Media policy

Position Paper of media activists requesting restoration of the education and outreach programs in Manhattan.


We are a group of media activists, educator and television makers who believe deeply that
democratic media is a key element of empowerment and justice in our society. Despite the popularity of online video outlets such as YouTube, we are convinced that community media access on cable is still very important. With the new franchise agreement with Time Warner recently signed*, MNN is once again in a unique and powerful position to shape media which speaks to and from our own neighborhoods, and grassroots organizations in NYC. This is the time to incorporate new strategies around media, and to construct interactive, hands-on production and distribution processes which engage our many NYC based communities.

We have appreciated MNN’s past support and cable access resources, but MNN also needs the support of the public, especially those groups who are dedicated to community organizing, education and empowerment. MNN's Community Media Department’s mission was to provide communication tools to the underrepresented within nonprofits who don't have the resources, and to cover a diversity of issues that are not seen anywhere else.

Media education is important, not only for job development and skill sharing, but also to restore dignity and self worth in communities that are historically locked out of media production, and marginalized through blatant and subtle stereotypes. Media education and creation can be the first step to understanding media infrastructure and the economy of information. And community based media is the process of reclaiming some of that space to tell our own stories.

It is our understanding that in the past four years the community grants was been eliminated at MNN, in part because of financial restrictions during the long franchising process. However now that the new franchise has being implemented, we would like to see the reinstatement of the community media grants, and to ensure that the process for selection is democratic and not “top down”.

Production value of past grantees has been criticized as being of “low quality”, or in some case were unfulfilled. Rather than dismantling this important resource, we would like to see MNN review the past 18 years of grants, and offer a transparent assessment of the impact and successes of the past projects.

We agree that there are gaps and challenges with production quality. However, solely hiring professionals to make productions for and/or about our different groups and communities takes those communication tools out of our hands, and hinders the autonomy of production by and for grassroots organizations. Media making and communication exchange should not be limited to polished final projects. Diversity in outlook and philosophies of various cultures are the basis of their expressive communication.

It is important that the process- that of selection of grantees, the implementation of the grants and the interfacing with community- be done in a way that empowers the authentic voices of the communities involved. The most successful public access centers across the country are not those that produce festival winners, but those that have activated grassroots production and education which fosters true community communication. Public access television began with a project in Canada that was about communication between groups in which the process was much more important than the product. We need your help to revive and restore our public access community media resources.

Recently, the very strong, active and visible Youth Channel was dismantled leaving bewilderment and concern in it’s wake. What will happen to all of the creative programming produced by the Youth Channel? Over the last 10 years of Youth Channel’s existence they have created some of the most powerful awarding winning programs, collaborating with youth based organizations and disenfranchised youth from all over New York City. There was an archiving process going on. What is happening to that process? The tapes are an important and unique record of youth production and should be carefully archived.  It’s our understanding that half of the East Harlem Firehouse is supposed to be devoted to the Youth Channel.  What will be erected in it’s place? And what role should our organizations have in ensuring accountability to our young people?

We the undersigned, are advocating for:
1)    Reinstatement of the Community Media Grants with a community based advisory committee that we (as MNN’s past grantees) play a role in shaping
2)    Reinstatement of the Community Outreach and Media Department and fully staffed to i5 fulltime staffers who have the needed community media background and that understand how to build with communities through media.
3)    Reinstatement of the Youth Channel and fulfill the commitment of  their presence in East Harlem.

We look forward to hearing your insights and responses.


NY Coalition for Community Media