for Radi0 Netherlands - The State We're In
In this global age, we are bombarded by media messages - over the radio, internet, and of course TV. Argentina is no different from the rest of the world in this respect. Only three media conglomerates own over 80 percent of the country's media which has resulted in television programming that lacks diversity and creativity, but yet is full of advertisements.
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For decades, media activists in Latin America have broken the myth that you can create media only with state-of-the-art equipment and corporate financing. Community television and radio have been around for decades. Argentina had a 24-hour pirate television station called Utopia that aired in the 90s. Brazil is home to Radio Favela, broadcasting radio in the nation's Favelas (marginalised shanty towns) since the late 80s. Many documentary producers in the Southern Cone utilized film and even intercepted TV signals to resist repressive dictatorships during the 70's.
Relatively inexpensive digital technology like digital video cameras, audio recorders, computers and editing software has shifted the paradigm even further. Today, amateur film makers can record, edit and distribute their projects to a global audience over the internet.
One media collective, Grupo Alavío, decided to build their own online community television site, agoratv.org . Ágora TV was built at the same time the collective was trying to set up a permanent community television station in Buenos Aires. Because legislation bars community television stations from attaining broadcast licensing and lack of financial support, the station never got off the ground.
But Ágora TV took off immediately, which is maybe a sign that internet may over time replace television.With analog television, broadcasters are limited to physical vicinity to where the signal will reach. However, with the internet, the audience is now global. Grupo Alavío has found that the demand for community television goes beyond national borders and even language barriers.
The word Ágora comes from the Greek word meaning plaza where people gather or assembly space where direct democracy is practiced. And the idea of Ágora TV is just that, an open space where video producers can distribute documentaries that aim to spur social change.
Tool for society
On a personal note, being a media activist is chaotic, fun and challenging. Learning skills comes with a lot of responsibility - if you have a camera, people expect a lot out of you. And they should. If we can't rely on the mass media to tell our stories, then we have to do it ourselves. The most important role a media activist has is sharing skills and knowledge with future media makers. The most gratifying part of using TV as a community organising tool is the global linkages created in the process. Community television has become an essential tool for civil society - providing a space for popular voice and building community. And with activists ever acquiring new skills and technology - this independent media is sure to grow globally.