Forming a Community Media Community
On Friday I had the pleasure of being invited to participate in a round table discussion hosted by BIG Scotland (http://www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/scotland) about the future of community media in Scotland. BIG Scotland supports a variety of small projects in this area, including the Media Trust’s Newsnet initiative (http://newsnet.mediatrust.org/) which has a UK-wide remit. The Lottery distributor hosted the meeting to generate discussion and debate on how it could support projects and asked attendees to consider two main questions:
– how can everyone involved in citizen journalism/community media support its further development
– how could we replicate the good practice which is already present in Scotland and beyond
I sometimes complain that in academic life we rarely create the conditions for robust debate but this was certainly not the case on Friday when the 15-odd participants discussed their passion for community media. Representing the case for a hyperlocal model were David Milne of STV local (http://m.local.stv.tv/glasgow/news/) and Phyllis Stephen of The Edinburgh Reporter (http://www.theedinburghreporter.co.uk/). They are looking both to provide as local a service as possible whilst also making their respective business model pay. In contrast, we also had contributions from Station House Media Unit (SHMU) in Aberdeen, IRNIB’s Insight Radio (http://www.insightradio.co.uk/), the Poverty Alliance, Ross McCulloch of Third Sector Lab (@ThirdSectorLab), Mind Waves (http://www.street-papers.org/) and the International Network of Street Papers (http://www.street-papers.org/) each with their own reasons for being interested in the value accruable from community media.
You can find our more about the discussion and ensuing outcomes by following comments on the Big Lottery Fund Scotland blog
(http://bigblogscotland.org.uk/) but it’s worth rehearsing some of my impressions here:
1. Whilst competition for funding and resources is intense, greater value can be generated from collaboration and knowledge sharing on good practice in community media. A community media ‘community’ if you like.
2. There are several candidates for community media hubs in Scotland – geographically dispersed, delivering community media for community development and receiving support in the form of training and equipment to sustain activity
3. There is a need for a course of learning to support community media principles and practices – delivered as a partnership between educationalists, practitioners and community members.
4. Technology may liberate citizens to become reporters or participants in community media activity but it may also represent a phrase regime that can deter. Finding the right people and demystifying the tools we can use to communicate messages effectively is a priority activity.
5. At times we need a ‘hook’ or a ‘catalyst’ to motivate participation in community media activity and to highlight the ease with which participation can be secured. Glasgow 2014 represents a great opportunity for Scotland’s community media sector.
6. Building an appropriate infrastructure (web, people, tech) can enable the uninitiated to see the product of their efforts quickly and facilitate sharing to the target audience.
7. It’s good to talk.
Although this event represents only one small step for the community media ‘community’ in Scotland, the passion of those in attendance suggests that it will certainly not be the last.