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Community TV and local identity


09 / 1994

As economic globalisation advances and technologies are increasingly combined, telecommunications will, inexorably, universalise our world. Urgent questions thus arise: What will happen to local identities in the global melting-pot? What impact do the new forms of community TV emerging alongside global TV have on collective identities? What are the new aesthetic and narrative challenges posed by this audiovisual evolution common to local and global realities?

A few answers were forthcoming in the recent Workshop on Community TV jointly conducted in Lima by CODAL (Communication for Development in Latin America Project, supported by the CIC, Italy and VTM, Canada)and the AVL Andean Region. This event brought to light the rapid proliferation of local TV broadcasters and channels as well as their particular characteristics in terms of management, programming, production and reception which distinguish them in important ways from previous experiences in community access TV.

According to participants, in only the last four years 500 cable channels were established in Argentina, as were at least 100 satellite broadcasters in different cities in Peru and another 500 community broadcasters in Colombia. These come on top of the 80 channels that already existed in Bolivia and the countless regional and municipal broadcasters still regulated by state or private monopolies in Brazil and Chile.

Julián Tenorio of the Association of Television Viewers in Cali, (Colombia)informed us that: "In the Cali valley alone there now exists 21 community channels. And yet, no laws exist either to encourage them or prohibit them.

One of the characteristics of the globalisation process is precisely a deregulation of telecommunications which provokes a fragmentation of both supply and demand. That said, it’s obvious that this temporary liberation of the television market has more to do with the trade in symbolic production than with media democratisation. The opportunity to watch programmes from anywhere in the world, absolutely free from any regulatory control, has proven irresistible.

Another participant, Yashin Salas of Channel-10TV in Yurimaguas (in the Peruvian Amazon)explained that: "...we use the satellite dishes in our town to receive the main channels’ satellite signals. We also broadcast our own local programming-without much technical sophistication... but we do it creatively. It’s mixed with theirs, but it’s different from theirs..."

Clearly the difference is not primarily on the technical level. What really matters is the distinct cultural idiom through which a local broadcaster relates to its audience by acknowledging its identity, respecting its diversity and projecting a positive public image of it.

The challenge for training is to develop the creativity needed to discover themes, languages and narrative forms which don’t simply compete on the level of mainstream efficiency, i.e. in terms of entertainment, but also on the local level per se, i.e. in terms of effectiveness in communication and collective participation.

Fernando Carrasco of El Canelo-Comunicaciones-TV-Chile reminded us that: "it’s been demonstrated that a neighbourhood issue, or a local personality or a motorist who speaks like us, attracts more viewer interest in regional television than national or international questions..." Television authenticates, acknowledges and provides legitimacy. While audiences are a mix of global, national and local identities, that which is relevant to people’s lives and feelings, and is immediate and identifiable with their own culture, will always take priority.

Cecilia Quiroga of Noticiero Mujer del Alto-Bolivia (Women’s News in Upper Bolivia)spoke of the importance of financing and management:"...we must develop our management capabilities to generate sufficient resources to maintain production and compete in market terms.

Independent production, like coproductions, are fraught with uncertainty (collaboration is never easy). Consequently, we must accept the challenge posed by self-financing. That means lowering costs, developing popular programming with few resources, creating networks of local broadcasters, doing coproductions with private enterprise, developing local advertising, co-administering with local institutions and most importantly, getting people to participate actively in their TV station.

Palabras claves

comunicación, medios de comunicación, identidad colectiva, identidad cultural, telecomunicaciones, televisión

, América del Sur


Through this workshop we discovered that in the new local TV everything remains to be done: they aren’t organised for community access, they lack state protection, they lack sources of self-financing, their personnel lack technical training, their programming is a mix of local and international content and they don’t even have legal status.

However, what they definitely do have is a great potential to recognise diversity, strengthen identities, appraise local cultures, promote citizenship rights and participate actively in the democratisation of communication.


Mario Gutiérrez of A.C.S. Calandria-Perú, is a trainer-teacher in the CODAL Project and a researcher at the University of São Paulo (Brazil).

Translated into French and Spanish.


Artículos y dossiers

Videazimut, Local Community and Public Access TV in. Clips, 1994 (Canada), 6

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