Cameron Parkins, January 12th, 2009
Deproduction is a Denver-based video production company that has a variety of media incarnations, from Public Access TV aggregate Denver Open Media to civic pixel, an open-source web development group. All the material produced for DOM is released under a CC BY-NC-SA license, making it freely sharable and remixable as long as the creators are properly attributed, reproductions are noncommercial in intent, and any derivative works are shared under the same license. The project has been so successful that the team behind it recently received a Knight NewsChallenge Grant to reproduce their system at Public Access TV stations around the U.S. We caught up with Tony Shawcross, Executive Director at Deproduction, to learn more about their operation, how they are using CC licenses at DOM, and why Public Access TV is important.
Can you give our readers some background on Deproduction? How did you get started, who is involved, and what do you do?
The early history is summarized in a great Apogee Magazine Article from 2004, back when we were still a 2-person organization. In the 5 years since, the organization grew from collaborations with a handful of local nonprofits, including Free Speech TV, Little Voice Productions, Just Media, and the Pan African Arts Society. We had been producing videos for nonprofit partners, and began expanding our media education programs through work with local schools and an office in the PS1 Charter School. In 2005, Denver’s City Council shut down the City’s Public Access TV Station and issued an RFP from organizations who had a plan for making Public Access TV work with no operating support from the city or Comcast.
We responded, borrowing from the models of Wikipedia, Current TV, and others to develop online systems that could enable our community members to manage the station. Where most Public Access TV stations have staff devoted to content ingest, metadata entry, quality-control, equipment reservations, class registrations, broadcast scheduling and so-on, our tools enable the community to complete all those tasks with minimal staff involvement. Furthermore, our approach to studio productions, editing and even training work to reduce the workload on our staff and maximize the cooperation and support of our members.
Today we operate 4 different departments, all aimed at our mission of “putting the power of media and technology into the hands of the people”.
- Denver Open Media operates three Public Access TV channels and is working to bring noncommercial community media organizations together using the open-source systems we’ve created to make D.O.M. work.
- Civic Pixel is the web development department, focused on Open Source web development for the nonprofit sector and socially-oriented small businesses.
- Deproduction still manages our video production efforts, serving dozens of nonprofits each year with affordable, professional video production services and training.
- Lastly, our education program teaches community members everything from Studio Production to Drupal development.
What is Deproduction’s relationship to Denver Open Media?
Officially, Denver Open Media is a “project” of Deproduction, the 501(c)(3). When we launched the Public Access TV station, it was important to us to give that station its own identity that the community could really own and represent. We wanted to give the community more control over that project and structure it in a new way.
Why is Public Access TV important?
A recent Nielsen study showed that online video viewership represents less than 2% of all TV viewing. In other words, people watch TV and video on the internet less than 1/50th of the time they watch it on TV. Cable is still the #1 most popular delivery system for watching TV.
Cable is where the audience is, and Public Access is the only conduit that allows anyone to reach those audiences. More importantly, it’s a fairly privileged subset of the population who has access to the tools required to make video. In poor communities, high-speed internet penetration is still under 30%, and access to video equipment is surely lower. Public Access stations provide training and equipment that would not otherwise be accessible to large subsets of the population: the ones most underrepresented in mainstream media.
There’s no question that the internet is making the situation more accessible, but the ability to communicate with society on a large scale is still out of reach for most disadvantaged communities.
You require that all productions made using your membership be released under a CC BY-NC-SA license. Why is that? What benefits have you seen from this choice? Have there been any obstacles?
We require Creative Commons because it’s a perfect solution for the kind of content we exist to support: noncommercial content aimed at exposing alternative points of view to as wide an audience as possible. Also, we have a vision for transforming the Public Access TV community into a true media network, making hundreds of thousands of hours of user-generated content available to the masses, and that could not be possible with a traditional copyright approach.
You recently received a Knight NewsChallenge Grant aimed at replicating the operating model at DOM at Public Access TV stations across the US. What is the end-goal for this project? Are CC licenses involved?
Our goal is to cooperate as a network of stations, sharing content, sharing open-source development efforts, sharing best-practices and more. At this phase, we are requiring that the partners in the beta effort pick a point in time where all content submitted from that point onwards is licensed Creative Commons.