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Local communities on-line: mapping local Web-TVs in Italy

Communautés locales en ligne : cartographie des Web-TV locales en Italie
Giacomo Andreucci
p. 221-244

Résumés

La montée en débit des territoires en Italie ces dernières années a facilité la naissance de beaucoup de web-télévisions sous les efforts conjugués des institutions éducatives, des administrations publiques, et de la société civile. Les communautés locales (les quartiers, les centres sociaux, les paroisses, etc.) peuvent ainsi disposer de leur propre chaîne de Télévision et diffuser leur message dans un environnement de proximité mais aussi à l’échelle monde. L’objectif de cet article est de faire le point sur la présence dans l’espace italien de ces web-télévisions et d’en étudier les effets en termes de renforcement du lien entre les communautés locales et au niveau plus large du réseau global.

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Texte intégral

Introduction

1At the end of November 2009, many Italian blogs but also traditional newspapers and some magazines came out with the news of the settlement of FEMI (Italian Federation of micro web televisions – Federazione Italiana Micro Web TV)1. This happened during the third edition of the national meeting “Paese che vai” (Country that you go)2 an event created two years before and dedicated to gathering all kinds of Italian web-televisions.

2More than sixty web-TVs participated in the third edition of the meeting and many of them decided to join the FEMI federation. The national meeting “Paese che vai” was created as an initiative connected to the project Altra TV3, (Other TV) an on-line observatory started in 2004 thanks to the collaboration of university students, researchers and journalists with the aim of mapping alternative televisions in Italy, mainly based on web technology.

3From the initial concept of altro (other), Altra TV then shifted its focus to the concept of web-television giving birth to the “Paese che vai” initiative in 2008. A particular boost to both initiatives was imparted by the work of an Italian media journalist, Giampaolo Colletti, co-founder of the Altra TV project; he had been dealing for months with web-TVs in a section of Nova, the technology weekly column of the economics daily Il Sole 24 ORE.

Map of Italian web televisions made by Altra TV for “Paese che vai” (November 2009)

Map of Italian web televisions made by Altra TV for “Paese che vai” (November 2009)

Altra TV for “Paese che vai”

4The birth of the FEMI was made possible thanks to the formulation of a definition that could identify a specific typology of web television called “micro web television”. Thanks to this definition, an attempt at identification was made, within the chaotic and not clearly definable world of web televisions4 aimed at creating a specific group that shared some common ideas regarding the purposes and the ways of their doing web television. By reading the statute of the FEMI federation5 one aspect appears to be particularly stressed: the relationship with the territory. We can read for instance in article 2, annex “A” in which the concept of micro web television is defined: “It is necessary that these channels constantly interface themselves with the territory, both on-line and off-line”. Without adding for now other quotations that we will see later on, the importance of the relationship with the territory appears to be an essential ingredient in the definition of micro web TV. In this article we would like to explore two main questions that the formulation of the previously mentioned concept and the birth of FEMI have raised: The first one asks whether these experiments could be put in relation to the concept of community television as developed in north-central Europe at the beginning of the Seventies, under the influence of the USA’s public access cable television experiments and in what terms?

5The second question pertains to the nature of the relationships these experiments establish with territories from a geographical point of view based on the framework of the “Scuola territorialista italiana” (Italian Territorialist School).

6These two main questions will be investigated making use on the one hand of a historical analysis of the evolution of the concept of community television in Europe and especially in Italy, in its variant of televisione locale (local television). On the other hand we will focus on the second question, by firstly defining the approach of the Scuola territorialista and then, through an analysis of a sample of experiments, we will formulate a synthesis of our discoveries. The two tracks of our investigation should not be considered as two parallel lines never intersecting but as two strings strictly interwoven.

Evolution of the concept of community television

7To investigate the relationship between the concept of community television as defined in Europe in the Seventies and the current concept of micro web television it can be useful to summarize the main points of a larger definition of community media. Without entering the extremely wide debate on the definition of what is a community that has involved sociologists and researchers from other disciplines for decades, we can just bear in mind the main traditional difference between the concept of geographical community “conventionally identified with a relatively limited geographical region - a neighborhood, village, town, in some cases a city” (Jankowski, 2002, p.5) and the community of interest “whereby members share some cultural, social, or political interests independent of geographical proximity” (Ibidem, p. 6). Then, according to Jankowski community media refers to “a diverse range of mediated forms of communication: print media such as newspapers and magazines, electronic media such as radio and television, and electronic initiatives (…)” (Ibidem, p. 6). Their main characteristics embrace the idea of community mainly in its geographical sense:

  • “objectives: to provide news and information relevant to the needs of community members, to engage these members in public communication via the community medium; to ‘empower’ the politically disenfranchised;

  • ownership and control: often shared by community residents, local government, and community based organizations;

  • content: locally oriented and produced;

  • media production: involving non-professionals and volunteers;

  • distribution: via the ether, cable television infrastructure, or other electronic network;

  • audience: predominantly located within a relatively small, clearly defined geographic region, although some community networks attract large and physically dispersed audience;

  • financing: essentially non-commercial, although the overall budget may involve corporate sponsorship, advertising, and government subsidies”. (Ibidem, pp. 7-8)

8The concept of community television finds its place within the above definition of community media. In one of the most relevant studies on community television in The Netherlands (Jankowski, 1988), while examining many definitions regarding the use of television media within local communities, Jankowski individuates two main models. The first he calls access television and the second community television. The concept of access television is rooted in the legal rulings regarding the local cable TV which saw the light in the USA at the end of the Sixties-beginning of the Seventies. According to the law, part of the space in the local cable channel had indeed to be reserved as a public access electronic space for citizens who could use it to send their programs, making it a sort of electronic Hyde Park’s speakers’ corner. This kind of television use, called also public access television or open channel television was often “seen as an unorganized chaos of programming fare, varying considerably in quality and concern” (Jankowski , 2002, p. 6). The other model, called community television, “is similar to public access television in that programming is ‘made by local people as distinct from professional broadcasters’ (…) Community members become involved in all facets of station activities and exercise control over day-to-day and long-range policy matters. Unlike access stations, community television stations generally strive to produce a coherent and coordinated overall programming package that reflects, represents, and involves members of community” (Ibidem). In Italy at the beginning of the Seventies, television was completely under the State monopoly and there was not the kind of opening by the government as there was in the United States or somewhat in The Netherlands (Andreucci, 2008). Moreover, according to the Italian law, the existence of television was conceived merely at the national-regional level but the possibility of a community television was not contemplated in any terms. Some pirate experiments, in particular the pioneer station Tele-Biella, by building their own cable networks (since in Italy television was exclusively accessible via ether) forcefully introduced in Italy a new perspective, which was called televisione locale (local television).

9Local at that time was not intended as it later would become in Italy, that is a ‘private commercial television aimed to a localized geographic audience’ but local meant much more for Tele-Biella and its founders, essentially that it was the equivalent of the concept of community television. That is a television built by, participated in and directed by and to the members of the community; the purpose of this medium was not then lucrative but aimed at establishing a coordinated public space of expression and enhancing the territory (Ibidem). It was something closer to the idea of community television rather than public access television.

10As we have just said, if at the beginning of the Seventies local could be considered equivalent of community, in the following years these values got lost with the advent of commercial local television which made the idea of community media almost completely disappear from the mediascape; things got slightly better for radios. At the beginning of the new millennium in 2002 a movement rapidly spread in Italy aimed at generating a network of small pirate television stations called street televisions or telestreets (the name of the movement was Telestreet) (Berardi, 2003). These experiments utilized traditional radio waves exploiting the so called shadow cones (approximatively covering some streets, hence the name street televisions-or more rarely an entire neighborhood) that is, spaces in ether frequencies left free by mainstream networks because of natural obstacles like hills, big buildings, etc.). By doing that telestreets were visible on normal TV sets. But what was particularly significant was the intention of re-actualizing the original idea of community television giving space to the community members to express themselves through the medium in a coherent way. One of the main causes that gave birth to telestreets was indeed a strong reaction to the monopolistic regime in the Italian mediasphere, not just referring to the Berlusconi’s Mediaset monopoly but especially to the fact that, until then, no room had ever been permitted and assured to community televisions by law (Berardi, 2003; Andreucci, 2006). After a period of initial enthusiasm, in the second part of the first decade of the new millennium the number of telestreets had then undergone a constant decrease, due to the many problems related to technical aspects (difficulty of finding free spaces in the range of frequencies), to legal ones (absence of legislation able to protect and guarantee the right of existence to these experiments) and also to aspects of economical sustainability. Some of them (less than a dozen survive currently in Italy), have also become web-televisions maintaining in this way a double nature; some other telestreets have instead completely migrated to the web television model, abandoning their presence on TV sets.

A geographical approach

11In the previous part many definitions were presented: community media, public access television, community television, local television, street television, all of which had an important relationship with the concepts of place and territory, not merely intended as geometric levels in a scale that ranges from macro to micro. In the definition of micro web television instead an idea of the local intended merely as a geometric object would be evident: a micro web TV would be different from a regional or national web-television in that it tells what happens in smaller areas and those it targets its programs at. However this limited concept is not supported by the FEMI itself that, while adopting the definition of ‘micro’ in reality presents in its documents a more articulated and complex concept of micro.

12The same members of FEMI show a variety that attributes to their practices different meanings to the meaning of micro and its relationships with territory.

  • 6 The “Scuola territorialista” was born in Italy at the beginning of the Ninenties thanks to the work (...)

13Thus we want to investigate here the variety and also the difficulty of establishing a clear identity, that lie under the definition of micro web TV. We therefore want to turn to the methodological and conceptual framework of the “Scuola territorialista italiana”6 in that it considers the place and the territory not just as a geometric bidimensional object but as a complex system of processes generated by many kinds of relations that happen through communication processes. According to this school “the territory does not exist in nature: it is the dynamic, stratified, complex result of subsequent cycles of civilizations; it is a complex system of relationships between settled communities and the environment” (Magnaghi, 2000, p. 61). The territory counts therefore, as its founding dimension, the processes of communication realized between its constituent strengths and energies. The first question that arises is whether, at the programmatic level of their definition, the micro web televisions, can be meant as instruments of communication and participation for the territories in which they grow and develop in a grassroots perspective. It could then be useful to examine the statute of the FEMI federation attentively, particularly the already quoted article 2 of its annex “A” where the definition of micro web TV is proposed. There follows a selection of the points we deem more interesting for the purposes of our investigation.

14“The association is a federation that involves all the micro web televisions which take part in the realization of the grassroots digital communication process and guard the various instruments of communication. It arises from the need of joining the different forces and souls of a still fragmented phenomenon, to promote processes of video-citizen-journalism still little known to specialists and to public opinion. It is an unaligned organization that – with respect for different ideas – aims at creating an active digital citizenship.

15It involves the micro web televisions that are pertinent to the Italian territory, that is channels born from pseudo-organized groups of citizens, videomakers by chance or by love, channels constantly updated and prevalently broadcasted on-line. It involves structured or semi-structured entities. Therefore, to join FEMI as members, it is necessary to realize serial productions prevalently broadcast on-line and that make use of digital support for production and distribution. It is necessary that these channels constantly interface with the territory, both on-line and off-line. As members, the following types of web TVs may join the federation: the micro web TVs with informative function, the on-line channels aimed at the promotion of territories, the micro web TVs with a protest function, the channels also born in academic contexts, university and educational but with a territorial focus, the micro web TV that promoted vertical communities connected to the territory, at least in their initial stages and that, in any case, cannot be included in exclusively business-oriented channels”.

16By reading the above definition, one clearly sees the difficulty but also the pressing need to find out a precise identity for these experiments. The positive results of this operation are not guaranteed. A first difficulty we need to mention above all, even if not directly pertinent to the geographic point of view, regards the nature of the World Wide Web where it is not easy at all to distinguish between specific media and their languages or even their technologies. On the web, the traditional distinctions between different media get recombined and their boundaries fade. While community televisions in the Seventies used a specific technology, the cable networks, that distinguished them from a community press publication, or from a flier, for instance, on the Web the boundaries between media come to be weaker giving birth to continuous hybridizations. It is not an easy task to distinguish a web TV from a video-blog, from a video-repository, from a social network, etc. At the same time distinctions are necessary if one wants, like in this case, to start processes of creation of a group basing the identification on the type of medium and in the way a medium is utilized.

17The definition of micro web television adopted by FEMI stresses in particular three aspects: citizen journalism and grassroots participation, seriality of the production and particularly the relationship with territories. If the first two elements are common also to other kinds of web televisions, the third is a key element of the concept of micro web television even if, as said before, the term micro in itself is not particularly appropriate to define this characteristic. Moreover, the definition above tells little (perhaps intentionally) about the way in which the territoriality of these initiatives can take form.

18To get a more precise idea about whether and how micro web televisions, beyond the definition itself, are able to become an active part of the dynamics and processes of creation of territoriality, we designed a probe by investigating a sample, that consists in the web TVs of the Lombardia region of Italy, registered as members of FEMI as of 7 may 20107. We chose this region because it is one of the more densively populated by web televisions, as appears from the map proposed by Altra TV8. Moreover, many of FEMI’s members belong to it, so it can offer a sufficiently exhaustive sample. Our investigation has been entirely based on on-line data, accessible from the web TVs web sites and from search engines (using Google). In just one case did we use e-mail (Polar TV) interview to get some more precise information. The purpose of our investigation was to try to establish the level of territoriality of these experiments exclusively using on-line information. The result is therefore clearly partial and focused on a limited range of aspects. Below are the three main groups of questions we have used to question and examine the web TVs.

  1. The first group of questions regards the core staff of the initiatives. From previous research it results that web televisions (not just the micro web TV of FEMI as the research was conducted on the web TVs mapped in Altra TV before FEMI was born) are usually based on a core of five persons (medium value) (AltraTV, 2009, p. 6; Colletti, 2010). So our questions were: do the members of the core staff all belong to the reference territory of the initiative? Is the staff open to external contributions, and which kind of contributions (coming from the territory or also from external realities)?

  2. The second group of question regards the content of the programming: to whom are they addressed? In what percentage is content from local realities present? What facets of the territory are represented (big events, daily life, etc…)? Is the local reality represented in critical terms or just like a showcase aimed at a sort of pure territorial marketing? In the programming, is the territory considered as a mere object or as an instrument to raise discussions, debates, and initiatives - new projects? What is the level of bi-directionality permitted to the people who will watch the videos (e.g. possibility to comment on videos, to link them, to embed them in external web-sites; possibility of using forums or social networks to comment on videos or to make proposals for new content)?

  3. How do other on-line media from the territory (eg. websites, blogs, social networks etc.) link or quote the experiment?

19There are eight experiments here considered there: Evan TV, Handy TV, Mantova TV, Michelino TV, Legnano Web TV, Piero da Saronno, Polar TV, Storie digitali. A simple schema synthesizing the technological characteristics of the considered channel accompanies the analyses. As regards the third group of questions the investigation has been conducted by using the first five pages of Google.it results (consulted in the period 1-6 may 2010. Also the web-sites pages were consulted in that period). For every case the specific key words utilized are specified.

Case studies

Evan TV

20Website address: http://www.evantv.net/​
Technology used to broadcast videos: videos on the web-site, channel on http://www.streamit.it/​
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: NO
Possibility to link videos in external pages: no, for the video on the website (it is possible to link the page that hosts videos), yes for videos on Streamit (a video-streaming platform)
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: NO
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: present on a dedicated blog, present on Facebook
Key-word used for the Google search: “evan tv”

Introduction

21This web TV is located, on the FEMI list, in the city of Varese. The initiative, born in 2007, introduces itself on the website as a ‘thematic’ netTV that offers a video on-demand service and in streaming dedicated to a strictly Christian message (…) In this context the project was born, with the purpose of offering an instrument to Christian minorities: a channel for those who have something profound to share and an opportunity for those who have a desire to listen. We think for instance of activities like academic conferences, exegetical studies and insights, art, intervention on social themes, activities usually accessible only by those who physically are in the location where the activity takes place.

The core staff

22In the “Team” section of the website one can read: “The staff is composed of video-creatives, IT professionals, journalists, Bible scholars, etc. but, in harmony with the Evan TV’s mission, every collaborator is mainly a confident Christian who cultivates a relationship with God and takes care of the transmission of the Gospel”. There are just references to the Evangelical community but without more detailed links to a specific Evangelical church. There is no mention of the territory or local realities. The core staff of the initiative declare themselves and the initiative open to all those who share a common interest in their faith.

Programming contents

23The programming for a great deal is made up of seminars shots, meetings from many Italian regions and obviously also from Varese.

24From a first investigation of these contents the territory appears more as a background to them, it is considered just as the topographic datum, “where an action takes place”. In the tags cloud of the related blog among the many tags, the name of Varese appears but not as most important.

Relationships with territorial on-line media

25The initiative is very well linked to many websites, Italian but not only, and related to the Evangelical world. As regards local and territory, we found that the site of Chiesa Cristiana Evangelica “La sorgente” di Varese has a web TV that reproduces recorded programs of Evan TV (we saw it from the logo, even if that was not openly declared) but apart from this we did not find other local realities that link or quote Evan TV. As for Evan TV itself, on the website there are no links to territorial realities and also in the blog we did not find any, in the related sites list at least.

Short comment

26In the case of Evan TV the concept of community of interest appears to be the most useful to describe the initiative. The technology choices made do not yet permit a deeply bidirectional interaction with the contents and in any case it is not directed explicitly to the local reality (e.g. possibility of commenting and embedding videos; a YouTube channel exists that uploads some of the videos permitting them to be embedded for instance in the blog but it does not appear to be the official YouTube channel of the initiative).

Handy TV

27Website address: http://www.handytv.it/​
Technology used to diffuse videos: videos on the website; YouTube channel on http://www.youtube.com/​user/​tvhandy
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: no for videos on the website, yes for videos on YouTube
Possibility to link videos in external pages: no for videos on the website, yes for videos on YouTube
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: no for videos on the website, yes for videos on YouTube
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: yes, on Facebook
Key-word used for the Google search: “handy tv”

Introduction

28This web TV is located, on the FEMI list, in the city of Gallarate (VA). On the website no information is given about the nature and the purposes of the initiative but there are just videos with related metadata. There are just about 30 videos and they are dated from 2008. No updates seems to have been made in 2010.

29No references are made on the site about any geographic connotation. From articles found on Google, from newspapers and blogs, we found that the initiative was born from the idea of the owner of a local television station, IBC (http://www.ibctelevision.it) and provides transmission of contents on a satellite channel and on the web, with the purpose of creating the first Italian thematic television dedicated to the disabled.

The core staff

30On the website it is not possible to find any information about the staff and about whether or not it is possible to collaborate with the initiative and how. We just found an e-mail address.

Programming contents

31The programming touches on many topics related to disability and reports on events in various parts of Italy. Also events in the province of Varese are reported, but a local-territorial focus is not stressed. The style and the quality of services recalls the idea of a traditional TV and probably reveals how these services are imagined for distribution via satellite and traditional TV rather than for the web.

Relationships with territorial on-line media

32From the examination of the Google search results we find that the initiative is linked by quite a number of articles in blogs and websites, especially by those dedicated to the topics of disability. No on-line media from local realities appear in the Google results. The system utilized for the website does not allow to link the videos, while thanks to the YouTube channel they can be commented upon and embedded even if we did not see this possibility utilized in any case for establishing relations with local media. On Handy TV’s website there are no links to territorial realities.

Short comment

33The purpose of this initiative, even if not declared, is clearly that of offering a service to a community of interest similarly to Evan TV, but is not linked to a territorial reality at all. In any case the scarce updates on the web-tv, the absence of any information on the project and on how to collaborate with it, are elements that may show a weak community experience, even in the field of communities of interest.

Mantova.TV

34Website address: http://www.mantova.tv/​
Technology used to broadcast videos: videos on the web-site
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: no
Possibility to link videos in external pages: no
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: no
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: yes, on Facebook and on Myspace
Key-word used for the Google search: “mantova tv”

Introduction

35This web TV is located, on the FEMI list, in the city of Mantova. The initiative, as we learn from the website, has been on-line since 16 January 2007. Again, in the Disclaimer’s section of the site, we read that the initiative “is not a TV station in that it does not own any TV frequency, analogical or digital (terrestrial or via satellite) and it is not tied to any TV station, even having a similar name. Mantova.TV is a ‘territorial micro web TV’ that is a website that shows audiovisual content related to the territory and accessible on demand through a graphical interface. The access is completely free”. We find here a first practical application of the definition of micro web TV, with the purpose of conferring on the initiative a specific identity also, it seems, from a legal point of view.

The core staff

36On the website, there is a section named Redazione (Staff) but it does not give information on its members but rather presents a generic e-mail address, a telephone number and information on how to propose new clips and events that one would like to record. From the already mentioned disclaimer we learn the name of the founder of the initiative and owner of the website. We find a more explicit invitation for users to collaborate in the section Collabora con noi (Cooperate with us) where it is said that the possibility of collaboration depends on the budget, that is, when someone requests a particular paid service. Whenever that happens and someone asks the station to make videos, and it requires the help of correspondents and cameramen, Mantova TV will ask the help of people who want to participate. Participation in the initiative is always connected to the availability of a budget. Then, rather than a community television, this experiment recalls more traditional TV models, even if empowered by web technology.

Programming contents

37The contents focus on local events with a predilection towards important occurrences like fairs, concerts, exhibitions and cultural events like the nationally renowned Festival della letteratura di Mantova ( Mantova’s festival of literature). In the “Staff” section of the website we find a scale of importance for the events in the programming policy of the station: “1-mega-events; 2- request from paying users; 3-topics of interest for the station; 4-recommendation from users (press releases or simple e-mail)”. So the programming appears to be a kind of showcase of the beauties of Mantova but without a particularly critical approach. The mission as it is specified on the site is indeed “the promotion via the Web of Mantova and its territory by publishing clips relating to local events”. It speaks about promotion while not meaning the construction of a real community. Users participation is very limited as we saw and there is no possibility for commenting on videos, linking them or embedding them in external pages, making the initiative a sort of island, little accessible in a participative way.

Relationships with territorial on-line media

38From the examination of the Google search results we find that there are few websites in general that talk of the initiative and just two of them are somewhat connected to the local context. Both websites mention videos made by the initiative and offer a link to its website, but as mentioned above, there is a very scarce integration of Mantova TV in the local mediasphere on the web. Paradoxically we find quoted on the web many more videos made by the traditional via ether television Mantova TV (that has nothing to do with Mantova.TV) because the latter has decided to upload them on YouTube after airing them on TV and making them thus become publicly available: people can make comments on these, embed and share them in an easy way.

Short comment

39This initiative even if dealing with local contents cannot be considered close to the community television concept that is based on a deep relation with the territory intended not as background but as a complex stratification of processes and actors. Community groups and single people only have at most a sporadic possibility to participate in it and the videos produced are not meant in the direction of creating dialogic processes.

Michelino TV

40Website address: http://www.youtube.com/​ilrestodelmichelino
Technology used to broadcast videos: YouTube channel
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: yes
Possibility to link videos in external pages: yes
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: yes
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: yes, on Facebook
Key-word used for the Google search: “michelino tv”

Introduction

41This web TV is located, in the FEMI list, in the city of Besozzo (VA), birth place of the painter Michelino da Besozzo (his name was given to the station). The initiative is based on a YouTube channel started in 2008 named “Michelino TV. The channel of the Resto del Michelino”. It is indeed a sort of archive of videos related to the information portal-blog Il resto del Michelino. The presentation of the channel tells that its purpose is to show “videos and reports from Besozzo, a town at the foot of the Varesin Prealps, on the flowering shore of Lago Maggiore”. On the channel page, we do not find more information regarding the video channel, but in the related website of the Resto del Michelino9 linked from YouTube, we find more information regarding the latter initiative: “The Resto del Michelino first of all wants to be a place of meeting and discussion. The possibilities of web 2.0 make possible a simple and fast interactivity between who writes and who reads. At the same time the site offers the possibility for easily integrating video, audio and pictures(..)”.

The core staff

42The initiative based on the portal Il resto del Michelino shows a real interest in the involvement of the forces and actors of the territory in its programmatic declaration in the section “Il Michelino” while in the section “La pseudeoredazione” (The pseudo-staff) people are listed from the city and surroundings who collaborate to the portal. No references are however made to the TV activity, even in the definition of the roles of collaborators so in this project the TV element does not seem to have a central role.

Programming contents and relationships with territorial on-line media

43The videos present amount, for a period of more than a year to 19, ranging from 1 to 3 minutes and they have been updated without a regular scheduling. They are about local events, often related to the articles of the portal where they appear sometimes embedded. In any case their scarce amount, irregularity and style seem to make of this YouTube channel a sort of archive of material useful to support articles in the portal but without giving it a real identity as a web TV. Just one local on-line media talks about the initiative of the portal and of the channel.

Legnano Web-TV

44Website address: http://www.legnanowebtv.com
Technology used to broadcast videos: on the web site bu also a YouTube channel
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: no for videos on the website, yes on YouTube
Possibility to link videos in external pages: only for YouTube videos
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: only for YouTube videos
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: group on Facebook
Key-word used for the Google search: “legnano web tv”

Introduction

45Legnano Web-TV (born in 2008) is located, in the FEMI list, in the city of Legnano (MI). On the website the “Associazione Editoriale Legnanese” (Legnano’s Editorial Association) is indicated as responsible for the initiative and the names of its president, vice-president and secretary are also indicated. In the statute of the association, which is available on the site, one can read “The association promotes sports and social initiatives as well as sports and social events which take place in the territory of Alto Milanese via its website www.legnanowebtv.com as articles and/or audiovisual reports; it is also involved in promoting cultural and literary initiatives. It is a nonprofit association”.

The core staff

46On the website there is a section called “Collabora” (Cooperate) that invites young people to participate in the initiative by writing articles, taking pictures or making videos “to narrate sports and events of such an important and often forgotten territory”. An e-mail address is left for who wants to know more about how to participate in it.

Programming contents

47The website hosts six thematic channels dedicated to local sports and then three other channels dedicated to other events and topics of the territory of Alto Milanese. Most videos put on-line focus on local sports. The videos are managed through a system that does not permit them to be commented upon, linked or embedded in external websites but a YouTube channel also exists (Legnanowebtv) even if its home page is not directly linked on the website. Recently videos have been embedded on the website news pages through YouTube and no more by using the initial, more closed system. Thanks to YouTube at least one external website, as we saw from Google search, has embedded a video of the initiative. Some videos are also inserted in the Facebook page via the internal video system of the social network allowing them to get some comments by users.

Relationships with territorial on-line media

48Via the Google search we have found that four local on-line media link the web television (three are websites of local sport associations). In the Wikipedia page of the A.C. Legnano (Football Association Legnano) there is a link to the initiative that is presented as “Web TV dedicated to A.C. Legnano”. From its side the website of Legnano Web-TV links as partners many sport associations of the territory.

Short comment

49The initiative seems to have a certain quantity of relationships with the territory regarding the topic of sport, but less for other aspects.

PieroDaSaronno

50Website address: http://www.pierodasaronno.eu
Technology used to broadcast videos: files in WMV format hosted on its website
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: no
Possibility to link videos in external pages: yes
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: no
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: group on Facebook
Key-word used for the Google search: “piero da saronno web tv”

Introduction

51PieroDaSaronno (born in 2003) is located, on the FEMI list, in the city of Saronno (VA). In 2003 Piero Vellini, a citizen of Saronno, started a small website with the purpose of sharing on-line amateur videos on the city events. During the following year the initiative grew to involve directly in its activities many dozens of citizens and the website currently has some thousands of visitors per month.

The core staff

52Even if the website’s page “Chi siamo” (Who we are) is left empty we can imagine that the initiative is already well known in the community.

53We learn indeed from the press review hosted on the website that the initiative has grown by strictly involving the citizens at many levels (for instance the software platform on which the web TV runs was built by a student in computer science for his degree dissertation). In the home page there is a list of all those who have collaborated in many ways (cameramen, speakers, video editors etc.): only for the period July 2009-April 2010 sixty different collaborators are counted. PieroDaSaronno has indeed a basic core of a few persons, coordinated by the same Piero Vellini but it is dynamically open to less constant collaborations (and with different intensity) coming from the territory.

Programming contents

  • 10 La Prealpina, 2 December 2009; Informazona, 5 December 2009. The press review here consulted is hos (...)

54The contents are purely local, organized in seven thematic channels, the most visited of which has the city as its main focus. Some contents are particularly elaborated, in some cases they are documentaries and sometimes the local press highlights them in its pages contributing to making them known to the city, also to the prevalently off-line citizens. The care taken in realizing these services does not configure a simple showcase of the territory but instead a real community that tries to build and share its territorial values. As we said, there is no possibility for users to directly comment upon videos but on the website a forum is present where people can comment and start new discussions, even if it results in currently not being used a lot. Also the Facebook group is not particularly updated and utilized. An interesting aspect related to the fruition of contents is that it seems that many users come from foreign countries, especially from China and the United States (probably a percentage is from people who emigrated), as declared by the staff in some interviews to the local press10.

Relationships with territorial on-line media

55From the Google search results we find that 13 local on-line media have references to the initiative and this is the highest value met in our investigation. Many of these on-line media are local associations, also related to sport. This shows us that, even if the technology adopted limits the possibility of sharing and embedding videos in external websites, the experiment is known in the local on-line mediasphere. From the other side in the “Partners” section of the web TV, we find links to some local on-line media.

Short comment

56Even if it is probably not completely exploiting the recent possibilities of the web, like embedding of videos, social networks, etc., PieroDaSaronno is the web television, among those considered, that better (also because of its longer life) shows a real and deep integration with the place and its territorial processes and dynamics.

Polar TV.it

57Website address: http://www.polartv.it/​
Technology used to broadcast videos: videos on the web-site
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: yes
Possibility to link videos in external pages: not directly but through social networks
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: no
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: yes, profile on Facebook
Key-word used for the Google search: “polar tv” bergamo

Introduction

58Polar TV.it (born on September 2009) is located, in the FEMI list, in the city of Bergamo. In the “Polar TV” informative section of its website, we read “Polar Tv is a web TV made by youngsters for youngsters and not only. It was born from the need of having a space where it was possible to express and realize one’s ideas, by using the video in every form and with whichever style.”

The core staff

59The components of the staff are not indicated on the site but there is a telephone number and an e-mail address. It is anyway possible to imagine a quite constant core staff, limited to a few members, around whom less constant contributions spin. As mentioned on the site the initiative is particularly aimed at the youngsters’ world of young people.

Programming contents

60The contents are organized in a lot of thematic channels but many of them include a very scarce number of videos (in some cases just one video). The thematic channels, with the exception of the one called E20 (Events) that deals with events like fairs, concerts, happenings etc. related to the territory, do not show a direct nexus with the place but deal with topics more generally related to creativity.

Relationships with territorial on-line media

61From the Google search results we find that 10 on-line media do have references to the initiative. Among them we find websites related to institutions who deal with youth topics, but also blogs and Facebook-MySpace profiles, many of them linking videos from the web television. And the same web TV’s website has, among its partners, initiatives and groups from the youth world of Bergamo.

Short comment

62The initiative takes the configuration of a community of interest (the young people and their desire of expression) but it has also a significant territorial sense, even if it is not explicitly declared. The initiative itself encourages participation offering on its website not just the e-mail address but also a software system to send videos to be shown on it, after the approval of the core staff.

Storie Digitali

63Website address: http://www.storiedigitali.net/​
Technology used to broadcast videos: videos on the web-site
Possibility of directly commenting on videos: yes
Possibility to link videos in external pages: not directly the video but the pages
Possibility to embed videos in external pages: yes
Presence of the web TV in blogs and social networks: yes, profile on Facebook
Key-word used for the Google search: “storiedigitali.net”

Introduction

64Storie Digitali (born on 2009) is located, on the FEMI list, in the city of Milano. Its purpose, as explained on the website, is the realization of a “project of spread memory to share on-line what many of us have witnessed or preserved of the previous century (up to the beginning of the Eighties)”. Its focus is mainly addressed to collecting materials regarding Milano and its province. The initiative does not define itself as a web TV but as a “project of diffused memory”.

The core staff

65In the section “Chi siamo” (Who we are) of the website it is said that the initiative begins from the laboratory of restoration of historical videos www.storiedigitali.it This firm has developed the project in cooperation with the Province of Milano and the Lombardia Region, along with other private partners. The initiative is aimed at stimulating collaboration and involvement of users that can upload and send new material (pictures, videos, etc.) themselves to enrich the galleries, after a simple login procedure on the site.

Programming contents

66The contents focus on Milano and its province covering the period from 1907 to 1984. The local reality is present under many aspects, from the city’s big events to the small stories of daily life (walks to the park, meetings on the streets, marriages, etc.) according to the proper style of the home movies. However, the videos do not seem particularly able to stimulating discussion or interaction among the users of the service: no messages from users are on the forum connected to the site and there are almost no comments on the videos. More interaction is present on the connected Facebook group.

Relationships with territorial on-line media

67From the Google search results we find that six local on-line media have references to the site, they are mainly cultural institutions like museums or universities; just one local blog links it. Among the partners indicated on the initiative’s website we find either local institutions or local firms in the technology sector.

Short comment

68This initiative has undoubtedly a particular territorial value in what concerns the preservation and sharing of local memories but it appears more as a thematic archive than a web television. The initiative indeed does not call itself a television but “project of spread memory”.

Conclusion

The home page of PieroDaSaronno web TV

The home page of PieroDaSaronno web TV

The initiative that comes nearest to the original concept of community television (as of 13 may 2010)

PieroDaSaronno web TV

69Summarizing the two research perspectives according to which we have developed the investigation, that is the analysis of the historical evolution of the concept of community television and the perspective of the geographical-territorial analysis, and examining the definition of micro web TV proposed by FEMI compared with the eight case studies, we can make some interesting comments. We have tried to build a sort of pyramid to show the relationship the case studies have to the original concept of community television: at the base of the pyramid we put the realities wich are more distant from the concept and then, while coming closer to the top of it, the realities closer to the idea of community television.

Concept of community television

Concept of community television

Giacomo Andreucci

70First of all we excluded from the pyramid those initiatives which have little or nothing to do with the concept of community in a territorial sense being instead typical communities of interest, like Evan TV and Handy TV. We also excluded Michelino TV because it appears to be a very simple and limited video archive and not a real initiative of web television. We excluded also Storie Digitali because of its being more an archive or shared memory than a coherent project of web television.

71Then in the pyramid at the base level we put Mantova.TV which certainly has a nexus with the territory that it however narrates with the purpose of just creating a digital showcase not activating real interaction processes with the territory and its complexity. At a superior level we find Legnano Web-TV and Polar TV which, even if mainly focusing only on certain local aspects (sports for the first, the world of youth for the second), have been able to establish a significant grade of relationships and exchange with their territories, as it appears, at least by consulting the local on-line media which have references to them. Finally PieroDaSaronno is the initiative that comes nearest to the original concept of community television (or televisione locale as it was meant in Italy at the beginning of the Seventies, especially by TeleBiella). But PieroDaSaronno, in respect of the traditional concepts adds something new, in particular thanks to web technology: as we saw, a significant amount of its visitors come from foreign countries, especially the USA and China. It is possible that many of them are emigrants, native from Saronno, but not only. Compared to the traditional concept, the new model of community TV embodied by PieroDaSaronno opens then new scenarios that go beyond the physical geographic definition, made more complex by the use of the Internet network which is infinitely more flexible and wider compared to the cable technology of the early Seventies. We also want now to summarize the definition of micro web television proposed by FEMI: as already said, this attempt made by FEMI reveals the difficulty of finding something that might identify a specific typology of web televisions: the definition proposed had to stress the elements of serial production and territoriality to find something that could be seen as an original common denominator for these experiments. But, concerning the first aspect, we saw that only a part of the cases considered was able to guarantee a serial production, at least weekly (Evan TV, Mantova.Tv, Legnano Web-TV, PieroDaSaronno).

72Concerning the aspect of territoriality which was probably the most original side of the definition proposed by FEMI, even if it was too generic, we found experiments which were very integrated with territory, like Piero Da Saronno but also experiments like Handy Tv or Evan TV that were almost in nothing. So in conclusion, even in its being a first attempt – as far as we know, the only one in Italy for now - to establish an identity for web televisions related in a deep way to territories, the definition of micro web TV by FEMI seems yet too obscure and ambiguous to allow a real useful identification process. But as we said, it is at its beginning and there is obviously room for further refining.

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Bibliographie

ALTRATV.TV (2009), Netizen 2009 (Italian internet citizen). Rapporto su micro web tv, video-blog, micro portali, informativi e aggregatori di contenuto (In Italian). http://www.altratv.tv/NETIZEN%202009.pdf

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Notes

1 A press release of the event that took place on 27 November 2009 can be accessed here: http://www.femitv.tv

2 http://www.paesechevai.tv/. This is an Italian idiomatic expression which means: You can tell a country by its traditions.

3 www.altratv.tv

4 Italian web TVs are widely ranging according to their purposes and audiences; a look at the map proposed in the Altra TV website can help getting an idea.

5 http://www.femitv.tv/images/stories/statuto.pdf

6 The “Scuola territorialista” was born in Italy at the beginning of the Ninenties thanks to the work of professors, researchers in urbanism, sociology and geography (but not limiting itself just to these categories). Among its “founders Fathers” Prof. Alberto Magnaghi (University of Firenze) and for Bologna we mention Prof. Paola Bonora to whose research group the author belongs.

7 We acquired the list from the website http://www.femitv.tv where it is maintained and constantly updated.

8 See note 4.

9 http://www.ilrestodelmichelino.it/

10 La Prealpina, 2 December 2009; Informazona, 5 December 2009. The press review here consulted is hosted on the website of the initiative.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Map of Italian web televisions made by Altra TV for “Paese che vai” (November 2009)
Crédits Altra TV for “Paese che vai”
URL http://netcom.revues.org/docannexe/image/417/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 72k
Titre The home page of PieroDaSaronno web TV
Légende The initiative that comes nearest to the original concept of community television (as of 13 may 2010)
Crédits PieroDaSaronno web TV
URL http://netcom.revues.org/docannexe/image/417/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 328k
Titre Concept of community television
Crédits Giacomo Andreucci
URL http://netcom.revues.org/docannexe/image/417/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 141k
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Pour citer cet article

Référence papier

Giacomo Andreucci, « Local communities on-line: mapping local Web-TVs in Italy », Netcom, 24-3/4 | 2010, 221-244.

Référence électronique

Giacomo Andreucci, « Local communities on-line: mapping local Web-TVs in Italy », Netcom [En ligne], 24-3/4 | 2010, mis en ligne le 03 juin 2013, consulté le 18 octobre 2017. URL : http://netcom.revues.org/417 ; DOI : 10.4000/netcom.417

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Auteur

Giacomo Andreucci

PhD, Department of Historical and Geographical Sciences, University of Bologna, giacomo.andreucci@unibo.it
http://www.unibo.it/docenti/giacomo.andreucci
Member of the Italian Network of Geography of Information Society, coordinated by Maria Paradiso, University of Sannio.

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Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Netcom – Réseaux, communication et territoires est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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