“We welcome it, but we are wary”- Swindon Viewpoint on Community TV

Last month we looked in detail at government plans to introduce local community television in the UK. Regardless of the obstacles in making this a reality, it undoubtedly has the potential to transform community media, and establish a powerful new platform for our local areas.

Martin Parry, with permission from Swindon Viewpoint

Surprisingly, Community TV is not a new idea. Swindon Viewpoint describe themselves as a “focal point for the visual life and times” of the Swindon area. Beginning in 1958, they have transformed into an online living, breathing and growing documentary about all aspects of their local history (and present!). It is an endlessly explorable vault of diverse, well-created programmes. Despite all this, Swindon is not on any list of potential locations in plans for rolling out new local stations. Dubbed “the original YouTube”, we spoke to Chairman Martin Parry about what community media like this can really achieve.

The Community

Image with permission from Swindon Viewpoint

‘People really benefit from having a better sense of what is going on in their  town and its cultural and social diversity, not to mention a vastly increased awareness of such as local planning and political issues. Information is power, democracy depends on it to work, so we feel our role in disseminating that information is crucial’.

Challenges

‘It’s very frustrating, especially funding issues Government and powers that be either don’t recognise our value fully or don’t want to, so we have never been properly funded really.

Often we have rubbed up those who should support us the wrong way through programmes criticising them. This has happened frequently with the local council. They frequently don’t or won’t understand the nature of ‘access’.

Here’s one that rubbed up the cable company the wrong way and led to them with drawing support:’

(All videos in this post with permission from Swindon Viewpoint)

Improvements

‘People who continue with us are generally more sophisticated than they used to be. They understand how the media works better (another real cultural and social advantage). People who make further programmes tend to make them somewhat more sophisticated than at first.

Many of our trainees have also gone on to a career in media. Not our primary purpose, but welcome nonetheless

One young film maker, in our partner film workshop Media Arts and using much of our equipment, went on to direct Harry Potter films’

The Rewards

‘They have been many and varied. Perhaps the foremost is that a huge number of social action groups on a range from housing to planning to the environment have got their issues widely publicized locally and this has often resulted in positive action in their favour.

More broadly, it really helps people gain a sense of place and the social and cultural life of their town. The internet well serves communities of interest we believe are pioneering more difficult serving of a geographical community.

On a different note, we see huge benefits for the volunteers who participate in making programmes. They come shy and inexperienced but soon have vastly improved confidence and communication skills to mention several, through organising and completing a production’.

Favourite Moments

‘Moments? Seeing the look of pride and achievemtn on people’s faces when they finished and transmitted a good programme.

I don’t feel it’s all that important what I like. Many of the programmes I like I made myself!

To name two..’

Community TV Proposals

‘We welcome it, but we are wary. They need to specify something different than miniature ITV stations, they should insist on a model that is democratically run by local people and accountable to them. But will they?

We would be very interested in working as a broadcasting television station. We are already doing it, knowhow to do it and would welcome doing it more widely and serving as a model for how to do it.’

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To delve into the world of Swindon Viewpoint, visit them here.

If you have any thoughts about local community television proposals or are involved in setting one up, we would love to hear from you as always.  or email us.

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