Youth Generated Media on Local TV

Youth are spending more and more time in front of a TV. Just a click of a remote opens a gateway of information. Yet instead of regurgitating the same messages and stereotypes they see on say, MTV, young people could be creating their own media or relaying their position on issues ranging from music to the local LGBT community.
But where can young people go to gain access to the tools necessary to read and create their own media and have them aired back on the same medium that captures hours of their daily attention? Fortunately, a few Community Media Centers (CMC) across the U.S. specialize in teaching young people how to participate in media and air their own stories and messages on Public Access Television.
The Peoples Channel
The Peoples Channel (TPC) in Chapel Hill, NC is such a center with programs geared toward engaging youth in media. Our center strives to empower youth by providing training, equipment, and a space to broadcast the ideas and issues most important to youth.
Since 1997, when the town of Çhapel Hill applied for a public access channel space free of corporate influence, TPC’s mission has been to provide education and tools to local residents to produce and distribute, via cable television, their media productions on a first come, first serve, First Amendment basis. We provide media training, technical assistance, and production facilities to serve and amplify the diverse opinions in our progressive, active community. We reach 30,000 households in the Chapel Hill area. TPC realized that young adults rarely have an outlet to share their ideas, values and stories in the media and wanted to change that. As a result, our youth media programs were born.
At present, TPC provides programs for youth to get their hands on the tools to make media—equipment that is often hard to come by, especially in communities with lower incomes. With training ranging from field production, studio production, and non-linear editing software, TPC makes it easy for youth to get their voices on the airwaves. All sessions are student driven: once they’ve participated in lectures and demonstrations on interpreting the media, students lead the content and instructors act solely as facilitators. Each session’s final product is premiered on The Peoples Channel, Time Warner Cable channel 8 in Chapel Hill and students are certified to use TPC’s facilities and equipment for any future projects they wish to produce.
Our youth media programs change the relationship of young adults from passive viewers of media to active agents in the media. Our programs are typically for youth ages 12-17, with a focus on the issues that spark the interest of local youth. The sessions give young adults the technical and creative skills needed to produce a variety of media, encouraging students to look at the media differently in the process of creating their own.
Providing opportunities for young people to make and react to media transforms their relationship to media—from consumer to producer. For example, Coren, came into TPC a shy but talented musician with aspirations to move into video. After taking a Field Production course and participating in TPC’s Summer Youth Production camp, he was transformed from a quiet teenager into a confident producer who has created many pieces, including documentaries of local football games. Coren is now applying to Full Sail University in Florida to study film production.
Access to Youth Programs
Courses at TPC are not free; however, since TPC believes that every opportunity for access to media tools should be provided to every youth, we offer a slate of innovative opportunities for youth participation. Youth media organizations that charge a fee for their programs might consider the following:
Provide scholarships. TPC wants to ensure the opportunity for all youth to attend its media programs, so it asks local businesses and organizations to contribute funds for scholarships that are distributed based on need. TPC also uses a sliding scale to determine fees.
Offer sweat equity. TPC offers sweat equity, where youth may use volunteer time to pay for the production classes. Students take the course and then gain more experience by using those skills by volunteering to film local events like our community’s Earth Action Day celebration. Students help create content for broadcast while honing their productions skills and paying off the fee for the class.
Consider school credit. Volunteer time can also be used as a means to earn high school credits. One student, Jen, became involved with TPC because she needed credit to graduate, but she also needed help producing a short piece to submit with her application to the Savannah College of Art and Design. She mixed her production time with volunteering with TPC, earning the sweat equity to receive the certification on TPC’s equipment and complete her project for submission. Her project, a short narrative on dreams, can be seen broadcast on the station.
Serving the Local Community
TPC brokers both the resources and the relationships between schools, the community, and after-school programs. For instance, Omuteko Gwamaziima, a charter school down the road in Durham, NC that focuses on African-American culture and empowerment, was using TV studio and field production as an education tool but lacked the necessary studio equipment. They were turned down by larger, more corporate production companies for budgetary reasons. They learned of TPC and wanted to expand their existing on-site production to include an interview formatted studio program.
After receiving training from TPC, Omuteko Gwamaziima students produced over 10 studio programs that ranged from conversations with members of the local Black Panther movement to educational pieces incorporating footage they shot on location. Moreover, TPC also made it a point to educate youth on the messages buried within an image.
High schools, charter schools, and youth media organizations can easily partner with Community Media Centers. Although policies differ with each center, one goal is maintained: every person should have the tools necessary to make his or her own media. With classes and special events focused on expanding the media experience, Community Media and Public Access Centers make sure that every voice is given a path to an audience, making a positive impact in local communities using neighborhood resources.
Suggestions to the Field
Building partnerships with CMCs will further link youth media products in the local community to local cable access. Teaching young people how to participate in media and seeing their products and messages aired on TV is an opportunity that Community Media Centers and youth media organizations must join forces to sustain.
It is critical that young people learn how to decipher when they’re being entertained from when they’re being sold a product. Media training programs and CMC’s must teach young people how to see through the subtle messages that elicit emotional reactions to products and ideas so they can speak back through a similar medium.
Each city and town has an opportunity to apply for Public Access Station. To learn more about how your area may become involved, take a look at the Alliance for Community Media. This great organization strives to connect CMCs and other public, educational, and government channels with a combined mission to allow access to the media for everyone.
Jeremy Taylor is the programming director for the Peoples Channel in Chapel Hill, NC. He is also the lead instructor for video production for TPC as well as the Arts Center in Carrboro, NC. Jeremy began working with TPC in 2003 volunteering with NC Indy Media & crewing on other local productions. He quickly became an asset to TPC & was hired as staff shortly after. With a background in graphic design & I.T., Jeremy uses his skills to help the mission of TPC succeed by teaching anyone who wants to learn how to make their own media. In his spare time, Jeremy is an avid skateboarder & motorcycle enthusiast.