working TV - what is it?
working TV is a labour television program broadcast weekly on community access television in the province of British Columbia, Canada. Between 1995 and 1998 the Vision network broadcast 30 of our shows to a national audience across Canada. We are also broadcast on other community access stations across Canada and the United States, and ( at least once! ) on a kibbutz in Israel. Programs have been translated and screened in Korea and soon, in Japan. We have been on air since May 1 1993 and produce regular weekly half hour programs as well as longer programs for broadcast during special events. Several of our productions have won awards.
We are primarily a labour show, focusing on union issues. This derives from our original mandate: to counter the marginalization and censorship of labour by mainstream television broadcasters, with labour positive programming produced by working people, for working people.
As the years have gone by, we have been producing more and more programming on broader community, political and social justice issues. This reflects the perspective of many progressive unions, including those we work for when we do paying video work. This perspective links union issues with broader community and political issues, and prioritizes coalition building between labour and its social partners.
Our programs generally use two formats. Mostly, we use a "magazine" format, which includes several short segments linked by on-screen hosts.
Other programs feature "talking heads". These programs are often introduced by an on screen host, and feature speakers on specific topics, which have been taped at public events.
We have avoided the "talking heads and potted ferns" studio interview format most often associated with cable television productions.
A unique labour television project
working TV is, to the best of our knowledge, the only labour television program in North America which - on the rare occasion that we do a "funded" program - combines the resources of a local community access television broadcaster with professional unionized crew and production facilities. Crews and talent include members of CEP / NABET, ACTRA / UNION OF BC PERFORMERS, and AFM 145 ( Musician's Union).
For the most part, working TV is a typical volunteer driven media outlet that produces community access television. However, we also do paid work for unions and other organizations, producing videos for their internal use. We often broadcast these videos on our program, and occasionally, we are paid to produce and broadcast entire programs for union clients.
working TV is definitely well off or even privileged compared to labour shows in other parts of the continent and world. With this privilege we feel responsibility. We make our programming available free, without charge or license fee, to other labour television activists. ( We do try and recoup tape and shipping costs ). We also use our resources to co-produce and broadcast videos with community and political groups and with NGOs. Most of these videos would not otherwise be produced.
Pride in what we do
At working TV we are proud that some of our best programs were shot, out of necessity, entirely with camcorders and with the absolute minimum of crew and equipment. This confirms what we have long believed to be true: that our content is what viewers value most, not how well we can mimic Hollywood production values and aesthetics.
Compared to typical broadcast television budgets, our costs are miniscule. We do "cheap TV" and are proud of it. We are also very proud that in Canada we have produced the only national broadcasts of labour television programming for several years in a row now, with budgets most mainstream producers would laugh at.