In today’s media landscape, where misinformation, bias, and commercialism dominate, public access television provides us some relief with its people-powered focus. Since its inception, public access provides an alternative to the dominant corporate-owned media landscape by offering people access to training and equipment to create their own non-commercial media.
While some public access channels across the nation have been lost in mergers or operational shifts in recent years, in Philadelphia, we are fortunate to see PhillyCAM, our public access station, thrive. Public access media is created, produced, and distributed by the public for the public. It is open to everyone in the community and is guided by the principles of media democracy and freedom of expression. It’s a unique platform where diverse, often underrepresented voices can speak out and share stories to help their communities.
I am one such individual who has used the power of PhillyCAM to help my community thrive. I am the founder of Talking Tech w/ Wayne, a nonprofit that helps older adults access the benefits and rewards of technology. I came across PhillyCAM during the early months of the pandemic when my in-person classes were canceled.
Whether a person wants to use their voice for self-expression or social justice (or both), PhillyCAM guides them in their journey to feeling equipped and empowered to trumpet their experiences, their truth, to the public.
Through PhillyCAM, I have found a way to expand my nonprofit to produce video segments that help seniors navigate technology. PhillyCAM’s television studios, production equipment, and staff helped me produce online classes that cover everything from how to use a search engine to how to use tablets. The seniors I work with often feel disconnected from the digital world; through PhillyCAM, I have been able to help them feel more engaged and connected.
Whether a person wants to use their voice for self-expression or social justice (or both), PhillyCAM guides them in their journey to feeling equipped and empowered to trumpet their experiences, their truth, to the public. Just turn on Xfinity 66/966HD or Fios 29/30, and you may come upon the Seven Figure Hustle, a show about financial literacy; Atrévete, a bilingual showcase of the diverse experiences of Philadelphia’s Latino community; or Looking Forward about individuals working or impacted by our criminal justice systems.
Too often, people do not recognize the wealth of creativity and insights that are natural to them and their communities. Mainstream society works against further self-discovery by marginalizing voices that do not fit neatly into the conventional agenda. Our communities are stronger when public access channels like PhillyCAM thrive. We must ensure they survive.
Public access channels like PhillyCAM receive their funding through franchise agreements that the city has with cable television providers. The city is currently renegotiating its franchise agreement with Verizon.
To ensure that other creators and I can keep doing this critical work, please take five minutes to fill out a residential household survey about your internet access. The survey asks various questions to obtain information about residents’ cable-related needs and interests. This is where we need folks to demonstrate their support for PhillyCAM and how much we need it!
Public access channels like PhillyCAM must continue to receive funding from franchise agreements. Please take the survey.
Wayne Hunter is director of Talking Tech w/Wayne, a local nonprofit providing free technical information and support to seniors, through in-person discussion groups, a 24/7 helpline and a TV show.
The Citizen welcomes guest commentary from community members who stipulate to the best of their ability that it is fact-based and non-defamatory.
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