The CandidaTV Approach PDF Print E-mail
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Published in Media Mutandis: a NODE.London Reader,  March 2006

CandidaTV is a crew of socially engaged and demented videomakers. At the core of their vision there is the “Make your own TV” motto.

CandidaTV was born in 1999 with a weekly one-hour show on a local TV channel in Rome, Italy. As Paper Tiger TV did in the ‘ set a monitor. About 15 persons were involved in producing the programme. There were actors, camerawomen, editors, directors, writers, speakers and anchormen. Over the years we have been able to understand what could satisfy better the attitudes and desires of everyone, and we specialized our work. But to start we just shared everything and exchanged responsibilities and jobs as a “creative commons”.

At the end of 1999 CandidaTV secured a deal with a local commercial TV station. The channel needed a certain amount of original programming, Candida needed space on-air and the deal was done.

Insane and enthusiastic, we were on air for nine weeks but after that time the main dependency we share in this world became too heavy: the dependency on money. It wasn’t a surprise – we expected to face the problem of money because our goal was to promote CandidaTV’s vision of decentralized TV production and broadcast and to deal with the market at the same time. Which is to say, we desired to infiltrate the mainstream media and to get paid for this. Two paths lay before us: working for someone else and using the spare time to realize our projects or unifying job and creation in one activity, which would mean working autonomously. We chose the latter, and the result of this choice has been the emergence of a collective working reality, not a solitary and competitive one. To face together the world of labour we needed a legal body: this is the reason why in May 2001 we founded “Candida Social Co-op”, a small-sized cooperative entity that represents Candida legally and financially.

CandidaTV grew up from seeds planted in the 90s in the very fertile ground of the Social Centre “Forte Prenestino” in Rome, Italy. Self-management and refusal of any compromise with the rules of mainstream society were some of the ethical principles of the lifestyle in Forte Prenestino. We decided to develop CandidaTV outside of Forte Prenestino because we were aware that there might be commercial aspects to setting up a media enterprise in which the Forte Prenestino project as a whole might not wish to participate. We were moving at a different pace because we were smaller than the large squatted community. Having different structures that proceed at a different pace is a resource instead of a problem if different realities are knitted together in the same network.

Imagine two economies: one where people produce goods because they choose to, using their own means of production, in order to create something useful or pleasurable and which anyone can use. We may consider it under the umbrella-term of the ‘FLOSS economy’. The other one is an economy where material goods are typically made by people working for a wage, they are made for others who own the means of production and they are made in order to create profit by selling the products (Seaman, 2002). Obviously the latter is precisely the economy of the society in which we live. Due to this structural dependency on money and the imperative to earn a living that this model imposes, we have been trying to mix these two different economies with the aim of moving more and more towards a pure FLOSS model. From this perspective, in the past four years we had experiences with manifold commercial and non-commercial organizations such as TV-satellite companies, Public Administrations (EU and local administrations), cultural associations, private companies, arts organizations and universities. We have been selling our services to private and public bodies, which has afforded us space to manoeuvre economically, and given us resources such as tools and time. We have also been working to develop European or local projects that are financially sustainable but also very much in line with our interests. These have included a laboratory for audiovisual alphabetization and documentaries and video inquiries on migration, labour, ecology, war and media politics.

Drawing on the disparate resources and involvements of this ‘mixed economy’, we have been able to pay rent and office costs, to buy a computer for editing and a professional camera, to produce video and documentaries appealing to broad audiences and of course to pay taxes for all these years (a legal body is expensive and to wear it make you visible to the eye of the state). However, we have not yet been able to pay ourselves a real income, so we still exploit ourselves while envisaging the promised land where we will all break the gates of poverty and precarity and gain our freedom of being. If every one of us was alone instead of acting together as a collective entity, employment, although most likely temporary, would be probably less difficult to obtain, but it would definitely be a more restrictive and less satisfactory way of working and producing. So we don’t regret our choice (yet).

Our engagements producing content for Italian TV and satellite broadcaster haven’t been very financially rewarding as the cost of video productions in Italy has been falling over the past ten years. Satellite and TV stations tend to broadcast independent productions where the only payoff is the mirage of being “Seen on TV”. This curious mystique is exactly what we fight against, as we want everyone to make her/his own TV and not to be exploited by commercial TV channels. Our productions are available online for independent broadcasters and private users under Creative Commons licenses but we don’t want a commercial channel to broadcast our videos without paying us. They function in a capitalist market, not a commons, and there we want to be paid like everyone else. At the same time if a creature similar to us wants to use our work for commercial purposes we don’t oppose their request, as we need to promote a network of independent producers capable of generating an internal market of peer production.

The reality of independence for us means that you don’t have only one main source of income but that you can rely on a diffuse system of producers, distributors and broadcasters that together give life to a solid and ethical market model that respects relationships and the living context of people’s activities. CandidaTV, as a legal body, lives at the edge between the friendly and free environment of the commons and the gaping void of the capitalist media domain. She is extremely fragile; to the eyes of people that pursue profit exclusively she appears as a weird animal that should be studied and exploited. Her fragility is due to the fact that her habitat is an economy where to give money in exchange for something else is not the norm, an ecosystem where other goods such as expertise and pleasure are the currency. Candida’s immune system is weak and the immune system of any FLOSS organization shows similar weaknesses confronted with the dominant economic system that surrounds it.

To go towards a different system we need to know and manage the laws of market and money so we can transfigure them. We can’t change the ruling economy if we are only producers or coders; we need to be aware of the real consequences of financial and economical management on our terms. It’s a lot of work, which is not always creative or engaging, but in order to shape new economic relationships it needs to be done, and it can potentially become as much a work of the imagination as the work of artists, videomakers and creators is – the engendering of sustainable mixed economies that adhere to FLOSS principles but also are able to parasitically draw on market mechanisms. This is not the best of the possible business models, but it’s the business model CandidaTV has been trying to implement. This document provides a tentative genealogy of our experiment so far.


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