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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Community television as an aid for citizen involvement in the planning process LeMaistre, James Frederick

Abstract

An increasing desire on the part of the public to have more control over the environment in which they live is raising demands for a more decentralized decision-making structure. These demands mean a change in the power structure. Information has become the source of power and control. If citizens are to be involved equally in decisions, it means they must have freer access to the reception and distribution of information - especially in the mass media. Television as a medium has the capacity to deeply involve people and to transmit a large volume of information. In Canada, the content of broadcast television is controlled by the government agency, the CBC, and private broadcasters. Financial interests (advertisers and stockholders) can exert strong influence on programme content. A scarcity of broadcast channels and very expensive and complicated equipment restrict access to broadcast television. Cable television offers a solution. It has a potential capacity of eighty-two channels; it does not require as sophisticated equipment; and the Canadian Radio-Television Commission requires the cable system operator to provide a community channel. Free access by citizens to a cable channel for expression and information is the basis of community television. Several cases, in which media access and citizen influence over decisions were improved, were examined. The Fogo Island project exhibited the power of film to help a community to formulate its goals and define solutions to its problems. The Drumheller project used video-tape, instead of film, to the same ends. In both these projects the citizens controlled the content of the "programmes". The Barrie experiment used two electronic media (television and telephone) for dialogue. The content of the programme was determined by a community committee. The Richmond project used electronic dialogue but the content was greatly influenced by a technical panel. The experiment in the West End was designed to spur discussion of the future of that area, to interest some residents in the use of video and cable television for expression of their attitudes about West End life and some directions for development. On a small scale the experiment was successful; the extension over a longer period of time will determine its final outcome.

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