First came the rumours, then the confirmation. When the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland declined to fund several Dublin Community TV applications it may as well have hammered nail into the coffin of the little channel that could over on UPC 802. In this interview, rabble talks to some familiar faces from the station and looks the at ramifications for alternative media.
Dublin Community TV seemed to be flying along with a flurry of activity all summer long and then out of nowhere, boom – there was a series of rumours and then a statement on the website saying it was all over? So what happened?
Ciaran Moore: DCTV has always been project funded – every year we put applications in for individual TV programmes and other projects and got funding for these – mainly from the BAI S&V scheme which had 3 or 4 rounds a year. 2013 has just been a terrible year. We were really busy all summer shooting projects we had been awarded last year. Yet when the news came in at the end of October that we weren’t been funded in the archiving scheme, even though we were in the middle of productions, trainings and broadcasting our autumn schedule, it just wasn’t viable to continue on.
What was it like to operate without a core budget? Can you give our readers some sort of idea of the impact this had on people working in the station and then also, how it impacted on the sort of productions you did?
Ciaran Moore: Obviously it made it hard to plan – you would prepare four projects but maybe do one, maybe do three. This damaged a lot of relationships and caused a lot of wasted effort. Also since we only really got funded to make television every thing else – training, transmission, promotions, outreach and recruitment, volunteer support – was done by staff on top of the work we were paid to do.
Barry Lennon: It was difficult because we didn’t have enough time to let projects breath after they were finished as we were only funded to make the piece of work as opposed to thinking of screenings and other things like this after . If we had core funding we have been more capable of exploiting things like this as well as letting projects develop over a long time and we would have functioned better as opposed to multi tasking continually .
How does the BAI’s funding programmes work? Is it just one pot that everyone has to compete for? What was different between this BAI round and the previous ones? Why did they suddenly pull funding?
Ciaran Moore: They have a programme funding scheme and recently launched an archiving scheme where they receive written applications and send these out to external assessors who then make decisions on funding – everybody goes into the same pot although in the past they did have community media assessors who had some idea of what we were trying to do. The guidelines in recent times have changed and seem to favour more commercial TV – which has been hurting community media.
The statement issued by the station management mentioned that you were approaching a sustainable funding model. Can you give us some details of how this was shaping up?
Ciaran Moore: We had training funded both by Irish funders and the EU. The shopfront studio in Temple Bar looked viable and we were getting an awful lot of volunteers and activity.
Barry Lennon: We were starting to build other departments in the station outside of just doing television production based activities . I had developed a lot of training projects with youth centres and community groups and we were also working towards developing a lot of european projects .
What was different about Dublin Community TV compared to all the other production units that compete for this funding?
John Breslin: DCTV was set apart from other production units in that it provided space for a lot more to happen than just a crew getting together to produce a certain documentary or TV series. This meant we were always stretched to a certain degree but it also meant that we had a studio and camera equipment available to be booked by all members of the co-op.
Another obvious difference was that we operated a broadcast channel and provided space on this for members to have their videos aired, for public domain material to be scheduled and for programmes like Democracy Now to broadcast.
It also meant that we shaped productions around the need for different communities to be intrinsically involved.
Barry Lennon: It was different because its agenda was set by those that were active within the co-op – members were able to run with programme ideas and develop them into series with the support of the staff. We saw this with the recent completion of a six part series called Pirate Days looking at how the 1988 Telegraphic Act affected pirate radio . Over the last few months we have a mix of volunteer run shows being made .
Does the BAI not have an obligation to support community media?
Ciaran Moore: Yes – although how they interpret this is the important bit. They have a legal responsibility to devise schemes to support the development of community broadcasting – we’ve been saying since the scheme started that it didn’t meet this obligation. There is also an obligation to support diveristy of media and that the funds go to diverse sectors.
So what’s going to happen all of the training projects you were running? Did you not have youth programmes set up with The Bosco Youth Centre in Drimnagh?
Barry Lennon: Yes I am currently in the process of finishing some great projects one with Bradog Regional Youth Services who are based in the north inner city . This project is providing a platform to train young adults in studio production , planning and mainly to give them a voice to report on local issues in the area by producing four studio based youth magazine. I have other training projects planned for next year with different organisations including St John Of Bosco and hope to keep these going as I feel empowering young people to engage in their local area while learning new skills is important .
Can you give our readers some insight into the origins of the station? Like it’s been on the air for about 6 years, but it was knocking around in various forms and guises for years before that. Who were some of the characters and what were some of the main steps that helped it along to getting on the air?
Ciaran Moore: The big thing was the winning of the license in 2006. The group who prepared that bid included people who had already spent a lot of years lobbying for the idea of community television by the time the 2001 Broadcasting Act was passed creating the possibility of community television. They then set up the co-op and prepared the initial bid which won the license – so by the time we started preparing the first schedule for the trial period starting in 2007 and then full launch in 2008 there was more than 10 years work done already.
If DCTV as a broadcasting station, was just one guise it existed in – do you think the co-operative will struggle on in any other form? Especially given that the studio in Temple Bar had managed to get a few tight production crews into operation that might develop a life of their own beyond the station?
Ciaran Moore: We hope so – the networks and volunteers and even most of the equipment should still be available. Community of Independents for example is in production at the moment and groups like the Live Register are still very much in existence – and needed.
Barry Lennon: Yeah I think so – a lot of the groups that have been built around the station will continue to produce programming now that they are armed with the skills to do this .
It looked like a great summer of productions, the Inquiry was your first real dramatic production, so you were moving into whole other terrain with that. What was it like to break out of documentaries and studio work and enter that challenge?
Ciaran Moore: Scary!
John Breslin: It was a mix of emotions. We were pretty busy as it was so Thom McDermott – who had worked on one of our many volunteer made shows DoleTV – came in as producer on the Inquiry and managed it really well. My role was mostly in the edit but I was on set for the few days of production in July and it was a great buzz, a hive of activity from a diverse crew most of which was made up from people we had come in contact with over the years of other production.
Our task wasn’t easy – an hour of drama television to be shot in three days when most other production units would take 15 – but we got through it. It was completely different from a lot of the processes we had developed for working over the years as were forced into a very defined, mechanical mode of production but I think we put our own stamp on it. I think we were all blown away a bit by Turlough’s script, once people saw that it was apparent that we had to try live up to it with the relatively tiny budget we had.
Give us one of your DCTV high points and then a real low point?
Barry Lennon: I think there were loads of high points and low points as there is any six to seven year journey . I think some of the high points where completing season one of the Bosco Talks a training module I had created from previous training I delivered . It was funny to make a speech in the mansion house in front of cheering youths at their graduation at the end of this project and then train other groups and centres using this model . A low point was working this hard for so many years to develop DCTV with a great team of people , friends and what I would now call family to have it all shut down but I feel it is important now to look towards what can be salvaged from what was developed in the existence of DCTV and keep community media vibrant and exciting as it was during the fumbled speech I gave in the mansion house .
Ciaran Moore: Storyteller winning a MOMA award was pretty good – on a day where the rain was flooding the city we got a real surprise as hadn’t expected to win. A lot of really rough funding decisions I had to communicate to someone – it was a bad system for community media as even when we received funding there was shows that people had put a lot into developing that didn’t get funded.
John Breslin: Easy one: the low point has been the last few weeks without a doubt. Some high points included bringing DCTV to the European festival of Community Television in Slovakia and presenting We’re At…- a production covering some festivals in Dublin made mostly by volunteers a few years ago. Met lots of people there which opened my mind to the fact that Community television means something very different to so many people. Our first drama a few summers ago too, Crew TV, was brilliant in that we got to work with and learn from some great people on that project and generally because making three episodes of a sitcom with a group of teenagers is a lot of fun.
What will the lasting legacy of Dublin Community TV be? We know only too well in rabble how touch and go things are for independent media – are their lessons people need to take from this experience?
Ciaran Moore: 6 years, 24 hours a day of TV, 2 studios, hundreds of shows and we never had the money to really do it. Dublin is full of brilliant, talented, innovative, skilled, funny people who will chip in if you try and do something – some of them have a bit more free time at the moment so have a go at something.
Barry Lennon: I think all the content , ideas and people involved will be the legacy . So many documents of different communities were made during the existence of the station whether that was historical , arts or music programming.
If there was to be a short video made of the top five DCTV moments on camera, what would they be?
Ciaran Moore: The snake around Danny Carrolls neck in the Christmas episode of COI. The tapping exercise in the first studio with MAIN. Father Feidhlim from Dole TV. The dragons den sketches from CrewTV. Michael Franti at Occupy Dame Street (I’m just a big fan – TV Drug of a Nation is a major inspiration 😉
Barry Lennon: Producing a Joyful Slog. Making the first episode of community of independents and going on to now being half way through season 4. Crew Tv
A special screening of The Inquiry, a DCTV feature length production which dramatises the events of the Askwith Inquiry into the 1913 Lockout will be held in the Connolly Hall, Liberty Hall, on Tuesday, 12th November at 6.45 p.m