Tactical Television in Italy

Overview and manifesto of urban tv movements in Italy

Telestreet ( is a spontaneous network of very-tactical street TV stations (like French proximity TV stations) that broadcasts lo-fi videos a few hours a week by a 1000 euro 400 meters-range equipment. Telestreet was born to protest against the Mister B* media monopoly: according to Italian law it is pirate and illegal. It's low-budget and self-funded.

No War TV ( is a satellite channel for alternative coverage of the Iraq war (these days it stopped broadcasting, but it should start again with another name - interesting problem). It gathers media activists from a wide political spectrum: Indymedia, Social Forums, "Girotondi", mediawatch groups (like, and mainstream media practioners too.

Global TV ( is the satellite channel of "Disobbedienti" and the Communist Youth. They claim to be a militant partisan TV and not an independent TV: a kind of I-say-what-I-think rap. They started in Florence during (but not within) the European Social Forum.

Urban TV ( is a project ( in which I am involved after Telestreet) for open access television in Bologna and in other Italian cities, filling the level between the street and the satellite. It's an attempt to bring the Open Channel format which is unknown here, if you will. It tries to face some issues not resolved yet in other projects, such as organisation, continuous programming, content sharing, community participation, European networking (*we look for European partners*), transparent funding and non-profit economical autonomy. For these reasons we started a development website and wrote down a manifesto.

The Manifesto of Urban Televisions reflects the current Italian debate on media, hybridising it with Dutch blends like Public Domain 2.0 and with some tools from French-Italian post-fordist criticism (I like to describe Urban TV as a post-fordist medium and not only as a tactical one). I know (but I'm not sure) this TV hype is a deja vu for a lot of tactical nettimers. But I believe that the New Thing *here* is the connection of the (big) Italian movement with new media activism.


For a participative democracy of mass media (and the realisation of the first Italian open access television)


1. Scenario: independent communication and media monopoly 2. New rights: the right to self-organise communication 3. New spaces: the Public Domain of media 4. New policies: the culture of new media 5. Tactical media: television meets the net 6. Tactical television: public access channels 7. Tactical contents: from national programming to urban programming 8. The urban model: television rooted in the urban life 9. The economical model: non-profit cooperative media 10. The political model: the autonomy of society


1. Bologna Urban TV 2. Public Domain 2.0 Campaign

1. Scenario: independent communication and media monopoly

A new kind of media culture is spreading worldwide: next to the traditional means of independent communication, such as radio and internet, today we find hundreds of experiments involving an "old" medium like TV: independent television stations, street and satellite video channels, web TV stations and community channels. This video activism wave targeting TV was born as an alternative to a worldwide corporate and public television monopoly.

Today we believe society has acquired the democratic maturity and the cultural and technical know-how to self-organise its own media in the form of Urban Televisions: open access television channels rooted in the city life.

2. New rights: the right to self-organise communication

During the last decades society has developed a new consciousness on communication rights. Today such rights are claimed together with all the other universal and citizenship rights. See for instance the People's Communication Charter (

This new consciousness needs to grow further: within the frame of a new public domain of media, society must recognise its active right to self-organise communication, and not only the simple passive right to access communication.

3. New spaces: the public domain of media

The culture of independent communication in any form, from video activism to free radio to free software, has opened a new space among common media and technologies, a space whose political and cultural citizenship must now be recognised.

The cultural, political and legal frame of this movement is a space that we call the public domain of communication. As a public domain we understand a sphere which does not belong either to the state or to the market, but to the whole of society, and which is managed and controlled by society itself (not to be confused with the public service offered by the state).

The actors that have contributed more to the extension of the public domain must now work on the internal self-organisation and external visibility. See the Dutch campaign Public Domain 2.0 (

The new autonomous public domain of communication must be recognised by institutions as a means of participative democracy and new municipalism. Institutions must finally support the instruments and solutions to transform the fordist society into a post-fordist society.

4. New policies: the culture of new media

Institutional policies on new media only consider the question of access (often in a market-oriented perspective) and do not understand their value as a means of democratic participation and as a catalyst of culture and innovation.

During the last years, thanks only to new spontaneous practices coming from society, a new media culture was able to grow. The delay of institutions has allowed the independent communication movement to reach the critical mass and self-organise into autonomous entities.

Italian cultural policies only invest in the preservation of cultural heritage - they only consider new media as new containers for old contents. The fact that they don't invest in innovation like in the north of Europe results in an intellectual gap. New media need to be recognised as autonomous forms of culture and social experimentation.

5. Tactical media: television meets the net

The net has represented the period of discovery and training to participative media. But it is still television that maintains a central role in society, culture and politics. For this reason, it is necessary to deconstruct it in a real democratic way, and to let the television medium meet the net medium. Television must be considered a new prosthesis and an extension of the net: but to avoid another alternative media "ghetto", the horizontality of the net must meet the "socialising" power of television.

Possible strategies for independent communication are gaining access to channels and technologies, proliferation of broadcasters and production of alternative contents. For Urban Televisions the nodal point is not only the simple control of channels or contents, but also the re-conquest of the collective enunciation of the message. That is, the re-conquest of the public and collective role represented by television.

Working today on the television medium can be interesting only if it is transformed into a new participative, transparent and ethical medium. It should address its power to the cultural and economical development of society itself, and not only to support market or political consensus.

6. Tactical television: public access channels

For this reason it is necessary to create Urban Televisions in the form of open access television channels and to promote a social and communitarian participation to them.

"Public access" means a TV channel not only accessible to, but managed by the communities that compose the social life of a city. Public access has a meaning if it is used for a collective content sphere, and not for a top-down programming.

"Community television" means television that is more than simple public access and a rhetorical exercise of free speech (open publishing); it should also "make society" and build social texture (community access and not simply open access).

Urban Televisions are based on a wide social participation and do not only involve media activists and practitioners (as they consist of several independent projects).

Urban Televisions have a social mission and status safeguarded by an Ethical Chart that recognizes all rights, duties and pleasures of a participative communication.

The Italian delay in public access media must face those European experiences that show the possibility of creating television stations managed by society itself.

7. Tactical contents: from national programming to urban programming

Urban Televisions are television stations that produce information, entertainment and culture and are able to construct a daily narration in which the whole society can recognise and confront itself. Urban televisions re-conquert programming as a genre of collective narration. Whereas national programming is the backbone of the political consensus and of the social biorhythms, urban programming is made from the bottom upwards.

The heart of Urban Televisions is a community programming which mirrors the whole social mosaic and leaves its spaces to self-organisation of communities and single citizens. Community Programming also organises democratic spaces of confrontation and respects the most radical and anti-conformist styles and contents.

8. The urban model: television rooted in the urban life

Independent communication must discover the city again as a new dimension of action, because the city is the first and elective ground of constructing society. A public access city television can root easily into any sector of civil, cultural and economical life. Urban Television turns out to be a precious means and a model of participative municipalism.

We have to stop considering the movement as the first speaker of free communication and be prepared to construe society and conquer everyday life spaces. The aim of the Manifesto of Urban Televisions is to transform an international innovation movement into a movement that actually builds up society.

9. The economical model: non-profit cooperative media

New models of social communication are only a credible alternative to monopolies if they are economically autonomous. Media-activism must avoid some of the errors made in the past: in its history it has created ruptures and invented practices that the market has promptly colonised (Italian free radio of the seventies for instance cleared the way for commercial radio).

Urban Televisions are based on a model of non-profit social cooperation, where profits are re-invested into new productions and projects for the communities.

Urban Televisions work as meta-medium of local economy in a post-fordist perspective: they trig the multi-media economy, valorise bottom-up productions and realize a content economy with social aims.

10. The political model: the autonomy of society

Urban Televisions are born out of the initiatives of society and not out of institutions or the market. Institutional policies must recognise self-organisation in the field of culture and media, and must avoid the simulations of "civil society" and "social communication" for political or commercial purposes.

Urban Televisions inaugurate a new relationship between the society and the economical and institutional subjects. This way they overcome the old vertical structures of mediation and political representation to give room to new horizontal and autonomous networks, more suitable for the contemporary post-fordist society.


1. Bologna Urban TV

The first Italian open access television channel is going to be launched in Bologna, with the name of Urban TV. Citizens from the most important cities are invited to develop Urban Televisions to transform media-activism and independent communication into a constituent and lasting process, with the aim to build up an Italian and European network. The project based in Bologna represents a prototype for all Italian cities. Bologna Urban TV becomes effective through the following steps: the creation of a non-profit association, the launch of a development website ( and the launch of a social campaign for a new civic culture of media and television.

2. Public Domain 2.0 Campaign

Public Domain 2.0 is an international concept to introduce new ideas and instruments for a modern media culture. Bologna Urban TV wants to focus particularly on the following three points: a new debate on the public domain of communication, bandwidth access for a civic and social use of communication, and a social economy based on new media.

Translated by Cinzia Negherbon
Open to collective editing