Online and local television networks:

A new pedagogy for a changing media was a Teaching Fellowship Award which interrogated the pedagogical benefits of such relationships, with academics from Plymouth University working with Academic Partners at Exeter College, Truro and Bristol including students from our courses, Plymouth community groups and local businesses.

Project Leaders:

Dr Phil Ellis / John Fitzsimons

Department: Faculty of Arts & Humanities,
Plymouth University / Exeter College

Telephone: 01752585209
E-mail: /

Names of other staff involved:

Attila Mustafa, Dr David Hilton, Dr Allister Gall

Aims of project:

• To investigate campus-based and local TV focused on innovative opportunities for students, employers and community groups to contribute to the design of learning pedagogies and course structures.

• To utilize the strong element of collaboration within and across creative courses in the UPC Partnership encouraging students to explore the medium of TV and establish new learning cultures that broaden the context of the student experience, encouraging creative work-based/related collaboration with local communities and employers. Research outcomes will enhance understanding of a fluid and dynamic growth area for a new media, new educational and employment possibilities and arts practice, which in turn will inform new curriculum structures, pedagogic models of practice and contribute to an understanding of how local TV can achieve relevance to a community and economic viability.

• To develop into a shared online TV channel, managed and developed by students and the wider community (PUTALS, 2012: Key Theme 10) which will contribute to the development of a model for students and staff engaged in local TV initiatives.
To enhance employability skills for students.

Background to project (context):

The fluid and dynamic growth area of new media, new educational and employment possibilities and arts practice inform new curriculum structures, pedagogic models of practice and contribute to an understanding of how local TV can achieve relevance to a community and achieve economic viability. Hence the traditional models of teaching and learning are challenged by the movements in media distributions, technologies and their application and use. This is particularly true in models that do not rely on a central broadcaster strongly mediating content and creating schedules.

One of the key aims, to develop a shared online TV channel managed and developed by students and the wider community, was based on research into similar initiatives in Europe and the USA. The aim was however, not to simply replicate these structure, but to research how new media opportunities may affect content, practice and eventually pedagogy .

Methods used:

The project began with a literature review to map the field. To help inform research directions, comparative studies of existing international examples of community and local TV were used to aid design of the research. This was followed by a meeting of course managers of BA Media Arts and BA TV Arts at Plymouth University, FdA Television Production at Exeter College, and FdA Digital Media Production at City of Bristol College and elected student representatives, to focus on research directions. Further involvement was gained from employers who have an interest in the development of local TV.
Qualitative data was collected by interviews with students on how the production process developed and changing their learning, from client groups and audiences in The data will be analyzed using a constant comparative approach (Silverman, 2010) looking for shared perceptions and conflicts, together with ideas about how these might be resolved.

The initial dissemination of results was facilitated through the organization of an interactive live streamed conference. This was populated by the academics, students, employers and local community groups. The subsequent outcomes led towards further questions relating to how (or if) any contrasting perceptions could be reconciled, and the consequent possible implications for curriculum design, pedagogy and the contribution students could make to these perspectives and to the provision of local TV services.

Results: The results are still in process, but some steps have been taken in terms of curriculum design. An initial literature review was produced (Appendix B) and video footage from the conference has been made available on the website. The TV Arts Plymouth University course module “The Channel” has been redesigned and linked to the creation and development of Plymouth University Student Union TV, contextualising work outside the course. Modules on the Fda Tv Production course at Exeter College have been broadened to allow for more engagement with work for employers and community organizations. A joint bid with the NHS and Exeter City FC, to develop community TV for involving working with those over 50 in the community has been submitted to NESTA. Work in progress includes the edit of a video documentary of the results of the study, a web site to provide a central information point for this and further research, a bid to establish PUMAr as a Plymouth University research cluster in the School of Art & Media, and a short paper for publication.

Associated publications:

Brown, B. and Wayment, M. (2007) Creating entrepreneurship: Entrepreneurship education for the creative industries. HEA – ADM.

Dearing, R. (1997) The Report of the National Committee of Enquiry into Higher Education.HMSO:UK.

Dyke, G. (2011) The Case for Local Television. [Speech to York University] 10 January.

Ellis, P. (2009). ‘flow is now viral is agency: re-working the site(s) of new television’ presentation and paper for Digital Media Technologies Revisited international Conference at The University of the Arts, Berlin, Germany, November;

Ellis, P. (2010), ‘ the dialogic process between participants, contemporary and historical television, and the archive’ presentation and paper for The 1st FIAT/IFTA Television Studies Seminar, INA Centre Pierre Sabbagh, Paris, France, May

Ellis, P. (2011) chapter ‘ re-working the site(s) of new television: the dialogic process between participants, contemporary and historical television, and the archive’ in Communications: The European Journal for Communication Research, Special Issue: Revisiting Digital Media Technologies, 3/2011,

Ellis, P. (2011) ‘Open Triggers’ presentation and paper for WRO Media Art Biennale, Wroclaw Poland, 10 May 2011 - 14 May 2011

Fitzsimons, J. (2011) “A Practical Approach to the Media Curriculum” Inside Evidence, 11, p.6. Available at

Fitzsimons, J. (2011) “ The Media Curriculum and Local and Community TV” Excellence Gateway. Available at

Fitzsimons, J. and Turner, R. (2013) Integrating Project-based Learning into an undergraduate programme using Web 2.0 and videoconferencing. Glamorgan: The Journal of Applied Research in Higher Education.(JOHN Complete reference!)
Hattie, J. (2009) Visible Learning; a synthesis of over 800 meta-analyses relating to achievement. London: Routledge
Harris, S. (2009) Local Digital Television. London: BJTC.
Hart, A., Collins, J,. Court, S., Criticos, C., Hobbs, R., Masterman, L., Morgan,

Leitch, S. (2006) UK Skills: Prosperity for all in the global economy – world class skills. HMSO:Uk
Neary, M (2011 ) ‘Student as Producer – Bringing Critical Theory to Life through the Life of Students’, Roundhouse – A Journal of Critical Theory and Practice, University of Leeds      (submitted December 2010) - (accessed 12 January 2012)
Sennett, R. (2008) The Craftsman. Penguin: London
Wiliam, D. (2009) Assessment for Learning: Why, what and how? [Inaugural lecture. University of London]
Plymouth University Teaching and Learning Strategy (2012). Available at

'Is it TV? Or Something Else?’ Plymouth University, 18 May 2013

On 18 May 2013 the first ‘Is it TV?’ conference was held at Plymouth University. The event was organised by Phil Ellis, John Fitzsimons, Atila Mustafa, Dr David Hilton, and Allister Gall, who together form the ‘Is it TV?’ Research group. The day aimed to address contemporary trends surrounding the field of local and online television supported by a teaching fellowship award financed by the Pedagogic Research Institute and Observatory. 

The event focused on the diverse ways in which the term ‘television’ is interpreted and taught, exploring how television has adapted and evolved with changing contexts and developing technologies. The conference was structured as a live TV event, allowing students practical experience making television, as well as acting as a laboratory to investigate some of the central themes of our research. The footage from the day will help to shape a documentary exploring ideas and themes based on the research, potentially opening up new areas for further investigation. 

A central theme focused on how the actual term ‘television’ resonates in a variety of contexts, from contents and aesthetics, to intentions and interventions. This was reflected in the range of speakers, discussions and dialogues throughout the day. This short report will focus on the community section of the day, led by Allister Gall. It considers television’s potential for participatory impact within the public sphere, including alternative viewpoints, local business and the bringing together of educational institutions, students and local communities. 

The panel was comprised of Christian Gale and Ali Steen from Eatmusic, a local community radio station; Kim Charney an academic interested in socially engaged art and expanded media; Rachel Gippetti a local writer and poet who runs ‘Lit’ an open and local community literary monthly event; Sarah Pook, vice president of activities and communication at Plymouth University; Simon Walton creative director of Silverstream TV, a web based video, film and media company in Plymouth, and the audience members who contributed to the discussions. The segment was threaded together with vox pops from the general public, answering the following questions: What is television? Do you watch local TV? How do you watch television? Would you watch local TV, and if so, what would you like to see? 

The discussion began by exploring potential synergies with local radio. Ali Steen, Station Director at Eatmusic, considered how they focused on community and local music, enabling the organisation to connect local people to the live music scene. Eatmusic attempts to foster this local community with a diverse selection of niche content and local participatory activity. They are not constricted by broadcasting codes and are therefore not burdened with accountability. Interestingly, much of their audience listen online at a time of their choosing, rather than listening live, even though they are moving towards an FM license. They aim to keep the costs down, and the real effort for them is the energy necessary to run the station and keep people engaged. Social networking is their primary networking and marketing tool, and whilst they are committed to no advertising and sponsorship at this point, there are plans to split the station into two strands: FM radio and online. The online division could incorporate sponsorship and funding by targeting advertising, as long as it doesn’t plague the site and conflict with their independent ethos. 

Eatmusic’s example of a sustainable non-profit organisation paved the way for the discussion to begin thinking how a local/online TV could sustain itself now that digital video technology has democratised audio-visual production, distribution and exhibition. This led to examining how the Internet, social media and sites, such as YouTube, could possibly redefine television. 

So what is television today? The first vox pop clip asked the public this simple question and the answers focused on traditional content or form, such as drama, film, soap operas, sport or the news. Some cited television as representing Saturday night entertainment. This led to the second question: would they watch a local TV? The overall majority answered that they don’t watch local TV, except for local news, or possibly a few other exceptions. 

Further discussion moved the debate onto the political possibilities of local television, considering challenging access to power and distribution. Kim Charney citied existing synergies, such as Paper Tiger and Deep Dish TV in the USA, who both made use of public access to contest hierarchy and control of television with the decoding of media, and by doing so, bringing educational elements into the equation. Charney was interested in using local television to develop ideas around the public sphere, raising issues not represented by mainstream media, potentially bringing together and making visible different strands of the community. 

A further theme concerned the development of new spaces in which academia and education could overlap with local communities and the public. Sarah Pook, president of the SU, addressed these questions by highlighting the work currently done by the students in engaging and impacting the local community. Citing students work in welfare campaigns, local schools and art projects, sanctuaries and developing sustainable relationships, Pook illustrated her commitment to using local television to integrate student life with the public. 

Simon Walton approached the discussion from a sustainable business point of view, discussing how he was part of a consortium looking into the potentials for a local TV in Plymouth. The consortium formed ‘TV Plymouth’, to attempt to exploit the fact that there was a license available for the city. Walton cited local TV in Holland’s lack of audiences and how this correlates with the vox pop in the current discussion, as to why this failed to materialise (except for local emergencies), as the numbers are very low. 

Digital technologies prominence was considered in terms of its capabilities and outreach, and particularly social media was a heavily discussed topic. Citing the production values of successful dramas and content as a daunting prospect on a local budget, for Walton, the answer is social media, such as Twitter and YouTube. Local TV could happen and become sustainable, in a similar vein to Eatmusic, but he warns students that in the future, varying media platforms, data, distribution and delivery will be just as important as the creative side of television ‘making’. 

This moved the discussion away from local TV as a business opportunity, and towards amateur and community possibilities. Rachel Gippetti discussed the creative possibilities of no budget underground production, discussing how local TV could highlight the low budget aesthetic, in a similar style to TV Party, a punk rock inspired TV show in the early 1980s in the USA, by making soap operas and dramas made by local Plymouth people, and therefore perhaps creating a niche, cult and underground following as well as offering opportunities for participation within the arts. 

This brought the discussion back to the contested idea of traditional television and its currency in today’s democratised digital landscape. Why bother with television at all, when local people can make amateur productions and host them online, uploading videos in minutes? As more people watch television on laptops and mobile devices, has television become an out-dated medium? Perhaps format and structure, similarly to local radio, provides a stability and consistency in contrast to the chaotic nature and unlimited choice of the Internet? 

The diverse range of discussions reflected a willingness on behalf of the panel and organisers to address how the synergy between education and learning on the production side, and some kind of local engagement on the content side, could provide a working model. Charney built on some of the key themes of the day, proposing a radical local economy; with business and institutions uniting home grown themes and businesses coalesced with an underground, lo-fi alternative/DIY spirit. 

The final vox pop segment emphasised how the majority of the particpants would welcome a local TV, but nobody is quite sure what it is they would want to watch, or even the what the definition of what local television is. Social media was seen as a possible new way of bringing people together, by sharing ideas and experiences online live, and we explored how television could become another dimension of social media. Of course, these theoretical discussions will remain academic if nobody will attempt to put these ideas into practice. In this light, the energy, spirit and drive of Eatmusic could be seen as an example of a successful and inspirational model. 

Overall, the community section of the event – and the diversity of the participants – highlighted the rich complexity of the apparently simple concept of television. Whilst 

there was excitement about the possibilities of local and online television networks developing, it was clear that what local television is, or could be as we move forward in the twenty first century, is yet to be discovered. Perhaps the answer lies with models like Eatmusic, who use a collaborative and community based approach, problem solving and answering these questions as and when they develop. Or perhaps the word ‘local’ needs to be re-examined and that television, at least locally, needs new platforms and further ideas to better instigate redefinition.