Community-focused TV channel to be owned by viewers

A popular UK TV channel for stories from ‘people who make society better for us all every day’, is offering its viewers the chance to own a stake in it, in an effort to empower communities

A popular national TV channel is set to become the “first people-owned TV brand for social change” by offering members of the public the chance to own a stake in the business.

The Community Channel, which launched in 2000 to give charities and communities a platform for their content and to give a voice to new media talent, is offering ‘community shares’ through crowdfunding platform Encouraging people to not just change the channel but own it, Community Channel’s aim is to turn passive TV viewing into active participation and ownership.

Some 10 million viewers tuned in to the Community Channel in 2015, and in the last five years the organisation has trained, filmed, showcased and supported nearly 4,000 charities. According to a survey the channel conducted, a quarter of all viewers do more in their local areas as a result of having been inspired by its programming.

Achieving the £300,000 crowdfunding goal will allow the Community Channel to become self-financing, say organisers, while its raised profile and community ownership will enable it to reach even more viewers throughout the UK.

Caroline Diehl, founder and chief executive of Media Trust, the charity that launched Community Channel 16 years ago, said: “Crucially, it will be owned by the community and for the community – independent, creative and committed to social action.”

It will be owned by the community and for the community – independent, creative and committed to social action

The channel is becoming a community benefit society – a not-for-profit organisation that works for the benefit of the community and in which shareholders have equal voting rights.

Community Channel’s share offer comes only months after Positive News became the first global media co-operative to be successfully financed through crowdfunding. Also a community benefit society, Positive News’ #OwnTheMedia campaign raised £263,000 in 30 days and the publication is now owned by 1,526 supporters in 33 countries.

Positive News editor-in-chief Seán Dagan Wood said he was excited to see another media organisation crowdfund the sale of community shares.

“With Positive News as an online and print magazine, it’s really exciting to now see a national TV channel aim to become owned by the people too,” said Wood. “These are seeds in a new landscape of community-owned media.”

Wood added: “Like Positive News’ #OwnTheMedia campaign, the Community Channel’s share offer is showing that people want media that they have a say in, that is democratically accountable to them and that works in their interests. With the Community Channel’s grassroots focus and commitment to empowering its viewers, I’m looking forward to seeing how community ownership will help finance the channel’s growth and increase its positive social impact.”

Community Channel, which reaches 26 million UK homes, is available via Freeview HD 63, Sky 539, Virgin TV 269 and Freesat 651. Community Channel is seeking £300,000 by 28 June 2016 and funders can invest from £50 to £50,000.

Photo: The Community Channel