CCTV Center for Media & Democracy Celebrates 40 Years of Media and Democracy

June 11, 2024

CCTV Center for Media & Democracy

Town Meeting TV | CCTV Productions | Vermont Language Justice Project

Date: May 22, 2024
For Immediate Release
Contact: ebrewer [at] cctv [dot] org 802-862-3966 x117

CCTV Center for Media & Democracy Celebrates 40 Years of Community Media

 A picture of CCTV cofounders NAt Ayer and LG Davitian standing next to a VHS edit deck 

CCTV Center for Media & Democracy celebrates 40 years of community media, free expression and social change with a celebration of its founders, community producers, and partners in Burlington’s Intervale from 5- 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 13th at the Intervale. (RSVP here).

CCTV was founded in 1984 to establish the region’s first public access cable TV channel for local stories and community voices to be heard. A grassroots effort led by local advocates and media enthusiasts, public access TV sprang from the belief that people could use video to connect with one another and build community. This new public medium and optimism was one of many exciting initiatives that emerged during an era of progressive change that brought Bernie Sanders to office as Burlington’s mayor and created many community institutions that we rely upon today.

A newspaper clipping from 1985 announcing CCTV production of programming about the city of BurlingtonIn the 1980’s CCTV provided an alternative to broadcast and cable TV’s corporate diet of news, information, and entertainment. Programs about everyday people, local government, new planning initiatives, neighborhood happenings and the first recordings of the Burlington Board of Aldermen meetings premiered at that time on Channel 15. CCTV aired its first in-depth legislative coverage in 1987. Founder Nat Ayer commented: “I don’t think anything on television is like this. We’ll go as a citizen, not the press. We’ll just go in with a camera and say ‘What’s going on down here?’ We’re not after Nielsen ratings but we do think this information should be available.”, (Clippings from the Burlington Free Press October 16, 1987)

Over the years, CCTV has embraced new technologies and communications strategies in order to strengthen ties between community members, increase media literacy and promote social change, adding the moniker “Center for Media & Democracy”. 

In 1990, CCTV launched Town Meeting TV, a regional government access TV channel featuring public meetings and event coverage for many of the communities in Chittenden County. In 1995, CCTV stepped into the digital age with the start-up of the Old North End Community & Technology Center. Several projects followed, including IT Works for Youth (1997), Cyberskills for Nonprofits (1998), Streaming Democracy (2000), CommonGood VT (2008) and the most recent partnership with the Vermont Language Justice Project (2021) to expand access to critical health and social information through videos in 18 languages. (Burlington Free Press clipping from June 13, 1989).

A newspaper clipping that reads " Access exists not because Congress legislated it but because community people all across the country have fought for it."

CCTV is a founding member of the Vermont Access Network (VAN) and helped many of Vermont’s 24 community media centers set sail over the past four decades. Today, VAN is a thriving mutual aid society and coordinating body for access centers around the state who serve their local areas with media coverage, training, programming,

 and technical expertise. This year, the Vermont Legislature included $1 million in its base budget for VAN going forward, securing a long term funding source to offset decline of cable TV revenue, community media’s primary means of support. 

a picture of current co-directors Mohamad AlRubaie and Meghan O'Rourke in front of a black screen.CCTV’s Current Co-Directors Meghan O’Rourke and Mohamad AlRubaie recognize that current challenges to democracy and civic participation, alongside the proliferation of social media that disconnects and divides us, continue to show us how important it is to bring people together for media education, community history, varied voices, and civic coverage of meetings and events.

CCTV's Outreach Coordinator, Emily Brewer, says: "Sharing our stories on social media alone is ephemeral. People get lost in the noise and misinformation and lose sight of one another. We need local media spaces like CCTV, FPF, and SevenDays to keep community members connected and informed. When people cross paths in a space like CCTV, they remember why they wanted to have an opinion in the first place."