Traditional media outlets are struggling to remain relevant. Newspapers no longer carry news. The information has be splashed across the internet hours before the ink is even dry on their pages and television programming seems dated in a world where everything is ‘on-demand’. Fast and convenient news has it’s dangers, however, and community television could have a big role to play in combatting them.
The world is changing rapidly and, sometimes, it’s not clear who is driving that change. Events like BREXIT, the US Presidential elections of 2016 and the Capitol Hill attack that followed them in 2020 all have a common element. Two polarised groups for whom all chance of dialogue seems to have broken down. Traditional media, with its professional journalists often tied, by legalities, in what they can report, seem tame compared to the often sensational reports from vloggers, bloggers and ordinary people posting on their social media profiles. The rumour-mill is in overdrive and the social media giants don’t seem to be able to moderate the enormous quantities of data that flow through their platforms. People are warned to ‘fact-check’ but, in a world where the average user clicks away their personal data to avoid reading the terms and conditions of a website, and selecting which ‘cookies’ to allow, it is naive to think that they are drilling into the background of everything they read on social media. Community media, however, is different.
Irish people have a warm relationship with their local radio stations. There is a sense that local radio is embedded in the community. It’s about local issues and it’s run, most often, by local people. There’s a level of trust, therefore, and a service that covers the stories that matter to the local community. This relationship is one that community television can use as a model. Its ‘unique selling point’ is that has the same qualities as local radio. However, it needs to learn from the big media players if it wants to attract and retain audiences. If it gets the model right, community television can be a force for good in areas like climate action, social inclusion and media literacy.