Community cable TV stations are not called community cable TV stations anymore. They are “community media access centers.” This reflects the new reality for them: they are not only on television, but on the web, and they not only try to get shows on the air, but give people access to media and a chance to reach their communities, say people in the industry.
That latter sentence--helping people feel like they are part of something bigger--propelled Arlington Independent Media's win in a recent national competition. "Overall Excellence in Public Access" is awarded to the center that shows how well they have involved the community in the center's operations.
Community participatory media is “what it’s about,” said Gregory Morrison of the Alliance for Community Media, which hosts the Hometown Media Competition.
The clip reel that AIM submitted for the competition showed “overall excellence” in video production, Morrison said. He added that just as importantly, the clip reel demonstrated that the access center is meeting community needs, that they are covering local culture, news and events. The clip reel is a montage of video clips from various productions and interviews. Access centers nationwide judge the reels and vote for winners.
It is import that the clip reel shows “whether or not they’re demonstrating the use of the access center as a communications resource for the community,” Morrison said.
“It’s recognition...for all the people who do the work here,” said Paul LeValley in an interview. He did not mean him or his staff, but the volunteers who produce the shows. Although some shows are produced by AIM's professional, on-hand staff, most of the programming is created by volunteers who themselves volunteer on other people’s programs.
“The people that we feel we’ve empowered, now they’re getting the recognition for their work. It’s very gratifying,” said LeValley, AIM's executive director.
Morrison, an Arlingtonian himself, said that AIM beat five other access centers of their size for the award. Morrison said only five competed because the number of centers with budgets over $650,000 is small. That Arlington supports one of the larger access centers nationally is substantial, he said.
“It’s unfortunate but it’s true there are fewer access centers that have the kind of funding that we have,” LeValley said. Big access centers have dropped out one-by-one. Sometimes politics gets in the way, sometimes the centers did not get a favorable franchise with the cable companies, he said.