Budget cuts jeopardize Media Bridges, volunteers needed

Tom Bishop, president of Media Bridges, has worked to give the public a voice by providing access to media and channel space for years. But because of recent budget cuts and word from current members of Cincinnati City Council that the organization will not receive funds again, Media Bridges’ future is at stake. 

Rooted in the Cincinnati area, Bishop grew up in Hamilton, attended college and spent time working for public radio, in addition to spending 17 years with Norwood Community Television prior to his time at Media Bridges, where he has been employed for the past nine years. 

Bishop says he realized early on what good can be done with media.  

“I think I’ve always had it in the back of my head that you should leave the world a better place than you found it, and the idea of doing that with media is a really cool combo,” he says. 

Throughout his years at Media Bridges, Bishop led the nonprofit in providing free classes to the public on everything from studio and video production to editing and web design. The organization has also championed free summer camps for children so that they, too, can learn to be active participants in media by learning things like video skills, comic book design, animation and radio programming. 

Throughout the next few months, however, the organization will be forced to implement class and membership fees, so the facilities and access to create public programming will no longer be completely free. But Bishop says the organization will ensure that those below the poverty line are not left behind. 

“I’m sure we’re going to lose some people—and that’s really a shame,” Bishop says. “Cincinnati City Council has made the decision that their government access television station is much more important than the people actually having a voice in the community, and by making that decision, they’re telling the people to just go away, ‘I don’t want to hear from you.’” 

Because of the cuts, Bishop says the organization is in dire need of volunteers to help teach classes and run the studio so the public can continue to have a voice. Though he’s optimistic that Media Bridges will still be around in 2014, he says he’s not sure what it will look like. 

“Frankly, making up the amount of money we used to get via the cable franchise—put it this way—if we pulled it off, we’d be the only people to pull it off,” says Bishop. “When all funds have been cut, nobody has survived.” 

For Bishop, the cuts are disappointing. He says it threatens the future of the “many small victories” the organization has achieved over the years. 

“We have a program called Film Outside the Lines, where we work with people with developmental disabilities and turn them into film producers where they create their own films,” says Bishop. “The success of that is right there on their faces when they’re showing their films at screenings and entering them at film festivals and things like that.” 

Without public access, Bishop says people are left behind to hear only the voices of “the pundits, politicians and sports heroes” who make up a small portion our population. Instead of receiving media, Bishop says it’s more important than ever that people also participate.

“It doesn’t have to be about the almighty dollar—it can be used to make communities stronger," says Bishop. "Media can be used to build dialogue—to let people communicate. It’s not that there shouldn’t be media for profit, but that shouldn’t be the only kind of media there is. And slowly but surely, we’re entering a world where that will be the only kind of media.” 

Do Good:

Volunteer with Media Bridges to help them shift gears to a volunteer-driven organization. 

• Support Media Bridges by making a donation.

• Learn about Media Bridges' classes, and register for one so that you can become an active partcipant in the media.

By Brittany York

Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a teacher at the Regional Institute of Torah and Secular Studies. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia. 

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