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In 2020, Brookline Interactive Group, an independent nonprofit community media arts center serving Brookline, MA, provided live coverage of approximately 550 school, community and government meetings. That’s triple the number of meetings covered in 2019.
Why such an uptick in content? Basically, BIG was “the only game in town for government and community meetings” during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Kathy Bisbee, executive director. The community media center adapted quickly, working remotely and sometimes providing up to 12 hours of meeting coverage a day using Zoom – and live streaming to Youtube, Facebook, and via their website since March 16, 2020.
Like many community media centers around the country, BIG made itself indispensable to local government and the community during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, during the first months of COVID-19, the town of Brookline allocated almost $200,000 to BIG as a one-time payment in recognition of its critical work. With cable fees in freefall as more homes cut the cord, the dollars were welcome. But BIG needed to secure more regular funding.
By the end of 2020, the organization decided the time was right to invest the whole community in the process of long-term sustainability for community media in Brookline. So, BIG built a campaign and board members drafted a Town Meeting resolution, Warrant Article 40, to explore new funding sources and create a working group that would come up with a proposal to identify long-term, stable funding mechanisms for BIG as cable fees decline.
Last June, the resolution passed with a 212-1 vote.
How did your PEG operation step up when COVID-19 restrictions were in place? Now is the time to ask your community to support you, Bisbee said, as the reliance on your services during the pandemic has illustrated your value.