Internet radio at Global 2001:
Congreso Mundial de Redes Ciudadanas (101150)


Talking with Whom?
of public events

Fred Campbell,


February 2002



The purpose of this document is to discuss "the contribution (if any) of webcasting sessions of conferences". It is based on the writer’s experience of webcasting public events.

The title is "borrowed" from a ground-breaking 1987 analysis of communication in the Caribbean — written by Dr. Aggrey Brown and Roderick Sanatan.

A quote from the introduction is, I think, relevant. "Rather in examining and assessing what the media are in the Caribbean, we came upon the question — Talking with Whom? Do we have infrastructures and channels for communication without communications processes in the Caribbean?"

It is hoped that these few pages will be of some practical use. But they are intended for public event organizers who are considering contracting out webcasting and not for "webcasters" themselves.

Caveat emptor:

The occupation of the writer is, for the most part, webcasting public events rather than organizing them. Also our experience is grassroots microtechnology working towards the goal of interactive communication rather than presentation.


In webcasting media, there are two basic choices — video and audio. My experience is that webcasting video to people with dialup modems is an exercise in frustration. Video is for people with ADSL or cable modems.

There are three formats of webcast media — RealMedia; Windows Media and QuickTime (although plans are to move to a standard MPEG4 standard). All formats require the viewer/listener to download a free (or enhanced for a price) player.

The two usual methods of webcasting from a public event is either to use a highspeed line or upload to a satellite. Our experiments have also proven it is possible to stream audio by dialup connection to a remote server which can be accessed by people with dialup modems.

Typically, streaming media play in real time - like radio, for example. The files are not downloaded and often cannot be downloaded.


According to a webcasting software representative, most people prefer to view/listen to a webcast at their leisure following a public event.

Following this argument, the archive might better reach the audience than the original webcast. All formats can be easily archived on a streaming or internet server.

Broadcast or narrowcast:

It has been said that two of the biggest audiences for webcasts were the Clinton "sex" hearings and an exhibition of women in lingerie and swim suits.

Nevertheless, it would seem for the webcasts of most public events, we are talking about "narrowcasting" rather than "broadcasting".

In other words, there has to be some effort in reaching the viewer/listener.

"Narrowcasting", also known as "pointcasting" implies a target audience. One would expect all the rules of advertising and public relations apply when designating and researching a target audience.

To whom are we talking? What technology are they using? What time zones do they live in?

Practical issues:


Many people in businesses or institutions access the internet from behind firewalls. Security rules so many firewalls are basically closed to streaming media (streaming media — RTSP or real time streaming protocol — uses port 554 while HTTP — hyper text transfer protocol, the internet medium for text and images — uses port 80). Normally all ports on firewalls are closed unless the administrator deliberately opens them. It seems like a simple fix, but firewalls are a major problem in streaming media, as well as software videoconferencing.


As previously mentioned, it is not reasonable to expect people with dialup modem connections can receive more than an audio only webcast.

Finding the webcast:

Beware the complicated url — institutions and government departments often have such a complicated path structure that an url to access a webcast can be too long and cumbersome for people to remember or type in correctly. We put a link on an opening web page

Promoting the webcast:

Usually organizers think contracting out a webcast is all there is to the process. This is basically confusing "pointcasting" with "broadcasting". The possibility of somebody stumbling across a webcast are "very" small. Contrast finding by chance an url on the internet with one of our special event FM radio broadcasts in Stephenville, Newfoundland. There are only three accessible FM stations.

"Offline" advertising and promotion is essential. The challenge, of course, is that the "target audience" may be global. Promoting by list serves, websites or email may be essential.

Practical advice:

In the early days of the Memorial University Extension Service remote television transmitter broadcasts, crews used to go around the villages, adjusting antennas and tuning in TVs to the local broadcasts from the community hall. Listening to webcasts is almost as complicated.

If you do intend to "narrowcast" rather than "broadcast" to the world, try to compile an email list of the "target audience".

Inform your list of a website which includes information about the webcast; a link to the free media player; archive test files, and a tutorial.

On your website, place a Form Mail CGI which will allow interested people to sign up for the webcast.

At the time of the webcast, send out a reminder to people to view/listen.

We use an onsite "webcasting" computer which streams to an external server. So we give people the option of clicking on a browser website "trigger" link or typing an url in the media player and going directly to the server.

Our "webcasting" software has the option of emailing a small (1 K) trigger file to a list of recipients. They only have to click on the trigger file to go directly to the webcast.

All of the Voices:

One has to recognize that public event organizers might only wish to emulate mainstream media and try to broadcast their event to as many people as possible — end of story.

However, if "pointcasting" to a specific group is the aim, then the next step is to consider interactivity.

In Newfoundland, our public events broadcast on television and radio utilize moderated panel call-ins (and sometimes call-outs) to ensure that as many voices as possible are heard.

WMMT, a community radio station in Whitesburg, Kentucky, is simulcast on the internet and it has used a national 800 number to have people call in to its public discussions.

A simple way to approach interactivity is to promote a hosted web discussion board along with the broadcast.

Emails sent to the event could be read and discussed during the webcast.

SMIL (synchronized multimedia integration language) can be used to make a webcast more interactive, including the use of email and chat.


In rural Newfoundland we perceive the utilization of technology in an ongoing community communication process as a spice.

In other words, technology, especially participatory technology, can be an exciting addition to an event. The "flip side", of course, is that too much technology can overwhelm communications at the event and merely create a "circus".


The focus of this document is whether or not webcasting from conferences is useful. "Spice" aside, the obvious answer is that if nobody listens (there are no "ears"), then the effort is probably a waste of time.

Servers can be set to document connections. One of our servers is administered by a technician who reads internet addresses as geographic addresses — he likes to keep track.

We have offered ways of making it easier for people to view/listen a webcast and suggested potential barriers.

Our own inclination is to consider webcasting as "pointcasting", and to endeavour to make that experience as interactive as possible.



Report on Webcasting for Development:
A Minimalist, Participatory Approach




Members of the Canadian delegation to Il Congreso Mundial de Redes Ciudadanas, 2001 will partner with the Consejo Federal de Inversiones (CFI) and a rural Argentine community group to facilitate and demonstrate a process of grassroots participatory communication/internet radio. This process will link the 2001 congress to Carrefour Mondial Montreal 2002 where grassroots participatory communication skills training and community reporting will be an integral component of the conference. The process will also effect a "real technology transfer" to rural Argentina.

Common Ground:

This report will only make sense to the reader if we first try to understand the methodology of the "minimalist, participatory approach" to webcasting — the Sharing Our Future experience.

One might suggest that our approach to participatory communications in rural Newfoundland is minimalist for three reasons. The first is we deliberately stress the people to people aspect of communication over the technology, which is viewed as a "catalyst" or "spice" for an ongoing human experience.

Secondly, we want to engage as many people as possible in the process, so it is important to demystify the technology and legitimize local cultural ways rather than imitating professional media styles.

Finally, we work in the poorest rural area of Canada so we must use minimal technology. Simply put, we don’t have the money for a lot of equipment.

It would seem that the rural Newfoundland experience could be readily understood in South America. Not only do we use relatively inexpensive technology but our participatory methods are related to (and, to a certain extent, derived from) the popular education movement.

The Technologies:

Webcasting is simply streaming media on the internet. There are three main technologies available today: QuickTime, Real and Windows NetShow. We use QuickTime because it is inexpensive; it is more adaptable to modification and experimentation , and there is extensive online support available. QuickTime can also be received over a http connection.

The purpose of webcasting in the Sharing Our Future experiment is to stream community forums and cultural events from rural Newfoundland communities principally so expatriates can reconnect. Technically, the challenge is we must stream over rural dialup accounts to people who will normally use dialup modems.

We use a codec developed by Q Design of British Columbia which allows us to stream audio at 12 kbps. Our streaming media server is a re-configured used computer operating on a high speed ADSL with a static address.

Our initial proposal included setting up software and equipment with a rural Argentine community radio group. The technology transfer component was dropped so we went to Buenos Aires with our own equipment - essentially a laptop; audio mixer; mini FM transmitter; microphones, and video cameras.

It is important to grasp that these technologies are not mature. Most development seems to be with higher end equipment, broadband and satellites. Although expatriates as far away as Europe and Korea have listened to our webcasts, the concept of streaming audio from Buenos Aires to a server in Canada was very much an experiment.

All the Voices and All the Ears:

All the Voices is a slogan of the South American popular movement I first heard at the Mexico AMARC conference in 1992. It is certainly the basis of our community forum work in Newfoundland - both from the perspective of collaborative projects and ordinary people operating the equipment, as well as encouraging people to speak up and speak for themselves.

It would seem apparent that widespread utilization of internet radio from rural communities globally would enhance the concept of All the Voices.

When, in 1979, the extension department of Memorial University began to utilize a mobile television transmitter in rural communities to support community development, they called the process "narrowcasting". It is essentially the opposite of "broadcasting".

One could argue that "broadcasting" is a medium for propaganda or using manipulation techniques to change the behaviour or thought processes of the masses.

Narrowcasting, on the other hand, is ideally suited for dialogue and the enhancing of self-knowledge. The essentials of facilitating this process are well-documented and include "positive self-mirroring" and "pride of place".

But is there a conflict between the concepts of narrowcasting within a community and webcasting on the internet?

(As an aside, an article in Internet Trends magazine (Jason Morsink, The Evolution of a New Medium) suggests: Pointcasting to the individual will replace broadcasting to the masses. But Morsink is still interested in selling goods rather than promoting community.)

The Sharing Our Future experience is that internet networking - with webcasting, email and interactive discussion boards - enhances rather than initiates human community.

Nevertheless, we recognize that our webcasting has not reached its potential. Barriers to listening to "internet radio" might include not having access to a multimedia computer; obsessive firewall security in public computer spaces; difficulty in installing the free software; irrelevant content, or simply not knowing about the webcast.

It’s a slow process. After a year, we now are seeing more interest from cultural and community development factions in using the medium. We use QuickTime which has more success with firewalls but doesn’t have the installed base of Real or Windows. We have tutorials on how to use the software. We have made no attempt to change the content from narrowcasting locally to interest a mass audience. We do advertise in a national magazine.

Another variable is that the role of Ryakuga in the collaborative process is to research and implement grassroots technology, while ensuring a participatory process. We distribute communication mapping assessments which help local people to identify how to interest people in the communication event. The content of the event is self promoting because it’s relevant to the issues and culture of the community.

But we haven’t established a process to identify and reach the webcast audience. The software allows for announcements to be emailed; the announcement is a 1 k file which can be clicked on to go to the webcast. So, theoretically, all you would need is an email list of listeners.

Bruce Girard of Comunica mentioned to me the concept of "all the ears." He suggested using in Buenos Aires several webcasting technologies and possibly a satellite connection.

We did try to ensure that we utilized a server of greater capacity than the Newfoundland ADSL connection. The Victoria Free-Net Association offered the use of their streaming server on a 10 meg connection.

Il Congreso Mundial de Redes Ciudadanas linked to Carrefour Mondial Montreal 2002 :

In our proposal we suggested that a process of grassroots participatory communication/internet radio will link the 2001 congress to Carrefour Mondial Montreal 2002 where grassroots participatory communication skills training and community reporting will be (one hopes) an integral component of the conference.

The concept of skills training and community reporting derives from the Newfoundland experience - principally the Communication for Survival participatory conference and the Youth, the Environment and the Economy conferences.

It proved to be somewhat of an ambitious concept for a visitor to the Buenos Aires conference. The webcast was on the first day of the conference; youth from the community radio group arrived the same day, they were scheduled to leave the next day. The money in this contract allotted for Argentines to travel was politely refused.

We did have time for a quick "workshop" however, and Santiago Solis of Dos de Mayo Cultural FM from Misiones operated the equipment during the plenary panel webcast. I was at the radio station in Dos de Mayo when he used my laptop to explain the procedure to others; he understands it well.

Chronology :

  1. The webcasting concept was originally discussed with Garth Graham, moderator of the panel on Community Networks and Globalization - Strategic Options at an August planning meeting for Carrefour Mondial Montreal 2002. Silvia Senen took the concept to Buenos Aires where it was approved by the planning committee of Il Congreso Mundial de Redes Ciudadanas. The Consejo Federal de Inversiones agreed to become a local partner in the project.
  2. The project was proposed to IDRC and eventually approved except for the transfer of technology to a rural community radio group. I set up a website and discussion board for the panel :
  3. I arrived in Buenos Aires several days before the conference. The workshops did not happen but I was able to use the time to experiment with Argentine dialup connections. I was first given a free service (Yahoo) but it proved too flakey to be utilized. Eventually, Ruben Daffinoti, Mesopotamia coordinator with CFI, gave me his personal account which was a stable connection. With both accounts, I had no problem connecting with the server in Victoria.
  4. Santiago Solis and I webcast the panel - Community Networks and Globalization - Strategic Options. We preceded the webcast with folk music from Misionnes. I don’t know how many people, if any, actually listened to the webcast.
  5. On the second day of the conference I participated in a videoconference from the CFI office to technology centres in the provinces. Using a translator, we discussed my work in rural Newfoundland. Questions focused on the definition and importance of culture in the work and the support or interference of politicians.
  6. On the third day of the conference I presented on Sharing Our Future in Bruce Girard’s Mixed Media workshop. Generally I find that describing rural development work in Newfoundland challenges people’s monolithic concepts of North America.
  7. The day after the conference I travelled to Dos de Mayo, a small town in the sierras of Misiones. I was hosted by the town and they declined any payment. The community radio station focuses on culture. They are interested in webcasting to expatriates and youth studying in the city - as well as informing others about Misionnes.
  8. Before returning to Buenos Aires, I spent a day in Posadas. There I visited the CFI telecentre. It was very busy and, in my experience, similar to the Newfoundland Telecentres of the 90s. I discussed videoconferencing with Pilar Malumbres.


Other contacts:

  1. I met a representative of another community radio group that involves youth - La Voz Del Cerro, in northern Argentina.
  2. I participated in a videoconference with Juan Fernanado Bossio of ITDG in Peru.
  3. Alicia Olmos described to me another youth community radio group operating in Cordoba. While I was in Buenos Aires, the AMARC list serve circulated a story about the group.
  4. Jorge Montesinos described to me the work of the Programa Interdisciplinario de Investigaciones en Educacion in Chile. He was very interested in how we mobilize community participation in Newfoundland.
  5. Artur Serra of Spain; Gareth Shearman of Victoria and David Wortley of the UK invited me to discuss the global potential of software based videoconferencing for community groups.
  6. I spoke to Roshani Kothari of the Benton Foundation concerning funding of internet community radio in Argentina.


Self Evaluation:

What I would do differently:

I would have taken equipment to enable one community radio station to experiment with webcasting. I feel that I have somewhat raised expectations and nothing may happen.

Proposing to implement a process of grassroots participatory communication skills training and community reporting was too ambitious. In fact, I rather doubt I will see it happen at a conference outside of Newfoundland.

I would have found a way ( a separate project, perhaps) to focus more attention on listeners. It must, however, be based on relevance of content.

I would have taken a crash course in Spanish although having a colleague as an intermediary to explain technical concepts would be a most useful community asset in a first language.

What worked the best:

The best experience for me was the working relationship I had with my colleagues in Argentina. It was very similar to Newfoundland, actually, with an emphasis on human concerns and a willingness to experiment.

I also was encouraged by the support I got from the Victoria Free-Net Association. Initially I signed a contract with an American company but they failed to follow through. I appealed to the free-net at the last moment and they were technically perfect.

The minimalist approach to using a laptop to stream 12 kbps audio to a server thousands of miles away worked. It was certainly a technological demystifying experience for my colleagues from the community.

Terms of reference:

  1. The consultant travelled to Buenos Aires, prepared for and attended the Global 2001 conference.
  2. The consultant was prepared to facilitate a two day workshop but it didn’t happen. He did work with young people from a rural community radio group, however, and show them how to webcast. The equipment was run by a representative of the radio station.
  3. The selection process was handled by our Argentine partner, CFI, with input from the consultant.
  4. The consultant, with the community partner and support from the Vic