Building Community Media

Today’s blog is an introduction to next week’s Expert Chat – My Voice Counts: Building Community Media In the Internet Age, by Victoria Fenner.

 

beige and brown portable radio with blue buttons and ed dial on the front

 

I’ve lived in a community with its own community radio station for most of my adult life. 

For the first part of my life, that was coincidental.  My first experience with community radio was at university.  Back in the 80s, that was the most common form of volunteer produced community radio.  Though based on a university campus, the mandate of campus based stations was to serve both the campus and the community. 

In recent years, especially the past ten years or so, there is a new trend developing.  Small towns all over Canada are starting their own stations.  In places like Picton, Cobourg, Stouffville, Huntsville and Haliburton, people have started their own non-profit based radio stations.  

What this means is that people can turn on the radio and hear people on the air from their community.  They can hear their own local musicians, sometimes even playing live from the studio.  It’s also not uncommon to hear poetry, radio drama and sound art on the airwaves.  The best thing for me, as a listener, is that I get to hear what my neighbours are doing. 

As a producer of sound art, it also means I can get my work on the air. My neighbours can hear me. I can also hear about exhibitions coming up, events in the community and also (if there are shows that do information programs), I can hear what my town council is doing to make sure my community is a healthy community for arts to flourish. And call them to task if they’re not.

There are many things that community media does beyond art – in this column I’m focussing mostly on performing arts because the mandate of SPARC is to promote performing arts in rural and remote communities.  Community media – radio, television, internet based or even good old fashioned newspapers, can do that.  

It’s important to have media which supports your community. A growing number of communities are realizing that the best way to ensure that the needs of the community are being met is through community ownership of its own media.  So they’re setting up their own community media organizations.  Some have radio stations, some have internet portals and some of them even have their own standalone over the air TV station. 

If this idea intrigues you, there are a few organizations who can help.  If you want to learn more about community radio, the National Campus and Community Radio Association (ncra.ca) has a list of all its members (mostly in English speaking Canada), as well as resources to read about how to set up a station.

For francophone communities, you can go to the website of ARC du Canada – Alliance des radios communitaires (https://radiorfa.com/ ).  There are also many Indigenous community radio stations in Canada.  You can also check out the website of the Community Radio Fund of Canada, https://crfc-fcrc.ca/ , an organization set up twelve years ago to help fund community radio across Canada (disclosure – I am on the board of the CRFC).

I’ve used radio as my first example because that’s the medium to which I have dedicated most of my life’s work.   Right now, I’m also branching out into community television and exploring new concepts like video gaming and virtual reality with one of my colleagues.  (another disclosure – I also work in community television too with the next organization I’m going to tell you about).

 

old fashioned television with dials on the right and rainbow stripes across the screen

 

If you’re interested in television, video gaming and virtual reality, check out CACTUS – The Canadian Association of Community Television Stations and Users (cactusmedia.ca).  CACTUS was established about ten years ago by a group of people who saw the need to support the emerging community television sector beyond the usual model of community channels owned by the big cable companies. For a whole bunch of reasons, many of those stations have been closed down, leaving communities without a way to reach each other on television.  

CACTUS’s vision includes working with communities to help them develop community media across all platforms – not just radio and television, but also community based virtual reality and video games. 

Whatever distribution method you choose, the important thing is that it’s media produced for your community by people IN your community.  Because that’s what real community media is.  It’s not just some corporation creating media FOR you.  It’s about media created BY you.

If you would like to learn more about community media, I will be doing a webinar for SPARC where I can answer your questions about what’s involved in starting a community media organization in the place where you live. 

Details about the Expert Chat: Wednesday August 26 at 7pm on the SPARC Member Network Facebook group page (click here).

VF bio:

Victoria  is a community builder through media arts.  Whether she’s facilitating an arts camp, running a community radio, television station or community internet portal; or helping community groups develop their fundraising plans, she enjoys helping people find their unique role within a shared purpose.  She integrates principles of socially engaged arts practice in her projects, conducting story circles, acoustic ecology  and participatory media arts workshops.   She is also a radio journalist and environmental sound artist who is constantly exploring new ways to listen.  She lives in Barrie with her partner, singer songwriter Edward St. Moritz. 

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