The day on which I’m writing this (Sept. 24) happens to be the ninth anniversary of intrepid noncommercial radio station KDRT-LP, 95.7 FM on the radio dial in Davis, and http://kdrt.org worldwide. Reflecting on KDRT’s origins and Davis Media Access’ upcoming 25th anniversary leaves me with a sense of wonder and pride at what we’ve been able to accomplish in collaboration with our community.
As for KDRT, a decade ago, the board and staff of what was then called Davis Community Television, along with a group of community volunteers known as the KDRT Working Group, was hip-deep in engineering specs, Federal Communications Commission jargon, and community ascertainment.
I will never forget the 18 months we spent building a station and bringing it to life. We were the first public access channel in the nation to launch a ;ow-power FM station, a new class of radio designed to provide hyper-local broadcast radio to a specific community. There was no road map, and we were in uncharted territory. It was a nail-biting, endorphin-producing wild ride.
Adding KDRT to the ways in which Davisites could produce and receive local content forever changed Davis Community Television, so much so that in 2007, we renamed and rebranded to Davis Media Access. Today, DMA is a nonprofit community media center supporting local content creation, distribution and archiving via television, radio and the Internet.
We manage two cable channels, a radio station, three digital archives that are unique assets in our community, an online equipment reservation and checkout system, four websites, and a raft of social media. Free speech and access to media technology are still central to what we do, but times and technology have changed, and our community has challenged us to be a resource on many different levels.
DMA’s main projects are public access DCTV Channel 15 and Educational Access Channel 17, both available on local cable, U-verse and via streaming; and KDRT-LP, 95.7 FM, low-power community radio for Davis and beyond. Through partnerships with the city of Davis and Davis Joint Unified School District, DMA provides the public with access to high-definition video and television equipment, digital media training and unique programming.
We round out our offerings with topical workshops, participation in open-source projects, youth media projects, local studio productions, event coverage, and advocacy and information for broader media issues.
This past decade, in particular, we’ve witnessed a sea change in technology, as well as expanded corporate control of media. As local media outlets became fewer and further, the importance of a physical community center in which to carry out the shared experience of making media became even more important. Today, DMA remains steadfastly committed to strengthening localism through media and is proud to support platforms for free, local expression.
This October, Davis Media Access will celebrate its 25th anniversary, and on Oct. 1, the Davis City Council will honor DMA with a proclamation celebrating 25 years of community development through media. Earlier this year, Mayor Joe Krovoza related a story in which his mayoral colleagues elsewhere had lamented the dearth of local election information in their communities. He told us that he simply couldn’t relate, because here in Davis, we have DMA, and we have a local newspaper and community blogs, all of which provide a wealth of information for voters.
I’d like to thank the city for its longtime support of media that builds connections, from the electoral to the personal. I could not possibly name every board member, producer, radio programmer, intern, donor, volunteer or staff member who has contributed to DMA’s success, but I thank them all for working to provide something I believe is of deep and lasting community benefit.
— Autumn Labbé-Renault is executive director of Davis Media Access, an organization providing access to, and advocacy for, local media. She writes this column monthly. Find out more about DMA at http://davismedia.org, “like” the organization on Facebook or follow her tweets @davismediaccess.