Notes from Jason Crow's guest lecture here

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Community Media: Presentation by Jason Crow from Cambridge Community Television

Father Albert was visiting from Jamaica, and mayor of Cambidge there too. Some of the students participated in the interview.

Today we’re talking about video; how you get it up, how you get it out, how you make it.

On Thursday, Fern and Charlie were doing first meeting of a reading group, talking about Dao Tae King (??) as an odyssey of emotions. Wanted Harvard audio/visual to cover it, but his request was too late. But they gave him a camera. So they passed it around during the reading group. Wound up making own video. Fern, Charlie and Dean are editing it now.

So we’re going to do that here too. Focus on whatever we think is interesting. The best is to zoom in right when the person hits the “agony quotient.”

1:23pm: Introducing Jason and CCTV by making connections that go way back.

  • Slide about launch of Berkman Center. Fred Friendly is in the picture. Nesson recommends we pay attention to him. He’s shown in Good Night and Good Luck. George Clooney made it with Participant Productions. If Clooney had played Friendly as he really was, he would have upstaged his whole cast. So he transformed him into an intelligent mousy character. But Fred really let it out.
  • Got fired by CBS, became leader of Ford Foundation. Instrumental in starting public broadcast.
  • Then connected with HLS and the Socratic method in the form of Arthur Miller and Nesson. Started series of programs called “Fred Friendly Seminars.”
  • He was totally into media. He got excited because saw the potential for somehow teaching and working with dispute resolution in an interesting and entertaining way; as a potential way of putting the media to work on problems he really cared about. It was a good idea.
  • Nesson feels that after being moderator for Fred in media environment where he had that insight, he’s now the next Fred, one generation down. This ability to use the camera and just edit it easily and make it available is amazing.

1:28pm: wants to show us a few things, but that was the wrong computer. The excitement of today is getting into the video.

1:29: Jason introduces himself as Access Coordinator at CCTV

  • Be Live is where people just do their thing on screen
  • 9/11 conspiracy theorists are on sometimes
  • Opinionated woman interviewing people

He’s here to talk about video and community media and how it relates to what we’re doing.

Background on Jason:

  • Went to film school at a statue university in Michigan and in Czech Republic (Fabu)
  • Started working at community media center.
  • Then UN setting up media centers in Ethiopia and Uganda.
  • Been doing this 7 or 8 years professionally.
  • He has an avatar. It’s more grass-roots, made by a friend. Really just a drawing.

1:31: his agenda:

  • Community media
  • History
  • Policy
  • IP issues
  • Media consolidation
  • Media reform
  • All that in the context of creating/influencing public opinion

1:33: we’ll look at a video because nothing says community media better than video.

  • It’s from which is taking community media to a whole new level.
  • Pay attention to how the video is constructed and dissect it.
  • This is a journalist who submitted a video about water-boarding.
  • The video is of him being water-boarded so people see what it’s like. Illustrates the tension of our need for information and the morality of using torture.
  • He hired ex-army trainers to torture him for $800.

1:38: getting our reaction to the torture video

  • Would we have seen this on a major news outlet?
  • No, because the guy that did the torture has been trying to get it on TV
  • It wasn’t quasi-objective like the networks would be. He clearly calls it torture, thinks it’s wrong. You won’t see an opinion piece like that on NBC
Jason’s whole point is community and electronic
media is this green space that allows people to
have a dialogue that wouldn’t happen under a
corporate media structure.  

1:41 Quote that stuck with Jason as he gets ready to fight legislative battle. (see slides)

1:42 Cyber one class discussion on the Necker Cube

  • There are 2 perceptions of community media in America
  • Public perception:
  • Wayne’s world
  • Crazy church ladies
  • Incessant boring talk shows
  • Lunch menus
  • Technically inept, not like network
  • Appointment viewing
  • The public perception often has to be fought. For example in Africa, trying to start stuff there.
  • Professionals in the Industry POV about themselves
  • Federally mandated electronic green space, 20 years of creating infrastructure in communities all over the US
  • Legislature as far back as 30’s to protect this. They were nervous if they let all the corporations take over the radio spectrum, it’d just end up commercials.
  • Fiber institutional networks – a huge fat pipe that is sitting dormant and was built because of federal legislation that requires cable companies to contract with city. There is 15000 hours of local programming a year.
  • He thinks of community media as public speech.
  • But they have to deal with obscenity laws. It’s NOT FCC that decides what’s obscene in this area. It’s community norms, but it’s decided by the courts. Timothy Huffman v. State of Michigan. Penis puppetry in UK is a high art, but not in Michigan. First Amendment defense thrown out immediately.
  • On-demand
  • (more stuff on his slide. Too fast)


  • Why is so much community media boring and lame, but YouTube shows us that community created media CAN be entertaining?
  • But then the counter question is how much relevant, interesting content is on regular television?
  • Nesson answers the above question by saying that this entertaining torture video isn’t on community TV because people would turn it off. And if that’s true, that’s just bad business.
  • Jason thinks only 2% of regular TV AND community TV is any good. YouTube is a way to filter only the good stuff to the top. The internet hasn’t been adopted by the community TV makers.
  • Also, infrastructure is a problem. It’s inherently local. And the demand is therefore small, because small area. The internet is very different.
  • But now funding is threatened, so Community TV is figuring out they need to copy YouTube and have the best stuff rise to the top.
  • But having some central person deciding what’s good and what’s not seems antithetical to what community media is about. It doesn’t censor, aggregate.
  • CCTV has 17,000 hours of TV a year, 3 channels, and only 6 staff members. So they just can’t do it.
  • YouTube has found a way to share the tasks of bringing the best stuff to the top.
  • TV used to be an analog medium. At it’s code layer, TV has changed in the last 10 years. TV was magnetic waves, not 1’s and 0’s. It used to be restricted to localities. But now it’s digital. Pixels make JPG’s, and 30 fps makes a movie. So the way we deal with it can change too. A whole new host of difficulties. Boards of Directors are crapping pants because all their policies were about locally produced stuff they could control. Now, on Be Live on CCTV, you can go in and do the internet.

The hope is community television stations will break out of this mold and serve 2 interest groups:

  • Local group with local interests
  • Local group with global interests. So, we can just borrow stuff and show it across the country.

1:56: The idea of the Bicycle and the Possum

  • Community media people have decided what’s important to community media (in the face of local, state legislation, local courts, powers that be threatening local voices). A group has tried to think of new ways to share content:
  • Blogs, RSS readers, mostly entertainment but sometimes news
  • takes a Tivo, records a city council meeting, exports the good parts, analyzes it on her blog. Local people get their local news from that site.
  • Placeblogger will aggregate those types of blogs.

1:59: picture of the internet

  • Question: how can we harness the internet to change content? (slides will be posted)
  • Ourmedia: Free services sometimes get slow because lots of people can use it.
  •, google video, you tube etc.
  • Couldn’t find anything that fit their needs.
  • So they used new technologies (bit torrent, open source, simple syndication etc) and adhered themselves to ideals of open source movement (create content and then give contact back to the people)


  • Functionally, what is a coder trying to do here?
  • Allow anybody in the world with the tools to log into, sign up for own blog, and they become their own TV station.
  • Get own RSS feed, mailing lists, subscribers, friends.
  • It’s like a blog on steroids. You create video, upload the torrent file to your blog, and subscribers get it. That file points to media and sucks it in. The reason they do this instead of You Tube is because of file size. These are broadcast quality videos. It’s an effort to connect TV with internet. Anybody can do this with a normal video camera. YouTube is videos just for internet. That’s the web component.
  • The idea is not just to distribute a lot of content people won’t be interested in (fat kid in a jockstrap), but to get more media that people would be interested in. The fat kid won’t get distributed.
  • Then there’s Possom, the other component.


  • The reason CCTV has no listing of programs is because Comcast won’t let them. So Nesson wrote to general counsel of Comcast to request it. He’s getting a runaround. They say he’ll hear from a local person.
  • Lack of a listing is one of the most serious limitations on quality for local TV. Seems like arbitrary discrimination. You can’t find out what’s on, so you have to just stumble on it.


  • CCTV should try to figure out how to figure out which stuff is the best, and show that on a premiere station.
  • A good suggestion would be to have some Cambridge resident come on and do “the best of the net” or “the best of CCTV.” And then you have the good stuff!
  • But they have to think about their audience. Only rich people have internet, and they have control over media anyway. CCTV is trying to serve everyone, but including the poor. If you forget the analog code layer, you miss seniors, poor people etc. You don’t want to just think about serving the top 15% of rich people who have high speed download. Don’t want to forget about the seniors whose sole entertainment is cable TV (analog).


  • Is there a future for CCTV project at all? Won’t internet just be widely available to everybody soon?
  • Nesson: CCTV has a school. People learning to do media. The point of asking about bicycle possum is that Jason is working at the code layer to integrate the media. So it’s possible for anybody with a TV set to absorb stuff off the internet. Aggregate the best of the net and deliver on TV.
  • The point of last week (David Lazer) wasn’t as well focused on as it should have been. We are one of the dots on the network. It was Fred Friendly’s idea that good ideas like this could light the medium up.

2:16: video by Glenn Brown, who was a Berkman Fellow, led creative commons, now is at google. It’s just an example of something somebody made and put up.

2:17: Rebecca: Jason is going to give us a lesson how to produce quality TV content. We need to express our idea for our debate on cyber media somehow.

It’s important to become a trusted aggregator of media in your community. That’s what CCTV will be in 20 years. Just sifting through all the stuff, and hopefully doing it well.

2:20: workshop on how to produce good video that will actually be watched

  • Teaching is another important component of CCTV. Members can take classes on pre-production, production, and post-production.
  • Better to do the planning for what you’re going to say before you start grabbing the tools and starting to produce.
  • Though Nesson said not to plan to death. Must actually do it.
  • Pre-production is 40%. Productoin is only 20%. Once you get in the hang of it, actually using the tools is pretty easy. The actual turning on of the camera and shooting is just a few hours. But the editing of a 5 minute video is 15 hours.
  • What they actually did in the torture sequence was pretty easy. A roll (interviews), then B roll (torture scene), then A roll again. Easy.
  • Should also learn to download stuff from internet to use.

See slides for tips on video making.

  • Know what people are going to say and how they’re going to say it. Maybe even ask them to say it a certain way.
  • Make sure audio is good! That’s the biggest limitation.

It’s a powerful way to use the media for powerful communication.

2:32: movie by 15yo Lexi

  • Background narration – the audio is great, she sounds like she’s in the room
  • Mostly still shots
  • Some interviews
  • She uses sound effects, simple music that evokes the setting etc.
  • So, with good planning you can use these simple features to make up a good story.

2:35: legal plight of CCTV

  • In 2005, AT&T, SBC, Verizon started lobbying Congress for legislation at state and federal levels. Multi-pronged attack on community TV.
  • Astroturf Groups (a group created by a for-profit corporation via 501(c)(3) that has same interest as the corporation.
  • They’ve been battling at all levels.

• Thankfully network neutrality has stalled the Senate lately.

  • is big in it. They’re trying to rewrite 1996 Telecom Act, and diminish all the public interest obligations on TV providers. So they can get into video providing network and do whatever the hell they want.
  • The legislative battle is to fight this legislation.
  • Network neutrality is hard to legislate on.
  • The threat is they’ll lose their funding. They get 5% of gross revenue of cable company, and also channel capacity. They want to take that to 1%. If cable company wants to, they’ll let CCTV keep their channels.
  • What’s exciting about CCTV is they have 24/7 3 channels to reach ALL of Cambridge. All they need is interesting content and a method for aggregating it.
  • That too is under threat. CCTV’s lawyers and policy people think these bills could be interpreted to create a free-for-all.
  • Depending how it pans out in conference, they could have amendments to override state legislation and screw them from federal level. Or amendments that get rid of “do no harm.”
  • So, possibly a big litigation free for all with no level playing field. So, if Verizon pulls out, all the cable companies will.

2:43 Nesson: Right now, community television doesn’t matter. So nobody will want to save it, because nobody cares. The only way to save it is to convey quality media, so that it’s a genuine asset that people want to say. So, the ball game is not fending off people in Washington, but figuring out a way to create quality content.

Jason agrees, but we’re in the 9th inning. CCTV forgot to build that momentum in the 7th inning, and their tired. The big companies are more powerful than they are. So they’re looking to bicycle/possum now to figure it out. has a good step by step training for shooting video, editing etc.