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Mathieu Charlebois, May 10, 2012
With the images of the heart of the action that its journalists took at the risk of being sprayed with cayenne pepper, the community channel CUTV, from the University of Concordia campus, offers unedited coverage of the student strike. Since the start of the conflict, it has broadcasted on its website, direct and deferred coverage, more than a hundred hours on the subject.
Although it is resolutely partisan towards the student cause, the channel has its pictures used by networks such as LCN, RCI, and even CNN!
L’actualité met with Laura Kneale, General Director of CUTV.
- CUTV is: the community television station of the University of Concordia campus.
- It is broadcast: on the Internet and on the Concordia campus.
- It has existed since: 1969, but for two years in its present form (Web diffusion and content of seven shows with specific themes, as well as direct coverage of the events that happen on the streets of Montréal and on campus).
Your coverage of the student strike is far from neutral. How was this choice made?
It’s our mandate. It is posted on our site and is very clear: a community media exists to balance the messages from the private and public sector. Our goal is to give a voice to communities who don’t have one. Our point of view is that of the people who will be affected by the decisions of the government or big businesses. The coverage of the student movement in other media is not objective either. It represents the interests of the public and private broadcasters.
Who are the people you give microphones to? Are they journalism students?
Not exclusively. All our volunteers get training and, from what the Concordia Communication students say, it is very complete. The Journalism professors want to work more with us. For the internships, among other things, because CUTV offers an experience that is very close to reality, which is often what is lacking in their training.
Were you surprised to see your images on LCN, RDI and even CNN?
It wasn’t the first time that this happened. Last year, we were the only ones to cover the protests of the Arab communities in Montréal. The channel Al Jazeera broadcasted our images internationally. When we cover very local events that have an international impact, the other media turn to us quickly.
It’s advantageous for Radio-Canada (CBC) and RDI, who we have an agreement with, to be able to access our content. It’s not the kind of coverage that these networks want to do themselves.
What equipment do you use for going into the streets?
Our studio is the world and the street. So our equipment has been adapted to be the most mobile possible. Everything is made with a backpack transmitter, a camera and a small tripod.
The bag contains a computer and a screen at the back allows us to see what we’re transmitting. It’s pretty heavy. When we’re climbing hills, it can get tricky.
The images are sent over cell waves on a 4G network. We get them and broadcast them on the Internet by Livestream. These days, we often go over our limit. Each person who watches us costs 27 cents.
Our audience has been bigger than usual lately, but they are also incredibly generous. Their donations allow us to stay in the streets. As we’re a community media service, it’s important to us.
Do you think you have an effect on the way the events are going?
I think so. We are bringing transparency. Our audience tells us that the fact that our coverage isn’t cut and edited gives them the feeling of being there, of taking the pulse of the street. A more informed society is a more politicized society.
What moment has affected you the most these last few weeks?
The scenes that have circulated the widest on the Internet are those where our journalists were arrested or pepper sprayed. But for me, what to take from these protests is the smiles, the beautiful things that people say and their passionate speeches.
Last week, I saw a young child who wanted to play with a police officer from the anti-riot squad. It was right next to the Palais des congrès, where the protesters were going to be roughed up. The child was impressed with the outfit of the man. It’s these images that are shocking - the things we have never seen. To witness that some of the population doesn’t react in a scared or aggressive way to this image gives me hope for the future.
[See link for examples of CUTV videos from the protests.]
Translated from the original French by Translating the printemps érable.
*Translating the printemps érable is a volunteer collective attempting to balance the English media’s extremely poor coverage of the student conflict in Québec by translating media that has been published in French into English. These are amateur translations; we have done our best to translate these pieces fairly and coherently, but the final texts may still leave something to be desired. If you find any important errors in any of these texts, we would be very grateful if you would share them with us at email@example.com. Please read and distribute these texts in the spirit in which they were intended; that of solidarity and the sharing of information.