Beginnings – 1992:
CMN began it’s life as Community Video Network(CVN) in 1992 and has since then helped bring a number of different organisations into being. The following is an attempt to explain it’s evolution and the forces that shaped it’s direction.
CVN was established by a number of community activists using video as a tool within communities. The aims and uses of community video were, and are still, various: it was used as a tool for evaluation, to make programmes that could be used as discussion raisers, or as promotional material for the groups. The group was set up at the same time as community radio stations were being established around Ireland, operating with support from the then Regulator, the IRTC, and through a loop-hole in the 1988 Wireless and Telegraphy Act. The presence of licensed community radio stations underlined the absence of community access to other forms of media.
Community groups found that they had no means of distributing video material once produced which meant there was no means of disseminating their ideas or creating useful links to others with shared interests. Access to television as a distribution platform seemed a clear necessity to all at the time. CVN’s prime purpose was to lobby for community television and a new coalition that put Labour into a coalition Government seemed to provide an opportunity. The Bill proposed by Michael D. Higgins in 1995 was seen by community activists to fall far short of community need (see “Tracking” 1997); the fall of the Government in 1996 meant the community television project had to be shelved until the possibility of new legislation arose again. By the end of 1996 CVN activists had reconsidered their position, re-grouped, and re-named the organisation as Community Media Network (CMN). This new formation sought to bring community radio and other media activists together to build an umbrella movement for community media across the island.
In 1996 the overall objective of CMN was identified as “initiating and supporting networking within and between media, and providing support where key resources were absent” (see mission statement). CMN aimed to promote the use of media in community development as a tool for empowerment, and included both geographical and issues based communities in this remit. The new focus of the organisation recognised needs in communities for access to a wide range of media and for different strategies that reflected their situation and therefore sought to exploit the synergies between media. This meant a much broader remit than before involving video, radio, print and other media as a resource and tool, whilst continuing to campaign for access to television.
With the support of a CE project CMN ran a small but high quality media resource centre from 1998-2003 where training in a range of media was available and video post production facilities could be accessed and projects supported with expertise and equipment.
In 1998 the AGM approved the following Mission Statement:
“To ensure that all groups, especially those disadvantaged and marginalised, are fully informed about, and can actively participate in and share control of, community and alternative media. The goal is thereby to enhance effective and democratic means of expression and contributing to progressive social change.
CMN seeks to play a catalytic role in this. CMN as an organisation is open for membership to all those who share these goals.
Since then CMN’s strategic objectives have been:
1. To provide support to the community and voluntary sector in the form of provision of low-cost facilities and training in media areas and has provided the following:
a) Video production and post-production;
b) Multi-media training in Web design, Graphic software and Desk Top Publishing;
c) Facility for hire of video, radio, photographic equipment.
2. To campaign for the development of resources and capacity-building in all media areas, but particularly in respect to community television.
Projects and Activities:
In practical terms CMN’s aims have been translated into the following activities:
Nurturing and supporting the advocacy capacity of the community media sector in Ireland. The scope of this includes lobbying for appropriate legislation, regulation and institutional support structures for community media in Ireland and in the EU. CMN makes submissions to Green and White papers at Irish and (e.g. the Green Paper on Broadcasting) and European Commission level (e.g. the Green Paper on Living and Working in the Information Society) and raises questions through its publications, conference presentations and participation in meetings. CMN has made significant contributions to the consultations around the Broadcasting Act 2001, (five of it’s proposed amendments were written into the Bill), the Broadcasting Funding Act 2003, and has engaged with the lobby process around all broadcasting legislation since.
Engaging with Research: CMN initiated a Participatory Action Research (PAR) Project on the development of community television in Ireland, linked with Maynooth NUI and the Royal Irish Academy Third Sector Research Programme. See Research and Publications page for related documents.
Collating a Community Media Directory as a resource for the sector and developing an accessible database of community media resources.
Establishing a Web Site to act as a resource and distribution mechanism for community media, with links to community media internationally. www.cmn.ie
Running festivals and events including the seminal “Altered Visions Festival” in 1994, a “Media in our hands” Conference (1997), and a range of seminars and workshops focused on issues ranging from Community Access TV to Lobbying Strategies for community media advocates.
Publishing a magazine Tracking and a bi-monthly Bulletin. These cover a wide variety of topics, each issue including feature articles on different kinds of community media. Originally in print, the magazine is now an on-line publication.
CMN has also been responsible for managing and co-ordinating several projects:
1. Building Community Media in Ireland 1997 – 2000. Funded under the EU Integra programme, CMN gave training and support to 18 community organisations in three centres around Ireland: Dublin, Cork, and Leitrim, to set up a community media initiative or enterprise in video/television, radio, or photography. After training, ongoing support was offered to communities to face the challenges of the early stages. This was also a transnational project.
2. Community Empowerment through Distance learning in the Information Society (CEDIS) 1997-1999. Funded under the EU’s Information Society Activity Centre the objective of CEDIS was to develop within the community voluntary sector the capacity to utilise Information Society services effectively. Each participant organisation completed an intensive training course in the effective use of the Internet and a practical assignment addressing its aims.
3. A Day At The Races 1997. Funded under the EU Year Against Racism CMN in collaboration with Pavee Point Travellers Centre and the Irish Refugee Council worked with groups of Travellers and refugees to produce video tapes, radio programmes and a photographic exhibition dealing with their own experience of racism. The project provided introductory training in these media to enable participants create the programmes with support from CMN member organisations.
Through it’s work in these projects, CMN sought to develop further understanding of the media needs of this sector.
Developing Community Television 2000 – 2007
CMN lobbied for the political recognition of community media and had significant successes on national and local levels, with the Broadcasting Act 2001which legislated for community television and the Dublin City Strategic Development Plan 2002-1012.
CMN efforts also led to the founding of Dublin Community Television (now broadcasting on UPC Channel 802) with CMN providing a Secretariat for the young channel from 2002-2007.
In its involvement with the Dublin City Development Board and the Dublin City Community Forum (DCCF) CMN along with a wide range of Dublin-based community groups participated in an effort to develop new forms of engagement with authorities, solidarity-building within the sector, and raising the profile of the sector as a whole. CMN proposed and was a founder member of the Community Media Forum as a Focus group of the DCCF. The DCMF lobby efforts produced an important inclusion of community media as a strategic objective within the Dublin City Development Plan.
2003 CMN’s media centre closed in 2003 due to lack of funds; however CMN continued to work to develop community television with a smaller Social Economy Scheme, now a Community Services Project (CSP).
Developing community capacity – 2007 to date
After the establishment of DCTV and with the licensing of two other channels CMN reviewed it’s strategic outlook. While the advent of community channels was welcome, the channels were under-resourced and had little or no funding. CMN looked to address the gap that became evident between the channels and the community sector. The revised strategy is presented on this website.
Currently CMN CSP is based in Clonsilla, Dublin 15 and works with Community and Voluntary groups, providing training and production support to meet their media needs.