DCTV Programming Now Online

This column published May 2, 2010 in The Davis Enterprise, http://davisenterprise.net. Hometown media are rare, and Davis has many. I think that says a lot about our community. I've written about community media and media policy for The Enterprise since Feb. 1996 and thank them for an enduring partnership and years of coverage.

By Autumn Labbé-Renault

There are thousands of hours of social-interest content being produced each day at community media centers across the country, but this content has been disproportionately absent from new media platforms such as YouTube. Challenged by dwindling funding, detrimental legislation and constantly changing technology, these typically small non-profit centers have had difficulty adapting to the significant workflow required to upload and manage large quantities of video online.

Media demographics have shifted significantly over the years. People still watch TV (consider Comcast, AT&T and Dish Network all vying for their market share), but a growing audience asks our staff at Davis Media Access (DMA) ‘’Why can’t you put this content online?”   Until now, the tools available to us required encoding and uploading to outside video file sharing hosts and consumed large amounts of staff time. We’ve been uploading some content, but we’ve been limited. 

All that is now changing. I’m proud to announce DMA has completed Phase 1 of our participation in the Open Media Project with the launch of a new video-sharing website for Davis Community Television (DCTV).

New territory

Established in 1988 as a public access television center, DMA has grown into a community media center encompassing media production, archiving and distribution across local cable television, radio and the Internet. DMA operates DCTV Public Access Channel 15 and Educational Access Channel 17 (in partnership with the Davis Joint Unified School District), and low-power community radio station KDRT 95.7 FM.  Now in our 22nd year of operation, we’re known for local election coverage, as well as a wide range of youth media projects and community partnerships.

Initially funded by a Knight NewsChallenge grant, the Open Media Project's goal is to develop tools that will help transform community media centers like DMA into local hubs of an updated, global, user-driven, noncommercial media network, with a specific focus on civic issues and local concerns. The project has been developed using Drupal, open-source software used to manage content online. The Open Media Foundation in Denver, CO, applied for the Knight grant and spearheads the project.

“More than a year ago, the Open Media Foundation began partnering with Davis Media Access to help develop a new model for participatory community media,” said Tony Shawcross, executive director of the Open Media Foundation. “DMA has been a strong ally, making countless contributions to expand and improve the Open Media Project. We look forward to continued partnership with DMA in exploring new ways to expand community participation in a changing media landscape.”

In early 2009, the Denver non-profit began implementing a beta version of the tools, along with six other community media centers that agreed to partner as beta sites: Amherst, MA; Austin, TX; Boston, MA; Davis, CA; Denver, CO; Portland, OR; and Urbana, IL. Outside of Denver, Davis is the first of the partners to launch the video-sharing component.  

Development of the DCTV site has been driven by Darrick Servis, DMA’s director of operations. Servis has been involved with the open source community for more than 15 years and was already programming in Drupal when the Open Media Project opportunity arose. He’ll tell you that we became involved with this project because we're in the business of exchanging information and knowledge, and that’s what open-source software does.

“It’s the heart of the information about our programming as it puts the community at the center of our media offerings,” Servis said.  “We’ve also focused on a model that’s interoperable and scalable, so we can use any on-demand video services and obtain content from a variety of sources.”  DMA also plans to apply these tools to the websites at kdrt.org and djusd.tv.

What viewers can expect

Visitors to dctv.davismedia.org can view programs produced recently and licensed through Creative Commons (a simple, standardized way to pre-clear copyrights to creative work). This includes DMA’s election programming for the June 2010 election, segments of “In the Studio,” and a wide variety of volunteer-produced programs.

Viewers can vote on which programs they like and comment on them as well, which will help determine the weekly programming schedule for DCTV.  Servis is working to finalize integration with Facebook, enabling users to log in with their Facebook accounts and share favorite videos on the social-media site as well.

I am perhaps most excited about DMA’s new capacity to digitize our archive of more then 4,000 local programs dating back to the early 1980s. Not everything from DMA’s archive will be online, due to limitations such as video degradation or lack of clearances, but entries are tagged, and will be searchable. Several hundred programs from the archive have already been digitized and added to the website and we’ll be adding more as we go.

As DMA moves into Phase 2, producers and volunteers will be trained to use the website to make their own equipment reservations and perform other tasks that have always been done by staff.  In addition, DMA will be able to easily share content with other community media centers.

This is a project that will continue to unfold and take shape as we move along—a work in progress, if you will, but one that provides immediate benefit in terms of reaching our community with this content. It strengthens and diversifies our offerings: cable channels, LPFM, radio, on-demand.

I want to credit our staff and the DMA board with being consistently supportive and willing to blaze new trails in community media.  In 2004, DMA became the first public access center in the nation to launch a low-power FM radio station—KDRT.  In 2010, we’re launching this website. I look forward to future endeavors that will continue to set the pace for independent, user-driven community media.