On Wednesday Deb Lastowka and Tony Shawcross of Denver’s public access television station Denver Open Media gave my students and I a tour of their facilities and talked with us about the work they do. Their bold vision of the future of TV is much needed. While sites like YouTube are making history by catering to the mass craving to create and distribute amateur video, regular old television— a decade into the internet era— is still pretending the web is basically a form of Sunday newspaper: mostly good for advertising and reprinting schedules. Sorry but American Idol voting is the very definition of faux participation.
Every aspect of DOM is participatory. The organization lends out equipment and offers low-cost classes on making and uploading video. Open Media members make all the station’s programs. Shows that garner the most votes from viewers are rewarded with the best broadcast time slots. Viewers can also text-in ratings and comments, which appear onscreen in realtime.
DOM is sharing this model with other public-access stations throughout the country. In a video outlining their vision of networked TV, Executive Director Tony Shawcross explains:
In developing all the tools we need on the limited resources that we have, we’ve been working with some of the leading public access stations in the country. Together we’ve invested over $100,000 in developing a tool set that will allow any public access station to adopt the pieces that they want, include them in their model, and start collaborating with us and the other stations so we can together start acting like a network instead of tiny independent isolated stations.