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February 05 2010


Moving on After the Knight News Challenge

In 2008, the Open Media Foundation (then Deproduction) received a $380,000 Knight News Challenge award, and it was a major turning-point for our organization. We added staff, formed new partnerships, and maintained a level of growth that had us approximately double in size each year over our first five years after forming in 2004.

The Open Media Project grant is for a four-part effort that began with a re-building of the software we developed to automate an unprecedented approach to user-generated and community-powered TV. The second phase saw our team implement this re-built Drupal software and business model in six additional public access stations across the country. Third, we took the lessons learned from the beta-test implementations and released an installation profile that incorporates the contributions and lessons learned in the seven beta-test sites.

The fourth and final phase has our team focused on content-sharing among these stations, enabling us to cooperate as a true network by sharing the top-voted content from each station, and building a collection of truly engaging content unlike anything else you can find on TV. As we tackle this fourth phase, we are also facing the challenge of sustaining this project (and our team) without ongoing support from the Knight Foundation.

Earned Income

From the beginning, we anticipated that the long-term sustainability of the Open Media Foundation would be based primarily on earned income. We hoped the success of the Open Media Project would generate a strong demand from public access TV stations and other organizations looking for support in implementing a similar model. This approach enabled Denver Open Media to thrive even without the general operating support most public access TV stations enjoy from their local government or cable operators.

Our first such client arose in San Francisco after the city drastically cut operating support for public access and then selected the Bay Area Video Coalition to launch their new public access TV stations, SF Commons. We have found a great partner in BAVC. They are now poised to set a new standard for participatory, community media, and are committed to be a part of an open source movement that has each of us benefiting from the investments of the others. The earned income from this project (and others to follow) will hopefully help our team sustain its success and continue to build upon the expertise we've gained over the past five years.

Cooperation and Partnerships

No successful open source project can be carried by a single organization. The Drupal modules we've developed have been downloaded by over 100 organizations, ranging from public access TV to community colleges. Several of these partners have contributed back to the software in ways that are benefiting the entire community. But this hasn't come about easily.

Over the past decade, many public access TV stations have developed open source software, but few projects are built in a way that enables the software to be truly useful in other environments. Our initial foray into Open Media Project tools included myopic code and assumptions that made the software more difficult to leverage in than if we'd started from scratch.

Developing the code in a manner that makes it useful in diverse environments involves a sacrifice that few organizations have been willing or able to make. It requires investing resources in development that we hope will pay off in the future when partners use and contribute back to the code.

Early partners made the same mistake as us, investing hundreds of thousands of dollars into code that is practically useless in any setting other than their own. The Knight News Challenge award enabled us to take the time to better collaborate with the Drupal
community, host code sprints, attend conferences, and, ultimately, back-track and re-design a more extensible code base.

With our grant period soon coming to an end, we have a number of partners poised to take the reigns and collectively help ensure the continued growth of the project. Davis Media Access in California has devoted significant time to improving the code and is a clear success story. Their work has, among other things, extended the OMP code to integrate with a new broadcast server.

Our growing relationship with Tightrope Media Systems, and their recent commitment

to open source software
, can largely be credited to the efforts of Darrick Servis and Davis Media Access. Other successes and failures of the beta test process are equally valuable. Ongoing cooperation with Boston Neighborhood Network, Channel Austin and others will continue to yield benefits to the project.

We're most excited about our newest partner: the Bay Area Video Coalition. They bring a commitment to open source collaboration that we've not yet seen in previous partners. Everything about their SF Commons effort gives us confidence that they will set a new example for the next generation of networked, user-driven public access TV. Though their operating support is meager, they have strong, visionary leadership in Ken Ikeda and Jen Gilomen. They also stand to benefit from their close proximity to organizations like Archive.org, Creative Commons, and the Wikimedia Foundation, all of whom inspired our software and business model from the beginning.

Even if the Open Media Foundation were to shut our doors, I'm confident that organizations like BAVC would keep the project alive and growing... of course, we're working on making sure that isn't the case.

Expanding the Open Media Project

While earned income has the potential to maintain the level of activity we've enjoyed here for the past two years, our true vision of building an entirely new kind of participatory media network is going to require a significant ramp-up of the project. The Broadband Technologies Opportunities Program funding available through the stimulus plan represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to do just that.

We partnered with Free Speech TV, the Alliance for Community Media, and 20 other public access TV stations across the country to apply for $2.2 million to expand the Open Media Project. The proposal addresses the many lessons learned from our Knight-funded beta test, and proposes a more self-contained and supported solution that can transform a wide range of public access TV stations into gateways for broadband adoption for disconnected communities.

Statistics show that the primary factor preventing individuals from using broadband is not a lack of infrastructure, but the perception that the Internet is not relevant to their life. Our partner stations will encourage and support these communities by conveying the relevance of broadband access from the perspective of those communities. Together with Free Speech TV, we will collect the best of this content and provide national exposure to perspectives on broadband's relevance that simply haven't been seen before.

In case our first round application doesn't receive funding, we've invested heavily in planning an application in response to the second BTOP opportunity for funding. I encourage other Knight News Challenge grant recipients (and rejectees) to read the Notice of Funds Availability and investigate if their Knight News Challenge project would be a candidate for BTOP funding.

Regardless of future grants and funding, we are optimistic about the future of the project. We've had our share of pitfalls, but that's to be expected when you're pioneering new territory. The Knight News Challenge experience has opened doors and helped our organization grow in a way that will forever alter our work. If we can sustain the project beyond our KNC award, we'll be part of an entirely new kind of non-commercial media system, serving interests and engaging communities that are left out of the commercial media conversation.

Every change begins with a new conversation.

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December 02 2009


2008 Knight News Challenge Winner Launches Open Media Foundation

Open Media Foundation Launches in Denver**
Deproduction, a Denver-based nonprofit media and technology organization has reorganized as the Open Media Foundation. The nonprofit media and technology organization was founded in 2003, offering media and technology training and services to nonprofits and individuals in the Denver Metro Area. In recent years, the organization spawned Denver Open Media, the Open Media Project, and a number of web-based initiatives through the Civic Pixel web & design department launched in 2008. The new name and website were officially announced November 19th at a fundraising breakfast hosted by Ashara Ekundayo and featuring presentations from Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now!, and Leslie Matthews, President of the OMF Board of Directors.

"Its not just a name-change," stated Leslie Matthews at the event, "the organization has grown significantly over the years, launching Denver Open Media in 2006, and merging with Civic Pixel to offer high end web & design services in 2008. While these efforts have been aligned with our strategic vision, the multiple brands and independent websites made it difficult to understand the cohesive design of the organization." The new OpenMediaFoundation.org website aims to convey the concerted strategy behind the various business activities of the organization, from high-end media and technology services, to training and education, and ultimately, access to the media and technology tools.

"The end goal is a community where every organization and individual, not only the privileged and wealthy, have the ability to engage in mass communications and reflect their own perspective in the larger social conversations that happen through media and technology," added Brian Hiatt, Director of IT for the Open Media Foundation. Today, over 200 local nonprofit organizations have a website or video produced by the Open Media Foundation. "We train hundreds of individuals each year, and we operate 3 Public Access TV channels in Denver" adds Hiatt. In addition, the Open Media Foundation manages the Colorado Channel, a statewide version of C-Span, for the Colorado State Legislature. This year, the Colorado Channel and OMF add daily Senate coverage to the mix, after two years of broadcasting the State House of Representatives. "Everything we do is aimed at putting the power of media in the hands of our community" Hiatt explains.
Nation-Wide Impact:**
In 2008, together with Civic Pixel, the OMF team re-built the software that transformed Denver's Public Access TV station into a constituent-led, Net 2.0 media hub, and made it available to anyone through Drupal.org. Dubbed the Open Media Project, this year the OMF has helped to install the software and unique community media model in 7 beta test stations. New partners continue to join every month, including Free Speech TV and the Bay Area Video Coalition, all looking to contribute to the open-source software that could help unite noncommercial media institutions as a new kind of user-driven media network.

Early next year, the OMF plans to release the Open Media Project software as a new kind of free software package, a Packaged Drupal Installation Profile being designed with support from the Drupal Association and fellow Knight News Challenge winner, Quiddities. At the same time, the Open Media Foundation will receive word on the $2.2million stimulus grant requested through the Broadband Technology Opportunities Program, aimed at extending the Open Media Project with 20 new community media partners. The final stage of the Knight News Challenge grant concludes in 2010, with a focus on content sharing among the Open Media Project beta test stations.

Denver Open Media Turns 3!
In Denver, one of the three Public Access Cable TV channels is automatically scheduled based on votes from the website and SMS/Text, featuring the best of over 5,000 shows submitted in just the past 3 years. In 2010, the same software that makes this possible will also enable Denver Open Media and its partner stations to share top-rated content from across the nation, allowing each station to feature the best of their combined content. The Open Media Foundation will celebrate these and other accomplishments this Friday, Dec 4th at the 3-year anniversary of Denver Open Media. The festivities will be shared live on Denver Open Media, Comcast Channel 56, online at denveropenmedia.org, and on the radio via KGNU 88.5FM-Denver and 1390AM-Boulder. The event will feature musical performances from Sole and Itchy-O and interviews with a number of Open Media Foundation partners and members.

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