Letter to the Editor: Next-Generation Media?

September 17, 2019

Originally published in Seven Days newspaper

Your exploration of the delocalization of Vermont's media outlets ["Meet the News Boss," August 7] poses the question, "... who will cover town construction projects, community gatherings, and high school sports?" as commercial news institutions continue to shrink or disappear. These hyper-local events will be covered by organizations that have been doing so for decades: Vermont's 25 community media centers, commonly known as public, educational and government access television.

Vermont's community media centers produced 18,000 hours of local programming in 2017, covering municipal meetings, school functions, sports, elections, arts ... the list goes on. As independent, noncommercial entities, they do so without influence from advertisers or parent companies. They also provide training and support for community members and organizations to produce their own content, providing a valuable platform to share messages.

Community media centers are facing their own challenges amid a rapidly changing media landscape and increasing telecommunications deregulation. However, both individually and through the efforts of their state advocacy organization, Vermont Access Network, they're working to continue providing these vital media connections to Vermont communities. Efforts include participation in a legislative study committee charged with finding a path toward sustainability — its meetings are covered by ORCA Media, Montpelier's community media center, of course.

Community media centers provide citizens with their most immediate and comprehensive link to the places they live, act as vibrant digital soapboxes, and facilitate government transparency and a healthy democracy. Centers in Vermont and across the country are working to secure their futures, especially in light of the struggles of commercial media outlets.

Kevin Christopher President, Vermont Access Network