Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Northern Visions loses funding for Belfast's community TV station and digital media centre

Northern Visions logo

Northern Visions (or NvTv) is a not-for-profit community community digital media and arts centre. It has an Ofcom license to transmit a free-to-air, analogue television channel across Belfast via a 500W transmitter.

It is very disappointing to learn that at a time when digital media is on the up - and at a time when the barriers of entry for communities should be at their lowest - that two of Northern Visions' normal funding streams (Arts Council of Northern Ireland and NI Screen) have pulled the plug and no longer see NvTv as fitting their funding remit.

Skilling up communities to tell their stories is a key part of a shared future in Northern Ireland. Telling and sharing the stories of marginalised groups, older groups, interface communities, special interest groups should be part of enriching our understanding of each other.

At a time when the UK government is wanting to develop the mostly overlooked community TV sector, it is a disappointing that Belfast's existing community TV station and digital media centre is facing closure.

I hope that the DCAL minister as well as OFMdFM (wearing their Cohesion, Sharing and Integration hat) will work with arms length funding bodies to ensure that no stone is left unturned in assessing whether Northern Visions can be kept going as a viable and increasingly valued community asset.

Northern Visions are collecting statements of support over on their website. Update - their feedback form sends your comment to DCAL and OFMdFM. OFMDFM are replying to say that

"the issue you raise relates solely to the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure (DCAL) ... we trust that they will respond to you in due course."

Two and a half years ago, along with a number of other disreputable characters, I took part in a series of Blog Talk programmes - somewhat unusually taking the online world of blogging onto Channel 62 of Belfast television sets! (To be fair, the episodes were also available to view online.) Imagine my surprise when a few months later I met my previous next door neighbour and she said that she'd seen me on television. TV? No, not me. I was flicking channels and there you were sitting on a sofa talking about politics. Ah ... they must be showing Blog Talk again.

One BBC producer even admitted to me that she flicked through the Northern Visions archive to look for potential community contributors.

Northern Visions are not alone. Other arts organisations are in the process of announcing the results of substantial funding cuts. In the current economic climate, with reduced public funding available, it is inevitable that organisations will have to scale back and in some cases close: good organisations as well as bad ones.

Update - Northern Visions have issued a press release along with statements of support.


Unknown said...

I approached Northern Visions several times wearing my Northern Ireland Foundation hat. No replies. Perhaps because we're not a funding body? NvTv no attempt to broaden stakeholder base to business and voluntary sector? Any advertising to the wider public?

Regrettably this looks like the way most community sector orgs will go: just asking Government for funds that they aren't going to receive.

Anonymous said...

In response to Allan, I am rather puzzled by his comment. Working with a range of voluntary sector interests, particularly in the victims' and children's sectors, I have always found NvTv very engaged and 100% responsive. So whilst as an individual he might have had this experience, it is not fair to generalise to the whole community and voluntary sector, I think.

Anonymous said...

Don't mean to be anonymous, can't figure out how to get an identity on this blessed system without telling them what I had for breakfast, its Marie Breen-Smyth! :)

Anonymous said...

NV is/was a club for social workers and that ilk. If we want a media industry give the funding to the likes of UUniversity to get a studio built in Belfast and get the youngsters transmitting.