Orfeo Tv: Street Television Breaks the Italian Regimented Broadcasting Network
17 Pages Posted: 16 Jun 2008
Date Written: June 2006
In developed societies open access to media system is considered a sign and a symbol of freedom and democracy, given the role media play in orienting public's understanding of important issues and choices. From this perspective, traditional broadcasting communication system, in particular the television, has evolved in the opposite direction. Because of its technology and the close regulations adopted in the western countries, television is usually conceived and institutionalized as a centric, inaccessible and regimented system of communication. People do not consider broadcasting medium as a one to use to communicate directly with other people. The relation between broadcasting stations and people is unidirectional: people are receivers, passive viewers in front of a television set. In the last years, a radically different television network is emerged: it is open, it is free ('free as in speech', as Richard Stallman would say) and it brakes with the institutionalized separation between production and consumption that characterized the traditional television.
The aim of this paper is to describe and analyze the experience of the first Italian open television station (also called 'tv di strada', street television), Orfeo Tv, and the network it created, Telestreet. Orfeo Tv begins its activity in the summer of 2002 in Bologna. From the beginning, the founders were aware that the survival and the power of the initiative depended on the possibility of multiplication and they compared their project to a virus to spread on the Italian cultural life.
This story shows a) how institutions and technologies, like the television, can be reframed and institutionalized under completely different assumptions, b) how the institutional evolution and technology innovation are intertwined, c) the relevance of critical mass for the survival of emergent initiatives. Technological innovation that has been used by the Orfeo Tv people is mainly a new combination of different existing technologies that have been purposively used. It is true that street televisions become possible because the technological innovation lowered the entry barriers and made widely accessible to everyone to produce and broadcast television programs. Finally, this is a story where technology points out the limitations of the institutional context. The experience of Orfeo Tv, is interesting because it underlies how far people are from having free access to broadcasting media system and how far is the legal framework from let free the access to this important medium. Institutional regulations were not ready to manage the people use of the broadcasting medium and in fact the new technologies that have been chosen to be implemented (i.e. digital terrestrial television service) are meant to keep the television close and regulated.
Keywords: innovation, media, Italian broacasting system, institutional change
JEL Classification: o33, o34, o38, l21, l22, l23
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