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Interactive Television

Interactive television is a form of electronic democracy where television acts as a conduit for information on an issue and as a prompt for public opinion on an issue. Public opinion is usually received via telephone calls or email/websites that record information. In some cases, the call acts as a vote on a particular issue.

This technology has the potential to electronically connect the public with important public institutions faster, and in far less regulated ways than is customary. This technology will enable people to vote on almost everything on their television and will, with computer-like keyboards, enable e-discussions to occur on almost any topic. As people become routinely able to 'vote' and 'speak' on almost all issues via the extended TV handset in their living room this interactivity could enable people to create local sites of 'deliberative democracy', to generate 'town meetings of the air' (Lancaster University Dept Sociology, http://www.lancs.ac.uk/users/csec/study/itv-lc-ed.html). As Steve Morrison, the Chief Executive of Granada television in the UK, wrote recently: 'television reaches parts of society other technologies don't reach. As integrated digital television sets develop, you'll be able to access the internet. Television is easy and unintimidating' (The Guardian, Nov 27, 1999). He specifically argues that digital TV may enable a new stage of citizenship to develop, 'closing the gap between the information-rich and the information-poor and to create a genuinely inclusive society of Digital Citizen'.

Objectives:

  • Interactive TV aims to use television as a medium for voting on issues, expressing opinions, and knowing that these votes and opinions will be recorded and distributed to the larger community. This provides an audiovisual element to the voice of industry, government and community groups.

Outcomes:

  • Interactive TV will enable people to vote on almost everything via their television, which, as a familiar 'tool', increases the chances of more people taking up this option. As a result, a larger range of people may express opinions about, or influence decisions about, community issues and proposals, including some sections of the community who may not otherwise have participated.

Uses/strengths:

  • Useful for reaching a wide audience.
  • Useful when an issue is very important to the majority of the community.
  • Useful when a large sample of the population's opinion is required.
  • Citizen TV may become more available, accessible and familiar than e-democracy internet options.
  • Allows TV viewers to share their opinions, needs and ideas.
  • Can be useful for education campaigns (e.g. health campaigns).
  • Can combine with web and on-line chat rooms to allow community ideas to exchange ideas in real time.

Special considerations/weaknesses:

  • The technology is highly expensive.
  • Can limit the number of detailed responses.
  • Can be difficult to present issues in an unbiased manner.
  • May be attractive to certain sectors of the community and not others.
  • Can develop a rich and diverse online community, but may baffle the non-expert users, and so limit inclusiveness.

Resources required:

  • Community television.
  • Telephone staff.
  • Computer-based recording systems.

Can be used for:

  • Showcase product, plan, policy
  • Engage community
  • Discover community issues
  • Develop community capacity
  • Communicate an issue

Number of people required to help organize:

  • Large (> 12 people)
  • Medium (2-12 people)

Audience size:

  • Large (> 30)

Time required:

  • Medium (6 weeks-6 months)
  • Short (< 6 weeks)

Skill level/support required:

  • High (Specialist skills)

Cost:

  • High (> AUD$10,000)

Participation level:

  • Medium (Opinions noted)

Innovation level:

  • High (Innovative)

Method:

  • Still in the developmental stages, interactive TV is often used commercially for viewer voting on programs and products, but the technology also makes it possible for citizens to be actively involved in voting and commenting on community issues.
  • Requires provision of interactive TV, not for sports or shopping, but for local organisations and the public to participate in 'their' community local interactive TV.
  • Can involve the use of qwerty-handsets within people's living rooms, or phoning or emailing into the station on a particular topic.
  • Viewers can then suggest topics, interviewees, and other directions that the community interactive TV might explore.

References:

Many of the resources in the “Participatory Practices” category originated in Coastal CRC's Citizen Science Toolbox (www.coastal.crc.org.au/toolbox/). With permission, NCDD included the resource on our wiki so practitioners could expand upon the listing.

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