Socially Engaged Public Access Productions: Making the Road by Walking

By Paula Manley


This paper defines the field of socially engaged media in public access television and provides a framework for how social media is being used in public access TV. Socially engaged public access television productions take many forms, including town hall dialogues, oral history documentaries, organizing videos, coverage of school board meetings, and critiques of mainstream media.

The socially engaged media productions made possible through the hard-won, yet fragile, public access resources in hundreds of communities throughout the U.S. demonstrate the potential of grassroots media to inform and invigorate community life outside the commercial paradigm.

This paper identifies four broad categories of socially engaged public access production. It then provides specific examples of productions, their producers, and the contexts in which they were created. Finally, it highlights key issues and implications for socially engaged public access production in the future.