My thanks to Antoine Haywood and everyone who has helped us put together the Community Media Directory this summer – we have over 1600 organizations listed around the country – including PEG channels in all 50 states. I asked Antoine to put together some reflections on the project that I’d like to share.
First, I must say I’m very proud of the Community Media Database (CMD). I’ve longed to work on super nerdy research like this for quite some time, and I’m grateful for this opportunity. That said, I’m thrilled to share a few insights I learned while traveling virtually state to state, counting community channels, and recording metadata for each operation.
The virtual travel aspect was reminiscent of the ACM Northeast Roadshow road trip I took with Mike several years ago (shout out to Erica Jones, our spirited colleague who also made that journey). Except for this time, we landed in places such as the Florida Keys, Spanish Fork, Utah, and the Aleutian Islands' far reaches. Much to our delight, we found an array of over 1,600 PEG media operations, which combined, manage over 3,000 PEG channels in the U.S.
But that’s not the only great news I have to report. Here are more key insights I’d like to share with the ACM community:
· Existing state contact lists proved helpful. Like old treasure maps, these existing spreadsheets, ACM membership lists, and Everybody Wiki pages helped us find PEG gold. For many reasons, we need to maintain state and regional contact lists.
· Many public-school districts, municipalities, and degree-granting institutions have migrated to exclusively producing online content. However, the number of community colleges, vocational schools, four-year liberal arts colleges, and prominent state universities that still operate educational television channels is substantial. ACEJMC, based at the University of Mississippi, and other educational television networks provide good starting points for finding student journalism and mass-comm education programs.
· We knew little about PEG activity in the southeastern region. What we found is impressive. Despite state video franchising, Florida, for example, is still home to over 80 educational and government media operations. The downside: public access television has become sparse in this region.
· Lastly, bolstering PEG’s online presence is essential. PEG's Wikipedia entry explains its extensive history, and most operations have a YouTube and Facebook presence. However, there should be many more Wikipedia entries telling the story of individual PEG operations, regional community media networks, and PEG’s existential challenges. If any policymaker, researcher, funder, or generally curious individual tries to learn about PEG via Wikipedia, the information they’ll find is limited.
Now that we have a clearer view of where PEG operates, a crucial next step is to understand better how PEG serves. Perhaps creating a taxonomy of examples is in order. Till then, here’s a shortlist of fascinating operational examples I was unaware of but learned about while doing this research.
· Your Island Connection! Voice of Vashon, WA.
· Local access TV history at Unalaska Community Broadcasting, Alaska, who knew?
· Bella Vista Community TV, Arkansas, is driven by volunteer spirit, 110%.
· Harpswell Community TV (Harpswell, ME), HEC-TV (St. Louis, MO), and DGOV (Durango, CO) use over-the-air (digital broadcast) and cable channel transmissions to serve their communities.
· There is a full-service maker space with access television studio at Pikes Peak Public Library District (Colorado Springs, CO).
· Dive deep into community media history at White Rose Community Television in York, PA.
· Cable companies such as Cox Communications are still managing PEG operations in Chester, Manchester, and Enfield, CT.
I hope this information and the new CMD is exciting for everyone as it is for me. We now have access to empirical evidence that will help us leverage future research, funding opportunities, advocacy work, and community partnerships.
Congratulations go to the Avalon Foundation in Easton Maryland which runs Mid-Shore Community Television – they have won the raffle for the gift certificate from B&H Photo (and our thanks to them for supporting this project).