COMMUNITY & EDUCATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS

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  •          ON CABLE BROADCASTING MEDIA
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                            FEASIBILITY STUDY
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                                   November 1992


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    A Feasibility Study supported by South Thames Training and Enterprise

    Council for and on behalf of Stockwell Park Tenant Management Association.

    ALTEC SCIENTIFIC & TECHNICAL SERVICES. 23 Bennett Street,   

    Bath, Avon, BA1 2QL

     

     


     
     

    1. SUMMARY
    2. INTRODUCTION
    3. TERMS OF REFERENCE

    4. RADIO FREQUENCY COMMUNICATIONS
    4.1 Antenna Communications
    4.2 Cable Communications an overview
    4.3 Two way interaction on cable
    4.4 For the next 25 years ...
    4.5 Potential Community Communications Services
    4.6 Level of Interest

    5. POTENTIAL INFORMATION PROVIDERS
    5.1 Ownership/Social control
    5.2 Tenant Management Video Requirements
    5.3 Ethnic Programming
    5.4 Meetings & external voting
    5.5 Local Authority
    5.6 TEC

    6. INSTALLATION & MODIFICATIONS
    6.1 Domestic Terminal Equipment
    6.2 Cable Transmission Equipment
    6.3 Uplink Equipment
    6.4 Telephone Modem
    6.5 Microwave Links
    6.6 Lambeth overall
    6.7 Required Formats

    6.7.1 Basic: text and video playing
    6.7.2 Intermediate: live studio, recorded programmes
    6.7.3 Advanced: Production & Editing

    7. PROGRAMME PRODUCTION
    7.1 Low cost video production
    7.2 Computer originated video
    7.3 Advanced computer operations
    7.4 Future production and inhouse editing facilities
    7.5 Studios

    8. BUDGETS

    8.1 Auto Scrolling/Paging Teledata Channel
    8.2 Teletext Service
    8.3 Television from an estate
    8.4 Home Studio/Production Equipment
    8.5 Permanent Studio Facilities
    8.6 Cost per household

    9. GLOSSARY OF TERMS

    10. APPENDIX
     
     

    1. SUMMARY

    This Feasibility Study has been commissioned by South Thames Training and Enterprise Council in response to a request by the Chair of Stockwell Park Tenant's Association for ALTEC to discuss some of the issues raised by cabling up the estate and the potential for low-cost community communications therein.

    We have focussed on the latest technical possibilities and exciting new opportunities for tenants of this estate to use cable to further the life of the community, by increasing the amount and quality of social inter-communications available.

    Clearly the issues raised, extend to other estates and to the borough (and urban situation) in general. At each widening of the overview, the apparent cost-effectiveness of opportunities designed for enriching the communities affected are multiplied.

    The inherent "culture" of commercial pay-broadcasting and physical monopolisation of channel space, appears in comparison with the rapid development of Information Technology, Multimedia and Communications elsewhere, to be a local issue with the profoundest social and economic consequences.

    It was proposed by delegates of the country's leading telecommunications union at an annual Labour Party congress prior to the recent recession that the cabling of every home in Britain with a FREE broad-bandwidth fibre-optic cable should be regarded as a national social and educational priority.

    To allow a commercially controlled and run Broadcast TV and Radio cable to be installed on an estate without due regard to the wider social, economic, developmental and educational opportunities therein being discarded or excluded, might be regarded in the not too distant future as a MAJOR act of social carelessness.
     

    2. INTRODUCTION

    There are now more video shops in this country than book shops. Electronic media such as Television, Videos, Radio and Telephone now provide the main sources of information for the many.

    Traditional media; information in printed books and reports, is increasingly expensive. Library services are more and more out of touch with mainstream research and education. To get the latest printed material, participate in real travel and live performances and meetings is increasingly beyond the means of the poor and unemployed and these activities are becoming an expensive and exclusive facility for a middle incomed few.... History has shown how when this happens (the impetus of mental culture and refinement being held amongst fewer and fewer participants): the life of the entire culture can be put at threat.

    Published material is now however widely available over communications networks. New books and magazines are typeset in digital format and authors increasingly use wordprocessors in their creation. With the advent of desktop text scanning and Optical Character Recognition - all previously printed material can be put on an "electronic library network" and allow rapid textural searching at very very low intrinsic cost (e.g. for several years French telephone directories have been replaced by millions of free issued "Mintel" terminals).

    Technology in the next few years can promise the end of professional barriers where ordinary literate people empowered with access to a network could be able to draw on the vast potential of "DIY Knowledge Engineering Expert Systems" in such diverse fields as Medicine, Law, Psychology, Mechanics, Architecture, Government, Administration, Accountancy and Estate Management.

    For the economically and socially restricted, stuck at home for long periods: affordable media such as telephone and facsimile: but particularly access to free personal interactive communications for education and self-development could be an indispensable enabling mechanism for substantial wider social and economic development. The key role of Information Technology and Multimedia interactive presentations in personal education and self-advancement should now be seen as comparable with the role of the (now somewhat obsolete) free municipal library systems and mechanics institutes of adult education set up in the early years of the century and the fundamental contribution these made then to working people's social and economic advancement.

    For the estates: effective two-way communications is not only essential to good estate management, but the two-way information paths define the real extent of the community.

    "Any social structure is held together by the possession of means for the acquisition, use, retention and transmission of information"
    Norbert Wiener - Cybernetics (see appendix).
     

    3. TERMS OF REFERENCE

    This Feasibility Study has been commissioned by South Thames Training and Enterprise Council to include the following details:-

    3.1 To identify the potential for low cost use of the cable system which is being brought onto the estate(s).

    3.2 To assess the level of interest among tenants in community broadcasting, a community Teletext service and broadcast facility for video recordings and the potential for broadcasts in languages other than English

    3.3 How outside agencies such as Lambeth Council and STTEC might use the system

    3.4 Recommendation of equipment packages, video formats that will facilitate the type of broadcasting service identified in (2)

    3.5 Recommendation of methods of installation of the relevant equipment and modifications involving estate residents and other local people

    3.6 Budgets identifying:

    a) cost of the Teletext service

    b) cost of setting up a facility to broadcast pre recorded (or live) material

    c) cost of setting up and equipping an estate broadcasting centre to house a) and b)

    d) cost per household of accessing a community TV service- assuming early management and administration to be undertaken on a voluntary basis
     

    4. RADIO FREQUENCY COMMUNICATIONS

    4.1 Antenna Communications:

    The antenna may be seen as a device for connecting transmitters and receivers in one "invisible" (cable) transmission system.

    "Air-wave" frequency allocations are strictly governed by both national and international regulations and agreements.

    "Antenna Communication" is very inefficient in that receivers typically process only a million-billionth of the power originated at the transmitter.
     
     

    4.1.2 The Concept of Bandwidth:

    A transmitter generates a particular "carrier frequency" to which required receivers are tuned. This frequency is in the order of thousands (kHz), millions (MHz) and thousand millions (GHz) of oscillatory cycles per second (Hz). Information is impressed onto the "carrier frequency" by a process called "modulation". The more information impressed on the carrier, the wider the transmission "bandwidth" so that available space is used up either side of the basic carrier frequency. Another transmitter cannot be operated within the "service area" of a transmitted carrier and its modulation.

    Radio frequency transmitters therefore use a finite band of electromagnetic spectra which when put out as "air-waves" cannot be shared by more than one receiver at a time without "interference", unless each is geographically well "out of range" of the other. The "air-wave" spectrum of .1 - 1000 MHz includes long, medium and short-wave radio programmes and channels for police, fire, ambulance, coastguard & shipping, aircraft, military and television.

    Some small parts of the spectrum up to 30 MHz are capable of world-wide coverage (and interference), but most are limited as "line of sight" to a horizon of say 100 Km.
     

    4.1.3 Sound/Vision:

    Telephone quality speech can be sent on a radio frequency carrier with a bandwidth and channel spacing of as little as 3,000 Hz but high quality stereo music transmissions require spacing of 200 kHz. Television requires spacing of 8 MHz permitting around 300,000 "sound channels" or only 125 simultaneous television channels in each block of 1 GHz
    spectrum.

    (A single British television programme channel consumes space which might otherwise be used by some 2400 private speech channels).
     

    4.2 Cable Communications, an overview:

    4.2.1 Political:

    Because of the limited availability of frequency spectrum, "air-wave" radio frequency broadcasting has historically been permitted to a few centralised national government approved agencies. There are no similar essential controls on the same transmissions if these are strictly confined to a private cable.
     

    4.2.2 Available Bandwidth on cable:

    The current technology available for cable signal sources makes operation possible from .1 - 2000 MHz: twice that currently used for "air-wave" transmissions.
     

    4.2.3 Closed Circuit Broadcasting: CABLE COMMUNICATIONS use radio signals designed to be CONFINED to a cable which therefore (hopefully) do not transmit or receive as "air-waves". Different sets of cables can use this entire spectrum again and again locally within the confines of each cable system and do not need to be so carefully "rationed".
     

    4.2.3 Cable Receiving Equipment:

    The requirements of the "commercial cable operator" as a business are different from that of a "social cable operator".

    The "commercial cable operator" must invest in expensive encoding/scrambling methods with expensive terminal equipment rented to the user which artificially restrict access by chargeable metered increments, costing users many times extra.

    The "social cable operator" however can provide open and free access to identical programmes at 10% of the cost. Equipment and types of services offered on "social cable receiving systems" can be identical to that used for antenna collected "air-waves" (the services themselves can easily be "piped off-air signals"). Instead of an antenna, the users equipment's aerial sockets must be plugged in to a coaxial cable wall
    socket. An FM broadcast receiver with an "external FM aerial" connector could be so connected easily.

    ANY domestic radio, television, cordless telephone, cell-phone, pager, computer ISDN Local/Wide/Municipal Area Network, or two-way radio which has an external antenna socket, CAN in principle be used with no internal modification for cable working.
     

    4.2.4 Cable Signal Transmitters:

    Because the power transfer efficiency is so much better with cable, the transmitters used for cable services can be a thousand millionth the power of those used for feeding to transmitter antennas.
     

    4.3 Two way interaction on cable:

    Broadcasting is generally regarded as a one-way function:- which does not really admit to either the commonsense or cybernetic definition of "communications".

    Quality communication always requires a two way rapport.

    The efficacy of communications for education, co-operative research and creative innovation of all sorts (but co-operation in particular) has been well proven to require two way exchanges, without which broadcasting (like government) can become integrally one-sided and socially abusive.

    The essential philosophy of Community Communications is that it provides an otherwise absent mechanism for organised "homeostatic two-way trans-social control". (see appendix).
     

    4.3.2 Videoway:

    The commercial cable television system offers a rudimentary "send back" system called "Videoway", important alternative social uses of "Videoway" might include:-

    a) Polling of remote viewers at live meetings

    b) Emergency Signals; Caretaker, Welfare, Fire, Police, Medical.
     

    4.3.3 Technological Potential:

    Any known example of "air-wave" or cable type of public information display, computer or broadcasting service might be made available on cable.

    The only serious technical limitation will be the factor of "Available Bandwidth". (Other important considerations are mentioned in section 6).

    The cable operators need to appear to have the cable "well stocked" with a wide variety of programmes but there will at the outset be room for say up to 250 TV channels of which initially only 50 or so might actually be used by the cable operator in the foreseeable future. The remainder WILL however be considered a prime financial asset not to be readily "given away".
     

    4.4 For the next 25 years.....

    Existing FM radio and 625 line television broadcasting standards are likely to be around for another 25 years with enhancements being added rather than radically substituting existing formats.  The home "cam-corder" can be expected to become as common as the cheap flash camera is today. The employment of fractal compression digital television picture signals and digital recording opens the way to a much increased capacity (some 20 fold) for video storage media and also opens the way to high quality, low-cost (digital) video editing (which is currently a major cost constraint for would-be community video makers).

    A major personal communications change within the next ten years will be the introduction of high definition "video telephones" using "fractal compression" techniques able to use existing (64Kb) trunked telephone service connections (i.e. ordinary telephone lines). The ability to talk to someone face-to-face over "the cable" may be soon not a high tech novelty but an ordinary social demand.

    As a transitionary step (as with Prestel and home computers) the domestic television can be identified as a low cost option for the picture receiver......

    Regarding community education training and development; many of the public information services currently using the printed or spoken word can be expected to shift towards Audio Visual Multimedia approaches based on communications and computer data systems.

    The provision of free educational and development services to all members of the community (but particularly the economically disadvantaged) is probably the most cost-effective "engine" of social and economic community development available to government.

    A community can be defined by its measure of intercommunication.

    The need for free community access to a municipal cable system in the future will therefore be most important and it is essential that current planning should not carelessly "sign-away" or unnecessarily and "blindly" preclude an indispensable link for a better future.
     

    4.5 Potential Community Communications Services:

    Purely as a physical device, while the commercial cable can offer free normal broadcast television and radio, a "SOCIAL CABLE CONTROLLER" could ALSO offer an estate (or borough) with many levels of FREE economical information services (not just in the area of Commercial Television, Radio and Commercial Advertising) since it costs more to have restricted access than have open access.
     

    1. Broadcast Television Text Magazines as per a slide-show

    2. Broadcast Teletext Services

    3. Broadcast Local Community Radio Stations

    4. Broadcast Local Community Television.
     

    With Interactive-cable, a "social cable controller" might offer:-

    5. A private local telephone service (toll-free for local calls)

    6. A Free "Prestel" type Teledata information system

    7. Education and training in the home

    8. Small ads for local small business and services

    9. A local authority toll-free computer network

    10. Public toll-free computer services

    11. Use of the cable for live studio links to and from anywhere
            in the borough on the cable network.

    The savings by the public and local authority in telephone toll-charges and unnecessary printed publications alone could probably pay for the entire cost of cabling the estate(s)/borough.
     

    4.6 Level of Interest:

    The level of interest in community broadcasting may be demonstrated by the reception given to the half-hour video produced by Stockwell Park Tenant's Association covering their "Big Day Out" Street Party on the day of their Tenants' Management Initiative Ballot in June 1992.

    Many copies of this video have been repeatedly passed around the estate and at least one copy was reputed to have been played so much it was worn out within the first two months!

    The Home Office "bust" some 250 "pirate" unlicenced community radio stations every year - it would not be difficult to find several groups of young people on each estate, keen to broadcast at the moment - (albeit a mixture of reggae, hip-hop & house!)

    The use of a radio media outlet might reduce the presently perceived need for operating intensely loud domestic sound systems.
     

    5. POTENTIAL INFORMATION PROVIDERS

    Many local statutory and voluntary organisations would as part of their "raison d'Ítre" be only too pleased to come forward as potential "Information Providers" - Some such as Hospital Radio and Student Radio are able to commence broadcasting over a local network immediately;
     

    Amateur Video Groups
    Local Voluntary Groups & Charities
    Community Video Production Units
    Film Societies
    Churches & Religious Groups
    Local Theatre Groups
    Performance Venues
    Hospital Radio
    Student Radio
    Campaign & Pressure Groups
    Library Service
    Social Services
    Talking Book Service
    Local Schools & Colleges
    Adult Education Classes
    Ethnic Groups
    Local Societies

    .. could make very rapid usage of this media were it available.
     
     

    5.1 Ownership/Social Control:

    As to whether or not tenants can use this cable seems to be a major social issue.

    1. Who owns the cabling?

    2. Who decides what programmes shall be shown?

    3. Can anyone in the borough regulate what is being distributed other than by switching off?

    4. Who owns and controls the Distribution Centers?

    5. Does the cabling franchisee have a measure of contractual exclusivity barring anyone else (including tenants and council) from operating any new parallel cable services in the future?

    If these issues are left to "market forces" then everyone concerned with improving the quality of life on the estate(s), religion, community development, education, training, youth and moderation of criminal activities should be deeply concerned at this lack of social and moral control.   For example much of the foreign satellite programming relies for its popular success on much more exciting pornographic eroticism, crime and violence than British viewers are currently accustomed to see in their homes at present and this alone could force debate.

    If the cable can be installed and managed as a business operation then it can also be managed as a self-funding community resource.

    Commercial television (i.e. that carrying advertisements) was once described as "a licence to print money". While times are not so good at present, the power to place advertisements and sponsored programmes on the cable is clearly a rich source of revenue which would be difficult to run at a loss. It is fair comment that the profits from local advertising and cable franchising should benefit a community rather than low quality mercenary cabling be a charge upon a community.

    Perhaps we have identified a need for "democratic control" of this new media - if so, examples of suitable constitutions already exist.
     

    5.2 Tenant Management Video Requirements:

    Recorded or broadcast live, tenants meeting are an important routine event in the life of the estate suggesting "simulcasting" on both TV and Radio.

    Other similar tenant management video requirements could be:-

    1. Interviews with councilors and officials
    2. Maintenance and Repairs issues
    3. Meetings with contractors and consultants
    4. "Meet your neighbour" family/personal interviews
    5. Parent and Teacher's meetings at the local school and nursery groups.
     

    5.3 Ethnic Programming:

    Sound and vision production and distribution systems like telephones are completely indifferent to the language and ethnic origins of its users.

    Entertainment, and music programmes in a multitude of non-English languages are already a current feature of European satellite broadcast reception and can offer fascinating viewing for extra-national viewers. With so many television and radio cable channels theoretically available, it is quite possible for programme producers and viewers to be specifically drawn from "minority ethnic interest groups". Any required non-English language programmes could be produced and made available on a cable network for the benefit of ethnic minorities, particularly say local magazine and EAFL programmes.

    Light entertainment and music in particular are likely to be
    attractive to wider English speaking audiences.
     

    5.4 Meetings & external voting:

    Since the age of Pericles, it has always been difficult to get voting members of the "polis" out to meetings. The old Greek word for this "Apithi" (apathy) means literally to "stay away".

    Televising meetings might make them neither more or less well attended, but ensures those who don't come may have every opportunity to know what has gone down from subsequent screenings.

    A monthly meeting could be recorded on a pair of handheld cameras and separate sound recorder and "shotgun" uni-directional microphone.
     

    5.5 Local Authority:

    The Local Authority and several local agencies such as the Library service, Social Services, Health workers, Schools, Youth, Employment service, Police and CAB can often require means of mass communications to the estate(s) and borough.

    Just as the Tenant Management Association has an inherent need for communicating with its member, so does the local authority but on a much larger scale.

    Rising printing costs and the cost of distribution (say £50,000 to send one leaflet to every local authority client) makes the use of information technology inevitable sooner or later.

    A borough wide Municipal Area Network ("MAN") can become the true "Forum" or "Agora" of 21st Century urban civic life.
     

    5.6 TEC

    The local Training and Enterprise Councils offer their local communities the means of economic rejuvenation through the development of improved technical skills and awareness.

    Any practical outcome of the proposals contained in this report (to support the introduction of a social Local/Municipal Area Network) may well depend on the pro-active abilities of the TEC; well in keeping with its own mission statement or raison d'Ítre.

    The local TEC might have a large ongoing share of input, running open learning programmes on a routine basis as well as documentary type local perspectives on relevant case histories.

    There must be many good TEC sponsored courses and client group meetings such as talks by (expensive consultants) currently held behind closed doors, which if video recorded and routinely distributed over domestic media to a wider audience, would provide much improved value for money and in any case make excellent daytime community educational television.
     

    6. INSTALLATION & MODIFICATIONS

    The main new requirements for community communications development are not technical, but political. Media and the power to control the information which goes into thousands (or millions) of people's homes is and will remain an economic and social power not readily relinquished by the owner who appreciates its massive wealth and power creating potential.

    The actual carrier frequencies needed by the community would be those which would allow FREE services to be received on ORDINARY unmodified broadcast radios and televisions viz.:-

    1. UHF Band IV & V 625 line PAL composite video television receivers (Frequencies 470-854 MHz approx. 48 channels)

    2. VHF FM Stereo Broadcast Radio Receivers at 75 kHz deviation (Frequencies 88-106 MHz approx. 90 channels)

    3. Miscellaneous Area Network communications and signaling frequencies at base-band 0 - 87 MHz to include the 27 & 49 MHz CB Radio Bands.

    4) 200 MHz anywhere (say above 1800 MHz) for uplinks. These (some 34.5%) need to be negotiated for immediately. It would be possible for ANY percentage of the available, existing bandwidth to be claimed by the local authority and even if such spectra is not immediately useable, it is essential that it be immediately claimed and set aside for the future needs of the community.
     

    6.1 Domestic Terminal Equipment:

    Providing the specific frequency bands listed above are strictly adhered to, the domestic equipment required (anywhere in the country) can be very minimal and the few special items like cable interface and special wall sockets and leads to domestic radios could be made-up and installed by volunteer teams under local tenant association control and management, for a few pounds per dwelling.
     

    6.2 Cable Transmission Equipment:

    The Cable Transmission Equipment for TV Radio and Teledata could be the same as that used by the existing operators from their Distribution CENTRE(s), but without encoding.

    Each channel broadcast using commercial equipment requires a cable driving unit of about £2000 per channel. A commercial Teletext encoder costs about £3000. Equipment which produces the same results can if necessary be made by technical DIY enthusiasts for 10% of these prices.

    With the best will in the world, operators have every right to be very cautious about any "alien" or "home-made" equipment co-sited with their own and a demand for similar quality equipment or similar approvals and testing criteria would be a reasonable requirements of the chief engineer responsible to the commercial cable operator. There are however precedents for Amateur Radio Repeater installations to be co-sited with stringently maintained regional television and radio broadcasting installations. Indeed the London Post Office Tower, Crystal Palace mast and transmitter rooms have housed such "amateur built" installations since 1975.

    Alternative lower cost transmission apparatus could be sourced from small engineering contractors such as WIRELESS WORKSHOPS or PHOENIX COMMUNICATIONS who are currently well known in the field for manufacture and supply of transmitters to licenced special event, community and university radio.
     

    6.3 Uplink Equipment:

    The equipment used for sending radio and television signals TO the cable Distribution CENTRE can be of a wide variety and cost.

    The same technical criteria will have to be met regarding the requirements of the chief engineer responsible to the cable operator.

    The IDEAL method would be to use the cable itself for the uplink, but if done to any great extent will take up valuable frequency spectra and may not readily pass backwards through any intermediate distribution amplifiers the cable operator intends to install.

    The type of "system philosophy" arbitrarily chosen by the cable system designer can impose severe restraints on the reciprocal two-way interactive nature of a network.
     

    6.4 Telephone Modem:

    As described in section 7.2, the "electronic newspaper" type "display computer" generated pictures could be uploaded to a file server on a daily or weekly basis via telephone and modems.

    A community owned remote controlled video player at the cable Distribution CENTRE or local distribution "node" could be put under control of the "display computer" system and started up and rewound remotely over the telephone or by a user-configurable program on the computer itself. Loading a fresh tape into a simple domestic type of player would have to be manually operated at wherever the player is located. The lowest cost automatic multi-play systems are seen in "Video Jukeboxes".

    The "display computer" could also select and switch "a community channel" to any single (legal) composite video source available at the centre or select such a channel from communally owned satellite receiving systems.
     

    6.5 Microwave Links:

    Satellite television hardware can be modified by small engineering firms like ALTEC to uplink several FM radio channels and television signals to the distribution centre and therefore back over the cable.

    Strategically located microwave links (on the highest buildings available) can enable very versatile types of networks, eliminating the need for very long underground cable runs and for example enabling borough-wide interlinking of all the large estates and council buildings with the full range of broadcasting and community information services discussed - without using commercial cable at all.
     

    6.6 Lambeth overall:

    It would be technically possible for EVERY estate to have its own basic "electronic newspaper" system and eventually "uplink" one TV channel and several FM Radio programmes for free local reception borough-wide.
     

    6.7 Required Formats:

    6.7.1 Basic Text and video playing:

    Text Format - Any 625 line monitor type micro-computer Viewdata Format - Generated on BBC Computer for Teledata Graphics Format - Atari/Amiga (Hi-resolution Teledata)

    Teletext - Added to ANY/ALL television programme channel(s) Single Video - Any domestic VHS (with full remote control)

    6.7.2 Intermediate:

    Recorded (outside edited): Live meetings and discussions, Talks, Tele-voting, Multiple Video Tape Playing under software control.
     

    6.7.3 Advanced:

    In house Production & Editing

    Super VHS or Sony HI-8 cameras

    "Outside Broadcasts": Meetings, Talks, Events

    Private Community Wide-band Uplinks, Phone/Videophone,

    Integrated Speech and Data (ISDN).
     

    7. PROGRAMME PRODUCTION

    7.1 Low cost video production:

    There are large sources of appropriate video material other than what tenants make for themselves on the estate(s). There are many local authority sponsored, welfare, co-op and estate oriented videos to give hundreds of hours without repetition.

    With all due regard to distribution rights and licencing, anything typically obtainable from a video shop can be cheaply broadcast, as can off-air non-encoded (commercial advertisement carrying) satellite material such as Sky News or CNN. If able to negotiate and pay "cable operator fees" any or all satellite programme will be available at price which might not be prohibitive.

    Top quality (world leading) BBC television drama production costs about £50,000 per hour of final broadcast material.

    Low cost professional video of say a lecturer, black-board and cuts to "prepared diagrams" and "specimens" can cost as little as £1000 per hour. Even this latter, would at first glance seem to preclude the possibility of very much output being possible from estates, however assuming the capital equipment is available and personnel are enthusiastic unpaid volunteers, the material costs of say videoing a tenant's meeting or interview with a local council official ARE probably affordable at under £10 per hour.

    There need be no bottom line to low cost production.... Such is the economy, power and innate attraction of community media that a £25 second-hand monochrome surveillance camera, a £15 second-hand Betamax recorder and £5 microphone CAN record a useful interview with say a local councilor or consultant which might be more interesting to local people than "the ten o'clock news" five times over.

    The latest "Hi-8" and "Super VHS" (SVHS) cameras when brand new or freshly serviced can offer "broadcast quality" and even the earlier Sony 8mm format has been unofficially used on BBC news gathering missions.
     

    7.2 Computer originated video:

    A popular low cost micro-computer such as the ATARI and AMIGA generate a video signal which the user connects to an ordinary television receiver for sound and vision display.

    Such a "Display Computer" can with simple software and minimal programming be used to display a colourful TELETEXT or VIEWDATA format type magazine page by page, or display plain ASCII text bulletins, using text generated on other machines.

    This is the concept of the electronic magazine or newspaper.

    Regardless of the picture content, the sound channel is always available for quality sound broadcasting or may remain silent.

    If it is intended to show evening or afternoon videos at set times - the computer generated bulletin pages can include an announcement to this effect and switch to this page as often as the Sysop (system operator) determines or at programmable times of the day or on the hour and quarter hour etc.

    The normal procedure would be to have this machine running in a fire-proof box or cabinet 24 hours per day with the "Sysop" updating pages in the form of "page files" and a "page presentation control file" generated on an identical machine at home. Updates being sent to the display computer remotely, possibly using the telephone and a modem, or up the cable network itself.

    N.B. The IBM PC uses the American 512 Line, 60 Hz Field Frequency system to display text and graphics so would not be as suitable as a 625 Line PAL computer. (although converters ARE available for under £150).
     

    7.3 Advanced computer operations:

    A Desk Top Publishing program able to be run on the 625 Line "Display Computer" can format text in multiple "character fonts" and inset high resolution colour pictures.

    An additional refinement would be a handheld-scanner to lift ready-made photos, images and text, off printed documents - the latter either directly as graphic images or processed by optical character recognition software (OCR) to produce plain text.

    An accessory called a "frame store" enables the output from a video camera (or any video source) to be "snapped", stored and edited etc., and sent to the "display computer" and displayed as a still-picture page.

    Assuming the "Display Computer" is located at a nodal point of entry for video distribution, this computer with its modem can be used as the controller: switching on, rewinding, starting and stopping pre-loaded video recorder(s) or selecting a particular satellite channel and taking the feed from this.

    Ideally however the normal point of entry for video distribution for the estate(s) own channel must be on the estate and not "off-site". A permanent "Display Computer" at the cable-head however can be very useful as a default "back-up system" to cover faults with the estate to Distribution CENTRE video-link.
     

    7.4 Future production and in-house editing facilities:

    A modest but serious production and editing facility would include:

    1. Two above average quality cameras
    2. Tripods
    3. Portable lights
    4. Spare batteries & chargers
    5. Separate sound recording equipment (Uher or Nagra)
    6. Microphones and booms
    7. A small editing suite enabling "rolling" editing
    8. Caption generator/graphic computer (Atari ST 520)
    9. Transit cases
    10. VHS Transcription players/recorders

    More important is the way this kind of equipment is looked after and if purchased we would suggest that a single elected "video maintenance steward" keep it and treat it as his or her own property.
     

    7.5 Studios:

    Many universities operate voluntary run "radio stations" as do local hospitals under the national hospital radio network.

    Visits to these would be highly instructive as to what can be achieved by voluntary bodies on a variety of small budgets....

    Training is an important feature of these establishments....

    Bath University Radio Society (with a student body which changes by one third every year) has 40 or more students, participating in a course of structured training at any one time.

    It is thought that a couple of adjoining flats with communicating doorways and control room windows added would be large enough to house a "station". Provision of tidy washrooms, self-catering and comfortable rest and study areas are vital facilities for a 24 Hour, un-salaried broadcasting station.

    Premises at the top of a Tower Block (with direct access to the roof for microwave dishes) would be ideal for an important borough level studio complex. An entire top floor would be most adequate, but the use of TWO large flats will provide adequate studio and workspaces, separate male and female toilets/washrooms and two kitchens, one of which can be the workshop areas for cleaning repairing and servicing equipment.

    It is essential for conscientious unpaid executive staff and performers to be encouraged by providing high standards of working conditions (free coffee) and freedom from petty nuisances.
     

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