• Davis Media Access's offices
  • A video on Luminosity's YouTube channel
  • A visionOntv training template
  • An edit suite at Davis Media Access
  • A video on AbsoluteDestiny's YouTube channel
  • The visionOntv platform's menu
  • telex
    Davis Media Access's studio control room
  • Laura announcing a video on LiveJournal
  • visionOntv's YouTube channel
  • mixing board
    A mixing board in Davis Media Access's control room
  • Obsessive24 announcing a video on LiveJournal
  • One of visionOntv's Twitter feeds
  • Davis on air
    The entrance to Davis Media Access's studio
  • Laura recommending a video on her Dreamwidth journal
  • visionOntv's Facebook page
  • marin control
    Community Media Center of Marin's studio contol room
  • Here's Luck's website
  • visionOntv's Blip channel
  • mural
    Davis Media Access office's wall mural
  • Here's Luck announcing a video on tumblr
  • Merseyside Street Reporters Network's Facebook page
  • MarinWindow
    The Community Media Center of Marin's offices
  • AbsoluteDestiny announcing a video on Dreamwidth
  • Merseyside Street Reporters Network wiki page on the visionOntv platform
  • Davis camera
    A studio camera at Davis Media Access
  • Luminosity's video "Vogue"
  • Sara Newton's YouTube channel
  • Marin cameras wide
    Remote control studio cameras at the Community Media Center of Marin
  • researcher
    The reseacher (left) co-operating visionOntv's "pop-up studio" at OpenTech 2011

Public Access Television Stations

My research on public access television focussed primarily on two stations from the California Community Media Exchange (introduced here), Davis Media Access (DMA) and the Community Media Center of Marin (CMCM), along with a selection of their associated producers.

Davis Media Access

DMA was located in the university town of Davis, and had been in existence since the late 1980s. Its public access service was broadcast on Comcast's cable network on Channel 15.  DMA’s reason for going online was so to provide an accessible “[video] archive of the local community”, but also because there was a growing expectation in the community that these videos be available online.

DMA outside wall mural

Davis Media Access offices and studio


DMA's primary method for distributing its producers' videos was via the Davis Community TV (DCTV) website. This website was based on the Open Media Project (OMP), a set of Drupal tools originally developed for Denver public access television in Colorado, and later further developed by additional stations, including DMA, for their needs.

DMA Drupal site

A screenshot of a DCTV page


While DMA had experimented previously with YouTube, Blip and Vimeo, they did not regard most third-party video distribution services as suitable for their needs as they had concerns over the longevity and commercial nature of these services. In addition, DMA wanted to be able to integrate their broadcast television system into their online solution: they believed this would allow them to streamline work flows and free up station staff time. The choice of OMP satisfied their desire for an integrated, permanent, non-commercial video archive of their local community. To ensure the longevity of this solution, they also used Archive.org as a backup for their videos.

The on-going development of OMP and its integration into the broadcast system was a time-consuming and complex process, and was delaying the release of the DCTV website in a form DMA felt comfortable with promoting, which meant the site was getting less traffic than desired. 

While the DCTV website had provisions for making comments on videos, none were in fact made by users, and no form of online conversation took place there.  However, DMA did not consider this an issue, as their goal was not to create an online community,  but rather to provide a searchable video archive that people could use to embed videos in their online social networks, such as on Facebook.

While DMA had their own Facebook page, they rarely used it to distribute producer videos, as they said they did not have the resources to devote to this activity, but rather used it sparingly to announced news and events at the station.

As part of my participant-observer activities at DMA, I produced an episode of their series "Street Talk", which talks to Davis residents about local issues. Previous episodes of this series were produced by local residents, including one of my informants (who also assisted on this production).  My episode concerned the then upcoming local vote on Measure D, which was about whether a special tax to fund parks and recreation in Davis should be continued. This episode was originally broadcast on Comcast channel 15 at 17:25 on Tuesday May 29 2012. The episode can be viewed on the DMA website or in higher resolution here:

Community Media Center of Marin

CMCM was located in San Rafael in Marin County and had been in operation around 3 years. Its public access programming was broadcast on Comcast's network on Channel 26, and also on AT&T's U-verse network.  CMCM staff said that the ability for the videos to be viewed outside Comcast’s Marin County cable network was their motivation for going online.

CMCM remote control cameras

Remote-control cameras in CMCM's television studio


CMCM provides an interesting contrast to DMA with regard to their choice of platforms and how they implemented them. Their main platform was a website based on Miro Community, which was a type of video aggregation software offered with a general public license by the Participatory Culture Foundation.  

CMCM's Miro site

CMCM Miro Community site home page


CMCM were initially attracted to Miro Community because it did not require them to take on the cost and responsibility of hosting videos: producers linked to the site through RSS feeds from their own Blip accounts or other video hosting sites.  CMCM were also attracted to it because they considered its aesthetics, usability and functionality at the time on a par with commercial aggregators.

They were however starting to question whether it represented a sustainable solution.  One concern CMCM had was whether Miro had the resources to prevent the platform from becoming obsolete over time, and CMCM had already had compatibility problems between it and Blip.  Also, unlike DMA, CMCM had ambitions to turn their site into a destination for producers and their audiences and they therefore wanted to increase traffic and interaction with the videos by creating a more engaging experience (like the DCTV site, the traffic to their current site was modest and the audiences were not leaving any comments).  They had some ideas about how to do this, such as aggregating producers’ other relevant online content with their videos, such as their Wordpress sites, and by embedding Facebook commenting functionality within the site, but Miro Community did not allow either of these options in its current form. 

CMCM used Facebook in a similar way to DMA, announcing news and events.  While they wanted Facebook to be a place to foster conversations between producers and their audiences, this was not happening: very few producers or audience members posted on their Facebook page.  One reason CMCM gave for this was that because their producers were typically aged over 50, they did not either understand Facebook well enough, or have the inclination, to use it as a place to engage in conversations.  This issue was compounded by the fact that CMCM did not distribute producer videos on Facebook, as they felt that they only wanted the best producers associated with their brand, but didn’t want to show favouritism so they decided not to promote any.   

The different producers from these and the other CACMX stations I researched gave a wide range of reasons for going online, and used a variety of methods to do so. The three case studies I provide here illustrate that range and variety: Frankie J Woods and his hip-hop productions, FrankDoggTV; Deborah Whitman's Environmental Voices; and Antonio Sausys's YogiViews series.