Five Hours of Free Air: Community TV in Argentina

A few Sundays ago, the 27th of November, at the corner of Quinquela Martín and Hornos, the transmission of Barracas Community TV was broadcast on Channel 5. On the hot asphalt nearly 20 young people stayed glued to the old television set that organizers had placed on the street.

They watched coverage of the anti-Bush march done by the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo video group, shorts made by children at various schools of the barrio, independent documentaries and interviews with Barracas organizations.

At this same street corner stands the La Gomera Community Space, from which the broadcast was transmitted for the whole barrio from to In addition to the TV set outside the building, the signal could be seen in the screening hall for La Gomera, which accommodates, between large pillows and chairs, another 20 people.

At the height of the festivities, the Barracas band, Semilla, played its complete repertory of folksongs that blends with a resounding chorus by the minute. From, "El Otro Yo" (The Other Me) to even a song with the music of the Rolling Stones’ "Sympathy for the Devil," but converted into chacarera (Argentinian folk dance) and sung by Semilla’s lead woman vocalist. Without more, dancing got going. Everyone was celebrating — more out of joy than in defiance:

"We’re on the air!"

"The project of itinerant television began this year and grew from a group of people who were collaborating with the Claypole community television project," Lorena Bossi explained to La Vaca. To date, the work crew that formed has made three transmissions in Buenos Aires under the slogan Abajo la TV, or Down with TV, although now they’re refloating the idea of changing names each time.

Lorena who also dedicates the same enthusiasm to various other media and communication organizations like the GAC and Public Mothers, explained what they intend with this new form of making television:

We started with the idea that occupying the signal is a possible utopia and we began to work in the direction of being able to broadcast in a neighborhood; to generate short productions with groups and people of the area that have been working for some time and to produce the broadcast as an event in which we all converge.

According to Pablo Lopez, representative of La Gomera, they never imagined making a television broadcast. "We already had been working with information, we made the magazine of the barrio and we also had a radio, but when we brought this proposal to us, it appeared more interesting because it was an avenue that we hadn’t thought of," said Pablo. The response of the neighbors was immediate: they passed by there and they stuck their heads through the window while the band was playing or they would come by to see the equipment with which we were transmitting. Some, the more timid ones, looked out of the corner of their eyes, without deciding to ask how it was that suddenly a television channel had been installed in the barrio and why the doors were open.

"Some neighbors entered in the projection room. They congratulated all of us," relayed Pablo, eyes shining with pride, "As a first experience, was really nice and interesting. We take advantage of the fact that there are people watching in order to show different things. What is broadcast are the works of different people and groups and from the neighborhood, who obviously don’t have another form to spread their works. This can help other people find out about it and can bring them closer."

After hours of work, not even the mineral water that circulated in large quantities could protect the group from the heat. However the arrival of Semilla brought energy for all and the broadcast naturally evolved into a celebration. Forgetting her tiredness and drowsiness, Lorena broadcast her synthesis:

The idea is that this day would be a celebration, a meeting of different experiences that are known, that are seen, a calidescope that isn’t subject to the management of the monopolies that today control information.

To conclude, she put into words what had been felt in the air in La Gomera in the last hours of the broadcast:

What we do is also in this celebration is to feel ourselves taking and occupying the signal, … and that appears to be a moment of freedom.


This article was originally published in, a web based publication covering social movements in Argentina. It was translated into English by Renate Lunn and Mark Miller