[an error occurred while processing this directive] Videaz 2: Resource Allocation in Independent Media Production: Problems and Prospects

Resource Allocation in Independent Media Production: Problems and Prospects

DeeDee Halleck (dhalleck@weber.ucsd.edu)
Thu, 21 May 1998 16:23:31 -0400

Resource Allocation in Independent Media Production:
Problems and Prospects

Deedee Halleck
Deep Dish TV & University of
California-San Diego, USA

<please note the sections in this paper where *you* should participate>

Abstract: Although the relentless march of
global transnational media has penetrated almost every corner of the earth,
in many regions community media groups and independent producers are
creating models of information exchange and cultural production that
challenge the paradigms of militarism and greed that seem so prevalent.
This paper seeks to outline some of the successful projects and at the same
time warns of the specter of increased repression, using advanced
technology and economic pressures.

Resume: Meme si l'avance implacable
des medias planetaires et transnationaux a penetre presque tous les coins
de la Terre, il existe dans grand nombre de regions des medias
communautaires et des producteurs et productrices independant-e-s. Ceux-ci
creent des modeles pour l'echange d'information et la production culturelle
qui posent un defi aux paradigmes de militarisme et d'avarice qui semblent
prevaloir. Cet article esquisse quelques projets de ce type qui ont
reussis, tout en cautionnant le spectre d'une repression accrue qui se sert
des technologies avancees et des pressions economiques comme moyens.
"Sujets/observateurs actifs des medias dans un monde 'TWOveau' ... Les
infrastructures et les subventions aux medias independents ... Spectateurs
/createurs du monde, unissez-vous -- vous n'avez rien a perdre que vos
chaines ... de burger !"

Resumen: aunque el avance implacable de los
medios de comunicacion planetarios y transnacionales a penetrado casi todos
los rincones de la tierra, existen aun, en una gran cantidad de regiones,
medios de comunicacion comunitarios como asi tambien productores y
productoras independientes. Estos son quienes crean modelos para el
intercambio de la informacion y la produccion cultural y presentan un
desafio a los paradigmas militaristas y avaros que parecen prevalecer. Este
articulo expone algunos proyectos exitosos de este tipo y al mismo tiempo
advierte sobre el contexto de represion creciente que se sirve de las
tecnologias avanzadas y de presiones economicas como medios de impedir
tales desarrollos. "Sujetos/observadores activos de los medios de
comunicacion en un mudo 'TWOveau' . Las infraestructuras y las subvenciones
de los medios independientes. Espectadores/creadores del mundo, unios, no
teneis na que perder mas que vuestras cadenas... de


Media Subjects/Observers in a TWO world:
Infrastructure and Funding for
of the world unite....
you might even get rid of your burger
(Note: This
paper has two sections which are meant to be interactive: participants can
add examples of the models and also point out their own examples of the

- How can alternative media survive in the globalized
market-driven economies as we approach the next century?
- What sorts of
state regulations are possible and/or desirable?
- What sorts of support
structures are possible on local, regional, national and global levels?
What are some progressive models for participatory use of communication
technology that challenge the existing orders?

Many of us have learned to
survive in the wake of the colossus.....

- picking up the crumbs...

wasteful competitive production practices of market driven technology have
meant that designed-in obsolescence leaves cast-off versions of equipment
and software that are affordable and still useful.

- hitching a

As commercial media stampedes to high resolution digital formats,
production of good quality imagery and sound for community production has
had a corresponding improvement. Good images are now cheaper and more

- taking advantage...

Computing systems originally designed for
military and commercial use are also available for horizontal networking of
activists. The computer and the internet have enabled a collaboration
between grass roots groups that ten years ago would have been thought

All well and good, but we need strategies that take
initiative, that go beyond the flea-market, beyond being parasites, beyond
cyber hacking. Communication is now recognized as a focal point for
progressive change. The forces of reaction and repression have long
understood this. Therefore we need to connect and collaborate and share
strategies and successes.

We need to seize this moment to grow and thrive.
The intersection of micro-radio, the internet and video activism is
providing many lively sites of resistance to corporate



The creation of public access channels and facilities in
the United States, Scandinavia, Germany, Australia and many other locations
have proven that "taxing" the profits of telecommunications infrastructure
can provide revenues to initiate and support a public interest
communication system. Perhaps similar regulations on a global scale could
take a proportion of the profits from global commercial networks to support
public interest media exchange.

Labor Video

In Korea, the labor unions
have realized the importance of video documentation and mobilization.
Their dramatic use of video in their movement is an inspiration to other
rank and file labor groups throughout the

Video+Activism+International Exchange=Boycott

A video on the
unhealthy and underpaid work of children in Honduras and El Salvador, Zoned
for Slavery, became the focus of a tour made by three young women workers
featured in the tape, to shopping malls and high schools in the United
States. After watching the presentation, young people in several
communities spontaneously initiated pickets and protest at local stores
calling for a boycott of clothes made in sweat shops. The Clean Clothes
Campaign is an international effort in this direction that uses the
internet, video and community organizing.

Book Store Distribution

In many
bookstores in Mexico, one can purchase inexpensive copies of video news,
including reports by The Canal 6 de Julio, an activist group making monthly
video editions. The wide interest in the Zapatista uprising in Chiapas has
sparked an interest in video from the area, and from other sites of

Street Projections

Pioneering groups in Brazil, such as TV
Viva and TV Maxambomba have taken street media screenings to a high level
of sophistication and artistry. On occasion community video groups such as
these are able to sustain themselves by garnering state and municipal
funding to provide important information on community health issues such as
AIDS and water purification. This summer a caravan will leave DCTV in New
York in a Millennium Mobile, to sample grassroots activities across the
United States, taping and presenting as they go.

Radio Waves

transmitters have been the source of exciting radio-activity in many parts
of the world, from Tokyo to El Salvador to the Lower East Side in New York.
These micro-broadcasters are challenging the monopolies of mega-watt
commercial stations with real community news and talent.


MED TV, a satellite network which is devoted to programming of
interest to the wide diaspora of ethnic Kurds has been so successful that
the state of Turkey has applied international pressure to attempt to shut
it down. Despite pressure and harassment, the organization continues to
provide programming to Kurdish people in twenty countries who can access it
through direct satellite dishes. The tactic of using time on satellite for
diffusion by community groups has been the premise of Deep Dish TV. Deep
Dish compiles local programming from across the United States (and
international programs as well) around specific themes such as health care,
housing, militarism and justice and has rented time on commercial
transponders. The principle targets for Deep Dish transmissions are the
receivers (dishes!) at local cable channels, where the programs are then
taped and used on local access and educational channels.

Reconstructing National Identity

Photojournalist Susan Meiselas and a
group of brilliant young web designers have created www.akakurdistan.org
which provides a visual record of the Kurdish people. Meiselas traveled
throughout Iran, Iraq and Turkey gathering snapshots and studio portraits
and family anecdotes to create a web map of the region in which the
viewer/reader can travel via geography or time to the sites of cultural
struggle of these beleaguered people.

Media/Community Centers

De Waag in
Holland is a model of network that is not only technical but social and
physical as well. Taking over an abandoned medical theater, the center
houses a discotheque, a cosy cafe, an archive of "Old and New Media" and
computer servers that link up activists from around Holland and the world.
Activists from De waag have been instrumental in making public access to
computer terminals a reality in the Nederlands.

The Campaign that is a Web

When McDonalds sued a pair of humble environmental activists in England,
little did they realize the creative forces that would be unleashed in
opposition to the mega junk food chain. The McSpotlight web site has been
visited by tens of millions of persons. (2 million per month for almost a
year). Like the original brochure which was the target of the libel suit,
this handy site has concrete facts on the environmental impact of the
burger industry, the debased labor involved in their sales, the seduction
of children with unhealthy food habits and many other greasy sins. On this
participatory site one can print up a brochure for local organizing in a
choice of 20 languages, or you can print out a report to present to your
local planning board a list of urban congestion problems other McDonalds'
sites have experienced when McDonalds tries to open a shop in your town.

>From these and
other models we can see the practical uses of alternative media for:

community mobilization
- collaboration with workers' struggles
reconstructing popular history
- creation of sites for access and
- building structures for distribution through sales, street
screenings and satellite transmission

These activities depend on the
struggles of informed and dedicated media activists. Their work needs to
be supported through international development funding and through the
support of those states and international organizations who understand the
need for authentic public information systems.

Success in challenging existing structures can bring brutal
reaction. Alternative media which show a potential to mobilize public
support are increasingly vulnerable to repression. Med TV is a case in
point. If the satellite network was ineffectual and marginal, it would
not have sparked the reaction it did. No where is the danger more
apparent than the violent murders one year ago of two video makers and
researchers from CINEP a Jesuit research NGO in Bogota, were brutally
murdered by a seven member death squad, armed with the U.S. armaments so
prevalent in Colombia, and indeed the rest of Latin America under the aegis
of the "drug war". Elsa Alvarado and Mario Calderon of CINEPwere working on
a video about the land struggles of a group of indigenous people near the
Panamanian border, land wanted by transnationals for mining development.
They were killed in front of their young child by a death squad in their
home in Bogota, in a scene reminiscent of the purges in El Salvador.

have the ability to use computers and the internet to share and utilize
vast amounts of data. In many cases, for example in the environmental
arena, activists have been able to assess information and mobilize
campaigns in a way that far outstrips the often clumsy corporate reaction
in cleverness and strategy, despite heavy funding and fathomless corporate
computer power. The McDonalds campaign is obviously a case in point.
However, we should not underestimate the ability of this power when bent on
surveillance and repression. Any networked data can be monitored and used
to ill advantage. Any posted names become fodder for black lists and

The nefarious convolutions to which technology can be bent
are apparent in a recent issue of Covert Action Information Quarterly
(#64). It documents a troubling stockpiling of instruments of torture and
repression by countries all over the world, from highly sophisticated
monitoring and search devices to crowd control mechanisms using chemical
and brain numbing audio devices. One egregious example is a truck which
can deploy a net the size of a football field which can be laced with
either razor blades and/or chemical compounds for more effective "control".
The viciousness of these instruments is a cold warning of the degree to
which the old order will go to protect


Central to
any project for constructing alternatives, is the necessity of a vigilant
opposition to commercial media. There are many initiatives to promote
"media literacy", some of which are actually created and promoted by media
monopolies themselves.

An informed media criticism is essential for
democracy. The work of Herman, Chomsky and the organization FAIR (Fairness
and Accuracy in Reporting) are useful tools for discussion and analysis.
Time for "a ruthless criticism....not afraid of its own conclusions, nor of
conflict with the powers that be." (Marx, Letter to Arnold Ruge)

notion of non-commercial accountable media is in direct opposition to the
commercial logic that has overtaken the world. There are powerful forces
aligned against the principles of true freedom of expression. If
alternative media is a threat when it is successful, it is clear that we
need global support systems to stave off repression. The violence at CINEP
is surely not over. Organizations such as Videazimut can serve as early
warning systems to organize international solidarity against threats and
violence. Med TV must continue and expand. It is 150 years after the
Communist Manifesto and we see the revolutionary subject in contemporary
society swallowed by narcissism and consumerism. A Verso Books prestige
edition of the Manifesto becomes the window theme for a swank Fifth Avenue
bookstore. El Che adorns a Swatch wrist watch. We are all living in a
Banana Republic.

"Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose
but your chains!" (Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto)

Chains are
still with us, in fact becoming a popular commodity. A recent catalogue of
police equipment advertises chains of all materials and sizes, some
equipped with electronic signal devices that can position the wearer via a
geostationary satellite.

In the United States not only do we still have
designer chains, but chain gangs repairing roads in the South and South
West, and indentured poor under the aegis of "work-fare" in the Northern
ghettos marked by humiliating vests sweeping the streets for less than
minimum wage. Around the globe children are pressed into service creating
the booty of first world shopping malls.

"We have a choice...We can have
a cynical attitude in the face of the media, to say that nothing can be
done....Or we can simply assume incredulity...But there is a third option
that is neither conformity nor disbelief: that is to construct a different
way -- to show the world what is really happening -- to have a critical
world view.... It is our only possibility to save the truth, to maintain
it and distribute it,little by little." (Subcomandante Marcos, February.


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