INDEPENDENT MEDIA by Steve Anderson
Some of us have made New Year’s resolutions to exercise more, eat healthier and spend more time with friends and family, etc. While these are important personal goals, it may be the right time to also have a loftier collective resolution: to radically open up our media system in 2010.
I’ve written before about how the combination of big corporate media’s self-mutilation and the increasing proliferation of the open Internet has created an historic opportunity to transform both Canada’s media system, and even our concept of citizenship, government and institutions in general. What I have been somewhat remiss in discussing is the third and most important factor leading to transformative change in media – what I’m calling the open media movement.
Open media emerges
The burgeoning open media movement is really a constellation of interconnected yet distinct communities, which are advancing open communication and defending our communication rights and values. These communities include those that have come together around open source software, open data, open Internet, open web, open content, open education, open government and many more. What brings all these thriving communities together is, of course, the value of “openness.”
At first glance, open media is simply about the issues listed above with values such as accessibility, choice, collaboration, diversity, openness and transparency. While these values intersect to create an essential nucleus for media innovation, they are only starting points. For example, access and choice, in addition to putting value in real choice for online content and Internet service providers, also touch on the need for media literacy, knowledge and media production programs. Closing the digital divide is about more than just providing access to the Internet. Having access to the Internet without the time and knowledge needed to fully utilize it is a half measure at best.
Likewise, diversity and innovation are not simply abstract concepts. A media system that supports diversity and ground-up innovation includes enabling mechanisms for different ownership models, including independent, non-profit, campus, community and public media. The best way to support cultural creators, media workers, citizen producers and consumers is by developing an underpinning of diversity that we can tap into.
2010: The coming out party
It looks promising that 2010 will be the year when the open media movement coalesces. This year, the Mozilla Foundation will launch an initiative specifically focused on supporting and advancing the open web. Considering that more than 300 million people – one in every four web users – use Mozilla’s Firefox browser, it’s exciting to hear that it plans to take a more active role in advancing the open web.
The open data community is also poised to reach new heights this year. Last year saw open data-focused Change Camp events in several cities across the country. Vancouver enacted an “Open Motion” and local governments are now pursuing similar policies
And let’s not forget about the open Internet movement. In 2009, town hall events occurred in four cities; more than 12,000 comments were sent to the CRTC and there was Liberal and NDP support in parliament, along with a competitive broadband campaign that saw nearly 100,000 letters sent to parliament. This year, we can expect the open Internet community to broaden its focus and push for a broadband plan for Canada.
Those who understand the importance of having open media should step up their efforts this year. Right now, we have a window of opportunity to re-imagine media in Canada, but that window can and will close if we don’t quickly put the pillars of an open media system in place. Together, we can ensure that, at the end of 2010, media will be more open than at the start of the year.
Steve Anderson is the national coordinator for the Campaign for Democratic Media. He contributed to Censored 2008 and Battleground: The Media, and has written for The Tyee, Toronto Star, Epoch Times and Adbusters. Reach him at: