In the early 1970s, portable video gave the impression of being able to rival official television by creating a participatory, anti-establishment medium, and in this way, it was to be involved in fleeting experiences of local community broadcasting. In 1973, seven cities in France were authorized to experiment with their television distribution network. Grenoble offered the most convincing experience: a "video gazette," presented on the television network via local cable, was used to announce decisions of the city council and discuss issues concerning immigrants, businesses, or the schools. In the McLuhanesque perspective of the Global Village and its electronic democracy, television seemed to offer a means of participation and integration for everyone. But in 1977, in face of the inadequate revenues from cable and the perceived danger of subversion, the government took back the air waves for its own programming. Video then became a weapon for political activists intent on showing reality "as it is." Images from protest movements were presented, debates were recorded to confront opinions and exchange information. Video also allowed a critique of the media through the possibility of recording TV programs in order to analyze them and reveal their ideological content. In France this use of the medium corresponded to the post-1968 spirit and the ideological reading of communications (cf. the famous slogan, "The police speak to you every night at 8 p.m.," referring to the nightly news broadcasts on the State-owned television).In general, for French, Canadian, or American radicals, video symbolized a community-based counter-culture that would liberate democratic expression. Such alternative approaches were contemporary with experiments in local autonomy and affirmations of regional culture on the part of independent groups and individual researchers. Certain institutions authorized this kind of empowerment by participating in the creation of community video, as was the case in the early 1970s with the Vidéographe in Montréal, which provided video equipment and technical support.
Bibliography: Doug Hall and Sandy Jo Fifer (eds.), Illuminating Video (New York: 1990).