Members of the public, education and government-channel group, the Alliance for Community Media, need to contribute more money to the organization in support of its efforts to shore-up PEG among lawmakers and the public, according to an ACM report.
The document, which was issued at the ACM’s annual conference held May 29-31 in San Francisco, covers various ACM programs and includes an assessment of the alliance’s strengths and weaknesses, which “is not fun, but it is necessary and we’re doing it,” wrote John Donovan, the chair of the ACM’s Futures Committee and who authored the report.
The report touches on ACM action in regards to Federal Communications Commission policies, as well as the proposed Community Access Preservation Act, which sought to ensure funding by eliminating unnecessary limits on the use of capital funds by PEG channels. It also looks at the ACM’s business plan, saying members have “become accustomed to expecting too much from the amount of money they’ve been asked to pay” to the organization.
The report does not specifically ask for an increase in membership dues, but it does say revenue plans are “a work in progress and induce no small amount of anxiety about whether ACM members are willing to pay the price tag, which is substantially more than they have previously been asked to pay.”
Donovan expects some members will leave the organization as a result of the need to increase member provided funds. But, he says ACM’s need to tap members for funds is “governed by the magnitude of what we need to accomplish in a few short years if we are to head off the real threat that federal legislation could wipe out the policy language and funding presently supporting the PEG community.”
The format of the report lists strengths in different areas, immediately followed by a related weakness. They are:
- Strengths concerning its history, the ACM has a strong 35-year track record of providing services, inspiration and coordination to those building community through media in 1,000 plus communities nationwide.
- Weakness concerning its history, the ACM’s recent history is chequered. We lost many state franchising battles in the last decade. FCC and court decisions regarding “broadband” have not gone our way. The CAP Act is useful from an organizing point of view, but has gone nowhere as a bill.
- Strengths concerning the PEG centers, thriving PEG/community media centers still exist all around the country and are providing vital services to their communities.
- Weaknesses concerning the PEG centers, access centers are significantly clustered in cities and states with favorable policy climates or sophisticated consulting/staff. This helps with state-wide organizing, but limits our political reach on national legislation. Our numbers nationally have withered, following the passage of state franchising in more than 20 states.
- Strengths concerning the organization’s structure, ACM affiliates (regions and chapters) are providing valued services to members in areas where sufficient numbers of community-media professionals value coordinated actions through the ACM.
- Weaknesses concerning the organization’s structure, coordination between the ACM national office and affiliate boards is uneven. Some affiliates are competing with national for member dollars and leadership, and there is not an organized pathway of leadership developed from affiliate to national service. Many affiliates have withered as the number of centers in their areas declined. Some affiliates have more or less left the fold, bringing centers with them; others may follow if the value of supporting ACM national is not well articulated, and benefits at the grass roots or affiliate level remain spotty and undeveloped.
- Strengths concerning the ACM’s image, the ACM has allied itself with important values, such as freedom of expression and a diverse marketplace of ideas, appreciation of equality before the law, civic education and engagement.
- Weaknesses concerning the ACM’s image, the PEG community has a largely discredited and outdated image at the national level and in policy-making circles. A multi-faceted brand reawakening is sorely needed, focused on making the intellectual case, the values case and the pragmatic case for PEG in a world radically reshaped by the Internet, social media and our networked culture generally. Likewise, our attention to marketing the ACM brand and ACM activities to our own members has been weak and unimaginative.
- Strengths concerning the ACM’s services, ACM has well-established services like the national conference, Hometown Media Festival, member list-serv and public policy advocacy that provide members with a tangible measure of value.
- Weaknesses concerning the ACM’s services, current services have not been fully matched to and evaluated against mission, and member needs and value-proposition perception of these services may be diminishing in the face of rising fees and competition for locally-based affiliates, other organizations and the Internet. Our most important service, public policy advocacy at the national level, provides the least immediate and tangible return. Capacity to undertake new services and willingness to radically retool old services is constrained by a lack of funding and staff.
- Strengths in communication/engagement, ACM has a basic level of predictable, professional-level engagement with its members
- Weaknesses in communication/engagement, ACM has no articulated strategy or personnel dedicated to ongoing communications with the national media, local media, national policy-makers, local policy-makers or national non-profit allies. ACM’s executive director undertook this work with skill, but she is leaving the organization in August. The ACM has no on-going system to collect data and narratives from its member centers and distribute those to national allies and internally to its own members for organizing purposes.
- Strengths in business planning, the ACM board has recommitted itself to developing a sustainable business plan that provides sufficient revenue to meet the challenges facing our industry.
- Weaknesses in business planning, ACM members have become accustomed to expecting too much from the amount of money they’ve been asked to pay into the ACM. More critically, the adjustment needed is not incremental it is quantum, if we are to position the ACM for success. Too, the revised business plan anticipates having to recruit board members with greater capacity, contact and skills to bring substantial funds into the organization.
Keri Stokstad, the ACM’s chair, told Government Video the alliance will need to increase the level of services it provides “in order to make sure there’s a value for their [members ’] dollars.” The ACM is reviewing access to best practices and case studies that would be made available to the members as part of the effort to provide value for their money, she said.