-sustaining through the venue-hire mechanism (Aitken, 2003: 3). The example of Soapbox Films (SBF) seems to fit better the 'fee-for-service' model through the offer of its PV and media educational services to youth groups which are packaged (with the use of accreditation through LCC) and sold to its social clients at more than 50 percent discount. Lately, however, difficulties that this business status creates in applying for educational grants (Aitken, 2003: 17), as well as the need for an additional stream of funding due to the latest cuts in social spending for client organisations and major funding bodies, have prompted the creation of a charity branch of TTV. Similar problems have forced SBF lately to make all its staff redundant and run at minimum operational capacity (C1). Overall, in this particular case, a symbiotic relationship exists between a local media hub (TTV), set up for regeneration purposes, with a specialised media delivery co-operative (SBF), and has resulted in a product with 100% PV output. TTV's example has also proven that a media hub is a dynamic and interchangeable model, which could sustain itself and its tenants/clients throughout a 32
substantial period of time (almost a decade). In addition to private initiative and socially invested capital, a crucial element that kept this set-up afloat was the presence and active structural involvement of a local, publicly-funded educational establishment â€“ Liverpool Community College (LCC). The above elements, together with SBF's expertise, dedication and professionalism, ensured high standards of delivery of the community-oriented product through the PV method, which almost certainly guarantees the attainment of the desired 'soft' targets. However, its longterm value in terms of sustainability remains unknown beyond the simple numbers of youths and people in need of social support and care who have been involved through PV. The assessment of overall PV contribution to the creation of 'bonding' and 'bridging' social capital was also hampered by a lack of collaboration from TTV officials with the present research. In general, as the TTV/SBF case demonstrates, drawing and depending exclusively on voluntary resources of and funding available to the underprivileged young people in a particular area, although it benefits them, may also create what Laville and Nyssens (2001: 326) termed as 'philanthropic particularism'. Thus, one of the factors that may contribute to the lack of success in this area is the limited level of distribution of the finished product in the community, beyond the immediate project audience (see: Table 4.2). Moreover, absence from the existing Toxteth hub of another media actor (such as a community radio station, e.g. as in Preston), or a partnership with a local newsdesk (e.g., BayTV in Liverpool) has limited the distribution capability of the generated PV media. Perhaps TTV's recent accreditation with the People's Voice Media voluntary community news organisation, specialising in training and supporting citizen journalism, will remedy this shortcoming. Overall, the TTV example testifies against the media-savvy Labour government's initial idea of establishing, on the basis of TTV, 'a sustainable media cluster contributing to Merseyside's creative media industry' (Aitken, 2003: 12). This part of the initial project has not been realised, due both to local factors (brief life and limited legacy of 'Liverpool 2008 European Capital of Culture'), as well as national media policy ones (government's final abandoning of the IFNC idea in June 2010 due to its position on cross-ownership rules). In fact, the application of the neo-liberal idea of cluster creation (or horizontal integration), appears to be unfit for the operation of the community media SE model within a given locality, as its theoretical basis originally lies with a mass media portfolio theory which was subsequently applied to the cross-platform media environment (e.g., Martin, 2005). Although this media cluster theory predicts product diversification in certain cases, in others it has led to a number of economic complications, which may include: rising costs, stagnation of advertising revenue, homogeneity of programming, and a short lifespan for the clusters themselves (see, e.g., Litman, et al., 2000). Thus, the above case only further advances the previously discussed thesis (Fenton, et al., 2010: 42; Kurpius, 2003) that the democratic potential of local media is at odds with the structural practices of local news production. Therefore, one may conclude that the conventional media model, relying on a short-term gain, mass advertising schemes, and regarding programmes as assets, is altogether incompatible with community-based television, which, in contrast, considers social capital and participation as assets that directly guarantee its long-term sustainability. In addition, TTV's case shows the inadequacy of isolated engagement strategies for reaching the goals of 'communication for social change' (Gray-Felder & Deane, 1999), which requires the creation of strong partnerships among local stakeholders, to ensure the successful achievement of community regeneration objectives (Tompkins, 2010). In this respect, the example of TTV in Liverpool over the last decade, has indicated that the initial 'entrepreneur support' model, which was initially adopted, has metamorphosed over time into an informal 'co-operative' model of SE (Alter, 2007: 40), whereby it now provides benefits to its member tenants, who eventually became stakeholders in the delivery of the social regeneration program of the local area. As such, this could become a structural example for the possible establishment of future community media hubs. Therefore, as discussed by Fenton, et al. (2010: 8-10), this example can 'further the creation of genuinely local public service content' through inclusive and collaborative partnerships between media organisations, educational institutions, individuals and civil society groups, thus promoting participation and further expansion of the public sphere. In cases where local groups were able to engage through TTV with wider national policy-making processes, 6 PVs demonstrated the potential 6
In 2010, as part of In Focus (a BIS Transformation Fund-based project) at TTV, a group from Liverpool Carers Centre at Local Solutions produced a community show called 'Lion Taming', which
for creating and distributing the highest, 'linking' form of social capital, crucial for the sustainability of this social enterprise (SE). However the limited number (low replicability) and circulation of such content, possibly caused in part by 'philanthropic shortfall' and by 'philanthropic particularism', may prevent social capital, as created in the form of PV, to be developed and distributed further. In the case of WirralTV (WTV), the making of community video product was, from the outset, both a resource as well as an end, to success and survival. There the participatory production process carried out by non-professionals and volunteers had 'a great value as an exercise in team-building and in generating a sense of community', thus becoming 'at least as if not more important than the finished product' (Kerr & Kellgren, 2006: 7, 23). Thus, it was believed that potentially the PV process 'of local people coming together to talk about their neighbourhood, their aspirations and their day to day lives is what will unlock the door of greater participation in community affairs and team work' (Ibid., 31). Since WTV was set up to provide a service 'that does not already exist' (Ibid., 20), including a social video on demand (VOD) network (Ibid., 31-32), in general it can be attributed to what Alter (Alter, 2007: 33) termed as a 'market intermediary' model. In this embedded model, a SE provides services to its social 'clients' to help them sell their product to the market. Initially, however, in terms of outright sustainability, WTV's designers envisaged some sort of co-operative SE model in the feasibility study (Kerr & Kellgren, 2006: 39), which would have involved all the parties involved sharing resources to keep operating costs low. However, after the 2 year pilot trial was over and the new community media SE had to justify its sustainability in the long-run, an integrated 'market linkage' model, combined with the 'service subsidisation' model (Alter, 2007: 42 and 44), was considered but later abandoned (A2). This was done because the combined (market linkage-service subsidisation model) presupposed a complex overlap in costs and assets, while the business mandate would have become separate from the overall social purpose of WTV. There were concerns at that point that WTV would become more like a commercial video and training agency, rather than a genuine SE (A2). Furthermore, as highlighted in Chapter 2, the heterogeneity of many stakeholders that helped the WTV project to be realised in the first place, combined with the financial instability of the initial phase of the project, eventually led to the 'establishment of a single stakeholder ownership that eliminates the original heterogeneity' in 2010 (Laville & Nyssens, 2001: 316). In the end, ambitions to provide an intermediary platform between the community-producers and a Wirral-wide 'community television' channel (for the local community and local businesses), as desired by the local council, were not realised. Another project not realised was a basic co-operative model of sharing resources and produced content – after a majority takeover of WTV operations in 2010 by one large community regeneration trust. These shortcomings were exacerbated when the educational part of the project (Birkenhead 6th Form College) – whose role was to provide qualifications-based training to community members in utilising WTV as a resource for regeneration – did not join in, as no additional grant-funding was attracted (this can be compared with TTV's case), and no additional revenue created through micro-advertising. All of these factors may have contributed to the long-term instability of the whole project, which, despite problems, did manage to produce a comparatively high online output of community-oriented video (Table 4.1). However, only half of this video output (programming length) was in the form of PV. This might suggest that WTV has used PV both as a resource and as a service in equal shares, however, over three quarters of its productions (no. of videos produced) is done using the PV method. Some negative factors which may have contributed to WTV's limited development are: the large area and population of the Wirral (300,000 people), small production facilities, and a lack of funding.
was broadcast on 19 March, and further used for a presentation at the All Party Select Committee at the Houses of Parliament. A subsequent programme made on its basis included interviews from MPs. (Carers News, 23 (1), Liverpool City Council/Local Solutions, 2010: 1); On 9 May 2011, TTV together with Liverpool Community Volunteer Service organised a media event, based around Community Question Time show, to debate the government’s idea of Big Society.
Online Popularity of Local/Community Video
Name of CTV
No. of participants
No. of Share of PV productions productions %
Total Video Output
Share of PV output %
SoapBox Films (Toxteth, Liverpool) 2008
CAve Media/Bespoke (Preston,
LMH:TV (Liverpool, Merseyside)
CSV N-W (Preston, Lancs)
Total video output:
Total PV output :
Speak Up Preston (Preston FM, Lancs)
Wirral TV (Birkenhead, Merseyside) For comparison:
Source: Appendix B.
The only examples where there is a close correlation between PV share of productions (number of videos produced) and PV share of output (programming length), thus allowing speculation about the meaningful productive impact of PV in terms of community empowerment and/or regeneration are: a) CAve Media (part of SUP/Bespoke) and b) an associated project, although not included in this research as a case study: Liverpool Mutual Homes online television service – a modern successor to the Tenantspin project (LMH:TV, 2011). Although separated geographically, both cases have a shared ideological underpinning – based on the idea that participants in 'a creative digital art/technology get a sense of pride in and confidence about the potential and abilities of the community as a whole' (Keaney, 2005). Moreover, structurally, they have adopted an operating model based on PV, which was also embedded in the co-production of housing services. Beginning from 1999, this model was successfully applied in Liverpool by the Foundation for Art & Creative Technology (FACT), together with Liverpool Housing Action Trust/Arena Housing through a high-rise social housing media collective – Tenantspin (involving 117 people and producing over 500 webcasts).7 Thus, according to Alter's (2007: 35) description of social enterprises, this model can be classified as a somewhat modified 'employment' model, which usually provides employment opportunities and job training to its 'clients' – people with significant barriers to employment – and sells/distributes their product to the market, or within the community. This model also provides sustained grouping, which is necessary for participatory project continuity: both participants and audience in the PV process are usually from the same geographically defined area (housing community) and share/reflect upon same environmental/development issues. In addition to this, both hosting and/or partnering media organisation (FACT in LMH:TV's case and PrestonFM/SUP/Contour in CAve Media's case) have ensured high visibility and higher levels of distribution of the content produced among wider online/public audiences. Moreover, CAve Media had intended (B1) to replicate the example of CSV N-W's successful adoption of Community Television Trust's (CTVT) community 'multi-' media template (Haydon, 2007): 'Web-Event-TV', which was also successfully used throughout the history of the Tenantspin project. This template generally involves web coverage of the issue with background information, followed by an event that brings people together to share experiences and debate ideas. Participatory TV production (a component part of the Web-Event-TV template) ensures archiving, dissemination of acquired knowledge, as well as the transmission/application of skills through community journalism, which feeds back into the web, and supports/encourages further social action that empowers the community. Application of this Web-Event-TV PV template in community media in general has ensured almost 100% PV output in CSV's operations. As demonstrated by SUP/Bespoke project in Preston, SoapBox/TTV in Liverpool and WTV in Wirral, the process of engaging local communities in meaningful conversations through the use of participatory media 'has been particularly challenging' (NESTA, 2012: 10).Some reasons for this 7 See: http://www.tenantspin.org (on 28.06.2011).
are: the absence of local spaces designated for public information/debate, and/or negative past experience of similar projects failing through the lack of support/interest (Ibid.). For example, although SBF managed to established itself within the shared community media space of TTV, thus allowing it to reach a wide client base in and around different Liverpool wards, however, its subsidised dependance on short-term grants, in addition to limited timescales of its project partner organisations have clearly limited its reach outwards to a wider community audience. The SUP/Bespoke project has encountered similar obstacles in the form of low recruitment figures (B1, B2, E1). Similar problems were noted at WTV (A2, A3). In the informed opinion of the SUP project co-ordinator (B1), 30 is the minimum number of people required for a self-sustainable group of media volunteers. The examples of SBF and TTV projects (Vintage, In Focus), strongly support this hypothesis. The only similar projects where the voluntary membership did not create significant problems for the operation of community TV were urban community media projects (Tenantspin, LMH:TV), which were run on the basis of existing housing associations in Liverpool, thus offering a stable, long-term pool of interested, closely integrated people. As seen from the above, all the social enterprises within the selected case studies have used PV to a greater or lesser extent in order to achieve their social mandate of inclusion, access, better opportunities and communal sustainability. Some, like SBF, had a 100% output in terms of PV due to their narrow specialisation in working closely with targeted groups within the community on key projects, such as: youth homelessness, bullying in schools, pregnancy, truancy, and smoking among others. Putting other successful community projects into the public spotlight through video production (e.g., Rampworx) tends to heighten their attractiveness and popularity (e.g., see section on Online Popularity below). The long-term sustainability of such ventures, however, depends on particular group dynamics and demographics, since, for example, in the case of the NEET category of clients (16-17 years old), who come to work on PV projects, the majority do not stay longer than 6-12 months, as they tend to move on to other social agencies or find part-time work (C1). In the short-term, however, national media policy and support from publicly-funded bodies plays a crucial role in getting local community media projects underway. In relation to this, a final point worth analysing is a reflection on Hewson's (2005) argument regarding an apparent overall relationship to and reliance upon the UK government's departmental support and financing of the major community media/arts projects. Viewed within the general SE theory argument (Laville&Nyssens, 2001: 326) on the restrictions of 'philanthropic paternalism', this may potentially limit Ctv's function to that predetermined by one or another department's 'patronage' (Hewson, 2005: 87). If that is true in relation to the above three case studies then, indeed, a certain inter-departmental competition over the UK's general media policy shape and direction over the last 10 years has influenced their development, whereby the path of a particular community media project sometimes depended on 'who took the lead' in the higher field of policy on education, jobs and media: 'DCMS (music and creativity) [e.g., initially CMCs, including TTV], DfES (emphasis on young people and skills) [e.g., eventually TTV, CSV and WTV], or the DTI (in terms of broadband development and job creation) [eventually Bespoke]' (Ibid. 87). This comes as no surprise, however, as the absence of civic media engagement with the third sector in the UK (Witschge, et al. 2010), combined with a low profile of civic oversight/involvement in a highly centralised PSB system (Collins, 2007: 54) creates fertile grounds for such administrative 'feudalism'. In general, this meant that those few relatively successful community media projects â€“ while trying to rely on whatever fiscal backing the supposedly self-sufficient social enterprise model was receiving in the UK â€“ were in the meantime highly dependant, not only on the general drift in national media policy (which meandered according to inter-departmental influence) but also on the arbitrary fate of one or another government's funding priorities (DCMS, BIS or DTI). The absence of some kind of direct and independent 'social venture capital fund', similar to the Best Practices 2000 foundation in the US (Kurpius, 2003) prevented community media projects from investing, attracting or promoting participatory media techniques on a wider geographical and technological scale. Overall, however, as the popularity and accessibility of various digital platforms (web, mobile, IPTV) grows, it is important to consider the ability of existing community media organisations to reach their intended audiences, as part of the PV method is not only to involve 36
local community but also to empower them through understanding, communication and dissemination of their vision to other communities.
4.2 Reaching Online Audience Within the issues of PSB, 'reach' is considered as one of the main drivers of public value (Collins, 2007: 48). As discussed in Chapter 2 (Section 2.1), audience reach is one of the problems facing community media in general. However, inexpensive access to evolving technology may finally reverse this tendency. According to the latest Experian Hitwise (2012) global online intelligence agency report, 'online video is a rapidly evolving medium and, as the amount of time people spend online is ever increasing, video represents a great channel to deliver interesting content to a target audience'.8 In this respect, as Taylor (2006: 44) notes, 'by embracing new technology and new business models, broadcasters can position themselves to exploit new platforms and opportunities' by developing 'content to enhance and extend their television output' and building 'communities around their programming'. Although, according to the experts from the industry, including Taylor (2006), these new trends are 'incremental' rather than 'substitutional', the nature of web technologies carries both benefits and pitfalls. By offering and even co-producing innovative, creative content (user-generated content: UGC), designed for digital platforms, broadcasters can keep their audiences engaged in their programmes and generate potential income through the most popular videos online. However, the broadcasting television approach, which traditionally relies on a subjectively scheduled Electronic Programme Guide, now needs 'to understand the importance of search, metadata, ratings and recommendation' (Taylor, 2006:46). Managing this kind of fluid knowledge can help build online target audiences and make better tailored video content, thus increasing the measure of popularity and, in turn, higher ranking in search engines. Nevertheless, for example, the number of so-called 'hits' or accesses a website experiences per month from 'virtual' visitors might constitute an overstatement of reach/access of the online material (See: Box B1). Thus, as noted by Bialik (2010), the potential for online view counts to overstate audience size was already highlighted in an earlier report in 2010 from Scout Analytics, which revealed that the average web-user accessed a site from two to four different machines in a given month. Recently this shortcoming of electronic communication may increasingly be offset by the exponential growth of mobile device use to view online video content. Thus, as the above-mentioned report notes (Experian Hitwise, 2012:7), approximately 1 in 10 videos on YouTube are viewed through a tablet or smartphone. Box 4.1
Reliability of media counters
'ComScore and Nielsen say such criticisms reflect a misreading by Web sites of their own user base, which is reflected most often as a tally of monthly unique visitors. Online publishers typically can gauge their own traffic through logs on their Web servers recording every request for the site, or by assigning unique tags, known as cookies, to each Web browser that visits the site. Both of these techniques, though, tend to overestimate visitors, for several reasons. For instance, the same person might visit from home, from work and from a mobile device, and be counted as a different user each time. (A computer also might be shared by several people, which could lead to an undercount.) Additionally, some people delete their cookies regularly, so they would be counted repeatedly each month. Automated, nonhuman browsers known as bots, such as those sent scurrying around the Web by search engines, also inflate the count. And comScore and Nielsen typically report U.S. visitors, but sites' own totals reflect an international audience unless a special effort has been made to break these out.' (Bialik, 2010)
8 Between September 2010 and September 2011 UK Internet visits to online video sites grew by 36%. In September 2011 there were over 785 million visits to video sites (with 70% of these to YouTube alone) from the UK Internet population, accounting for over 4% of all Internet visits, and 2% of all upstream visits to all UK websites in all categories (Experian Hitwise (2012) Online Video: Bringing Social Media to Life. Experian Hitwise, London, 3, 16, available here: http://www.hitwise.com/uk/registration-pages/onlinevideo-bringing-social-media-to-life/).
Due to both practical and time limitations of this research, URLSpy.co.uk, a free UK-based online analytics database was used for calculating unique visitors accessing video content online. This analytics database widely employs another web-analytics tool for its counts – Alexa.com. The video content from the three main Ctv organisations – and several related or co-producing organisations (e.g.: CSV N-W; Speak-Up Preston and Tenantspin/LMH.TV) – was grouped and analysed for total running time and number of views on different online platforms (such as home/organisation website, YouTube and Vimeo). Over the last 4 years, the selected community media organisations have generated some 47 hours of community video, attracting over a million of views for their online content. Although these figures, however optimistic, cannot compete with those of commercial or PBS providers', which run over several millions of views a week (BBC, 2012), the overall impact of community media content should be assessed relative to the size of production budgets and distribution resources of the community media organisations in question. In terms of the goals of this research, which were to assess sustainability of the existing community media model, the effectiveness of video content should be gauged against the real impact the videos have made in the community and its inhabitants. While this real impact can be and often is measured through qualitative indicators, the online performance of communityproduced video content, in general, can be measured through the following three quantitative parameters: number of accesses/views/downloads, number of referrals, and overall traffic ranking (global/national popularity), which can also be defined as 'reach' or proportion of the web audience.
Online Performance When compared to similar websites with publicly available/produced video content both regionally (i.e. LMH.tv, mon.tv) and internationally (i.e., arte.tv, russia.ru, and even Cuban TvSerrana – see: Table 4.2 below) – to date the selected case studies clearly do not attract a comparable sized online audience (e.g., 100-500 thousand viewers). This is could be due to the levels of technical expertise/capabilities and infrastructure of their own or other free online distribution platforms (such as YouTube and Vimeo). Such a relatively low level of online audience could be due to the rather insular, closed nature of community-confined productions and video projects, which tend to concentrate on hyper-local material and audience, which then limits demand/awareness to a few interested members in the locality involved (i.e., family, friends, schoolmates, colleagues, etc.). The only difference occurs where the production has been made on an issue or a larger topic that is easily found through YouTube subject/word search, was posted on a social network (e.g., Facebook), or was linked through a major organisation's website which serves as a resource/news hub for professionals from the relevant industries (i.e., education, 3rd sector, environmental organisations, etc). In this way, the support of a major organisation's hub behind the video project usually ensures stability of distribution of the video content (through referral mechanisms, discussed below), as well as minimal levels of popularity of community-made video.9 In general, once a video receives online publicity through this basic referral mechanism, its Google/YouTube rating self-perpetuates and multiplies. The nature of the digital referral mechanism, however, varies depending on the degree of hyper-locality of that or another video project, as well as on the organisational willingness/capability for distributing/promoting this video content. As shown below (Table 4.2), as a rule, the online backing of video content through links/embedding on a parent/project organisation's website would inevitably give greater number of referrals and amount of publicity among existing and potential viewers. YouTube Insight/Discovery Analytics10 was used for gauging online reach of community video content.
9 For example, after a frustrated volunteer at the CAve Media/Bespoke project in Preston, wrote in his blog: “whats the point of taking pride in our work and always striving to achieve the best if no-one views it?”, the video was embedded on the organisation's website and circulated as a link in an official e-mail (See: Ste Robinson's Blog, http://willingproductions.wordpress.com/2010/07/07/2-months-to-go-are-we-nearlythere-yet/ (on 07/07/2010). 10 Only for videos where this feature, introduced in November 2011, was available (i.e., CSV N-W, CaveMedia, and SpeakUpPreston).
Community TV Online Content Viewings
Name of CTV
Total Content Produced
Total content views
Number of web links
mobile device referrals
SoapBox Films (Toxteth, Liverpool)
CAveMedia/Bespoke (Preston, Lancs)
CSV N-W (Preston, Lancs)
Speak Up Preston (Preston FM, Lancs) 01:42:26
Wirral TV (Birkenhead, Merseyside)
* Number of visitors per day.
Source: online data collected through the original research (See Appendix C).
For example, in the case of CSV-NW's YouTube channel, a third of all their community video content was viewed online through the above referral mechanism (with more than half (51%) of their referrals coming through the regional/national organisation website of CSV). Whereas the much smaller CaveMedia/Bespoke community project which relied for its exposure primarily on the project's local institutional partner (Contour Housing Ltd.) for receiving and outputting its video journalistic content, this figure was down to just 21 percent in terms of overall referrals (with only 22% of referrals coming through links from the affiliated organisational websites). One can also compare this to the related case of SUP â€“ Preston Community FM's video channel, which had at its disposal the community radio's main website. While receiving a much lower amount of webrelated referrals (as its main output is through the medium of radio), almost a third (28%) of its video-related traffic came through the community radio's main website, where the videos were linked/embedded in the first place). In general, however, as seen from Table 4.3, and similar to the so-called popular 'viral' video campaigns, the number of links to other websites can boost the online audience even for a small amount of posted video content. Thus, referral through other popular 'hub' websites, as well as blogs and social networks, can dramatically increase both the popularity of online video content and its hyper-local value. An important factor contributing to the rise of the above viewing figures (Table 4.2) for the hyperlocal online videos, also highlighted by the above survey (Experian Hitwise, 2012:7) is 'mobile device' audiences/producers, which appears to be of particular relevance to the nature of constantly changing hyper-local, new media content (i.e., in the case of community/citizenship journalism). Thus, in Speak-Up Preston's case, 17% of all views came through mobile devices, while in CAveMedia/Bespoke and CSV N-W online video projects, this figure was as high as 21% and 33% respectively. The latter high figures of mobile viewing could be due to these projects aiming at engaging younger generations, whose propensity to use mobile device for video content viewing is ever increasing.11 Thus, while the currently popular mobile technologies may indeed contribute to the increases in viewing figures, the inter-linking and referral through organisational 'hub' websites plays a major role not only in building online audience for community produced video and related content, but also in increasing web traffic/popularity of the community organisation's 'hubs', crucial for the projects' continuity and sustainability. While WTV currently features a staggering 25 hours of video content produced over the last 4 years on a minimal budget, local video projects which are centred around established community radio hubs, such as Preston FM, have the greatest popularity among audiences, due to a multiplatform delivery model, which includes radio/podcasts, thus attracting higher viewing figures. These high figures are also closely matched by the hyper-regional and metropolitan online community TV services (MonTV and BayTV), recently launched by local entrepreneurs, which, in contrast to the socially-funded WirralTV and ToxtethTV, gained immediate appeal to core local viewers through: distinct identity, cheap advertising, and the multitude and variety of regularlyupdated professional and user-generated content. However, paired with the university research/dissemination hub, the hyper-local Bespoke/CAveMedia project receives more views 11 For example, initial video coverage by SoapBoxFilms of a youth skating park sports project in Liverpool called Rampworx, had spun-off into an independent YouTube Channel (RampWorxTV) with 82 videos, which have been viewed over 1,5 million times (20-30% â€“ from a mobile device), and have generated over 3000 subscriptions since 2007.
from a wider online audience, which brings it higher internet popularity ranking than that of the more rural-regional MonTV project, which covers a wider geographical area with a smaller percentage of viewers. Table 4.3
Online Popularity of Local/Community Video
Name of CTV
Online No. of since videos
Avg. daily visitors
no. of pages
no. of links
SoapBox Films (Toxteth, Liverpool)
CAve Media/Bespoke (Preston, Lancs)
CSV N-W (Preston, Lancs)
Speak Up Preston (Preston FM, Lancs)
Wirral TV (Birkenhead, Merseyside)
LMH:TV (Liverpool, Merseyside)
BayTV (Liverpool, Merseyside)
Mon-tv (Local TV for Monmouthshire)
Arte.tv (Franco-German Cult.-Art Channel)
2007 15457 7,584,948 54,998
Russia.ru (Hyper-local socio-political hub)
TvSerrana (Cuban State Local TV, Santiago) 2007 500
Source: Data from the global traffic-analytics review Urlspy.co.uk/Alexa.com (as of 01.01.2012) * Number of pages viewed by visitors per month (multiple views of same or number of pages by one visitor is treated as one view). ** A rough estimate of popularity in a country: average daily visitors to pageviews by visitors from UK in the past 3 months.
In connection to the existing problems with online viewing figures in general, the case of CSV N-W deserves a special mention. As structurally its website and production/training facilities are closely integrated into the UK-wide CSV organisation, CSV's main website may indeed filter down through referral a high proportion of occasional visitors. Thus, while the number of actual video views is low, the overall internet popularity ranking for CSV N-W remains high. Similarly, WirralTV so far has claimed over 3 million hits to its website (page load counter) since being set up in 2008. As the online hosting of videos (as well as the main webpage) was initially outsourced through a private business (A2), access to actual data is not available, but the measure of online video content views (media counter) could be realistically estimated between a third to a sixth of the above 3 million hits (see discussion above on estimating web traffic, Box 4.1). Thus, the use of free commercial platforms such as YouTube and Vimeo, as well as online players (e.g., JWPlayer) allows for web traffic/download statistics, which can provide more reliable figures for online views of video content.
4.3 Financial Viability of Ctv Operations As discussed in Chapter 2, a recurring theme in government PSB policy, is financial viability and profitability of Ctv operations ('sustainability' is often narrowly redefined in these terms). Research conducted in 2005 by Spectrum consultants (2005: 4, 24-31) for the Ofcom and DCMS, on the feasibility of local TV in the UK, concluded that the provision of such services would be profitable only in urban metropolitan areas (with populations of 300K-5m). Meanwhile, in scenarios with micro-, dispersed-communities, and urban-vicinity areas it was concluded that such services would run at a loss of between 40-20% per year, provided they were delivered only using 40
broadband, low-cost programs (including UGC) and running on minimal staffing levels (see: Tables 4.4 & 4.5). However, the above analysis (Spectrum, 2005: 30) also concluded that such services, in principle, could only break even in an urban and vicinity type of area, given an additional distribution by DTT, cable and broadband, with a population between 300-350K people. Table 4.4
Possible Core Models of Sustainable Local TV, UK (2005)* Micro-communities
DTT - Universe of viewers - Cost of spectrum - Cost of transmission - Total cost
10K £1K £20K £21K
29K £2K £61K £63K
240K £16K £49K £65K
720K £48K £41K £89K
DSAT - Universe of viewers - Total cost
Digital Cable - Universe of viewers
Hours of content/day
£33K - £16K
£80K - £40K
WWW-Broadband - Monthly unique users - Max number of concurrent users - Total costs
Initial platform Broadband Broadband/DTT DTT/Cable/Broadband DTT/Satellite/Cable/B-band distribution Source: adapted from Spectrum Strategy Consultants, 2005. *Minimal local news scenario, year 3 after digital switchover.
However, in addition to the above core models, a number of alternative models considered by the Spectrum study has revealed (Spectrum, 2005: 27) that, if local/community media service is based entirely on UGC then it could be profitable but only at the urban-vicinity level, as well as in metropolitan areas themselves (see: Table 4.5). Table 4.5 User-generated
Revenue, Costs & EBITDA for UGC scenario of Local TV, UK (2005) Micro-communities
- reach 20K - Revenues £1.5K - Costs £41.2K - EBITDA -£39.7K - EBITDA % -2646%
- reach - Revenues - Costs - EBITDA - EBITDA %
- reach 500K - Revenues - Costs - EBITDA - EBITDA %
- reach - Revenues - Cost - EBITDA - EBITDA %
60K £32K £115K -£83K -258%
£218K £162K £56K 26%
1.5m £1.07m £828K £250K 23%
Source: adapted from Spectrum Strategy Consultants, 2005: 27.
Below is a summary of publicly-available data on the reviewed Ctv organisations. This data confirms that the reviewed case studies can be considered within the parameters of urban-vicinity level models of Ctv, based on user-generated content. Table 4.6
Community TV Operational Structure
Pilot Project (2y): Grants: Community fund:
£200K £30K £30K
Office/Venue: Studio, etc.: Teaching (match):
£1.8M+ £980K £200K
FM Radio revenues: Grants &donations:
The above discussion shows that further research is needed in order to quantify more accurately social capital in community media production, in order to examine its effect on the financial sustainability of community media SEs. Of particular interest are factors such as: number of volunteer hours spent on PV productions, the physical outcomes of PV on local community development (impact), and better evaluation of attainment of soft targets.
This research has explored the challenges of sustainability of local media through the application of participatory video techniques, using the examples of some social enterprises which were set up over the last decade to deliver community-based (online) television in the some of the NorthWest's most deprived areas. A review of the literature on the subject revealed key issues: including how neo-liberal theories have redefined the concept of public interest within PSB, and how participatory culture has influenced the development of decentralised socially-orientated community media services, all of which play out as practical/political dilemmas in the prospective implementation of local public television in the UK from 2012 onwards. A further and deeper challenge is presented by the public policy context, namely the drive towards greater privatisation of PSB, now on the local level, through notions of 'sustainability'. As the policy review has shown, most mainstream analysis of local TV to date have focused on profitability and commercial enterprise, to the detriment of socially-oriented community television. The case studies have revealed some of the wider benefits of Ctv, such as social capital, soft targets, co-production of services, which have not been adequately considered by UK policymakers. This research suggests that any comprehensive analysis of the long-term sustainability of local TV in the UK should include such aspects. This research has also demonstrated that various and flexible forms of social enterprise developed for providing local, community-based video content, can deliver a practical response to the current PSB problem, since participatory video is an instrument which both builds community capacity and ensures the generation of high levels of social capital, which aid general growth and keep two other economic (monetary) streams within the social enterprise in balance. As the analysis of case studies has shown, the overall impact of community media content should be assessed relative to the size of production budgets and distribution resources of the community media organisations in question. In terms of the goals of this research, which were to assess the sustainability of the existing community media model, the effectiveness of video content should be gauged against the real impact the videos have made in the community and its inhabitants. The original case studies have confirmed that participatory video, has, at least, the potential to destabilise hierarchical power relations and create spaces for transformation by providing a practice of looking 'alongside' rather than 'at'. As was demonstrated by SUP/Bespoke community media projects in Preston, they were able to catalyse the change towards a more participatory relationship between local authorities and local people, who previously behaved as passive consumers of services, and have now become agents of change, empowered through an innovative use of media in their communities. Even though the concept of social capital remains vague, its application within this field demonstrates the economic role of communal media resources in the form of participatory video, which cannot be reduced to purely financial, physical or human capital. At the same time, it is an approach to public service media which is in tune with some of the key ideological and intellectual underpinnings of the idea of decentralised, accessible, and participatory 'co-production' of community television services as set out in Chapter 2 of this research. Instead of being perceived as complementary, in combination with other forms of hyperlocal media (i.e., citizen journalism), it becomes a key source of delivery of PSB content in the new digital landscape of local media.
Appendix A: Interview List Interview A1. Secretary to the board of Directors, WirralTV. Birkenhead, Merseyside, 13.07.2011. Interview A2. Operations Manager, Wirral TV. Lairdside, Wirral, 14.08.2011. Interview A3. Member of the Board of Directors (Lairdside Community Trust), Wirral, 24.02.2012. Interview B1. Community FM Radio, Preston FM/Prescap. Preston, Lancs, 04.10.2011. Interview B2. Volunteer Production Manager, CSV N-W. Preston, Lancs, 04.10.2011. Interview C1. Managing Director, SoapBox Films Ltd., Toxteth, Liverpool, 01.12.2011.
E-mail replies: Email E1. Project Facilitator, CSV Preston, 15.11.2011.
Appendix B: PV Production in Ctv's (2006-11)
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The introduction in 2012 of commercially-based local television in the UK raised questions about the nature of Public Service Broadcasting, considering the recent history of privatisation and deregulation of the previously centralised media industry. Contemporary theory of communications offer an alternative approach to the mass media paradigm, which developed from previously marginal participatory culture of the 1970s, and is rooted in active civic participation aimed at the sustainable development of local communities. The concepts of co-production of services and social capital are introduced into the framework of participatory video production within community television social enterprises which already exist in the UK's North-West. Original research of three community TV organisations suggests a variety of forms of accumulated social capital, resulting from the application of participatory video within the media social enterprise model. This offers a possible sustainable solution for local public television services, since the current redistribution of power relations within the operations of the new media landscape in the UK largely ignore variable successes of numerous local community TV projects. Johan Jakobson is a beginning media and documentary practitioner from an academic research background (Politics, Law and Economy). He has developed interest in community media theory and practice while volunteering and tutoring at the WirralTV, and then subsequently studying for a post-graduate degree in Documentary film production at the Salford University, Manchester.
Back-cover photograph: Toxteth TV building, Liverpool
ÂŠ 2012 Johan S. Jakobson, all rights reserved
Contemporary theory of communications offer an alternative approach to the mass media paradigm, which developed from previously marginal par...
Published on Jul 4, 2013
Contemporary theory of communications offer an alternative approach to the mass media paradigm, which developed from previously marginal par...