Video: Recap of our Membership Data and Feedback Session

April 12, 2018

In November and December of 2017, I spent nearly 30 hours in the Open Signal lobby talking to members of our community about why they come to our space and whether they would be willing to pay a small fee for access to our resources. 

In the end, 64 members of our community gave me 29,000 recorded words of freeform survey responses. I then worked with volunteer sociologist Malea Miller, who holds a Master of Social Work with a specialization in organizational justice, during January and February to carefully analyze the data. Malea provided a very important perspective, both for her expertise in the field and as an impartial third party.

On Saturday, February 24, Open Signal held a Community Feedback Session about our membership program. This public session was an opportunity to share the data with the community and to talk about how it relates to our membership program at Open Signal. We had a live studio audience, the presentation was broadcast live on our channels and YouTube, and the event was live-tweeted via our Twitter account. We accepted written questions from the audience, on Twitter and via Google Form. The presentation will be rebroadcast on our stations, or you can see it online below or on our YouTube page

This event was the culmination of a lot of hard work from me and other Open Signal staff, and I’m grateful for everyone who attended, volunteered and helped out by asking smart, relevant and very necessary questions.

In case you're not able to watch the entire video, I've recapped below the data highlights and a few answers to questions that I missed answering during the session.


The respondents were able to give as long or as short an answer as they wanted and many of them gave multiple answers. Respondents could answer or not answer any question in any way. The data was calculated as a percentage of total respondents to each question.

What Are Your Goals at Open Signal?

CONCLUSION: The largest percentage of people (66%) said that their goals are professional or artistic development.

This information is relevant because it helps us understand what people want to get out of being part of this community, which helps us develop a membership program that will be meaningful to the most people.

What More Could We Do To Help You With These Goals?

I asked this question in order to figure out whether membership could help our community better achieve their goals at Open Signal. 

CONCLUSION: Because respondents were allowed to give any answer they wanted we saw a lot of different answers, making these results pretty inconclusive. 14 people had no suggestion and many of the answers were given by only one person.

Every answer to this question is listed below. The numbers in the brackets represent the number of people who gave that answer.

  1. Unsure/no suggestion [14]
  2. Improve classes [9]
    1. More class availability (4)
    2. More relevant classes (3)
    3. Better structured classes (1)
    4. Offer longer / ongoing classes (1)
  3. More financial assistance [5]
  4. Create opportunity for collaboration / networking [5]
  5. More technical support [3]
  6. Better communication / follow through [3]
  7. More volunteer opportunities [3]
  8. More staff interest / participation in projects [3]
  9. More information about community member shows [3]
  10. Continue offering services for free [2]
  11. More community outreach and engagement [2]
  12. More info about equipment library / how community is using equipment [2]
  13. More youth scholarships [2]
  14. Extend hours of operation [2]
  15. More equipment sharing [2]
  16. Create more physically comfortable space [2]
  17. Improve studio A [2]
  18. Provide distance option for classes [2]
  19. More racial equity in equipment access [1]
  20. More aesthetically welcoming atmosphere [1]
  21. Project specific request [1]
  22. More transparency with grant application / fellowship opportunities [1]
  23. Limit services to local community members [1]
  24. Create a separate gallery space [1]
  25. More relevant use of funding [1]
  26. Remote location [1]
  27. More outreach to poc and LGBTQIA+ [1]
  28. Foster safe(r) space for LGBTQIA+ [1]
  29. More discipline specific programming [1]
  30. Put studio reservation online [1]
  31. Provide production assistants [1]
  32. Allow alcohol at meet-up [1]
  33. Implement A mentorship program [1]
  34. Build a green room [1]

A lot of the requests were for things that would require more funding than we currently have, but we addressed what we could as soon as we could. For example, during our winter closure, we gave all front desk staff a Studio A class, so they will be more familiar with the equipment and able to better help our producers. We also re-arranged the lobby space so that it's easier to socialize and we got a new vending machine. 

Would You Pay for Open Signal If It Increased Access for Those Who Cannot Pay?

CONCLUSION: Overall, 80% of participants said they would make a payment to Open Signal under the right conditions. Of those, 37% of people said that yes — unequivocally — they would pay. 19% said they would pay but they can’t afford it. Several others had conditions. 8% said they would donate, but wouldn’t pay a fee. Another 8% said that there are other ways to fundraise that aren’t membership based. And another 8% said that we would have to be transparent about where their money was going.

Only 12% of people said that no, they would not pay for Open Signal. 6% of people were worried that a fee would decrease access and 4% of people answered that they already pay, they would require a sliding scale, that they were concerned that the process of providing a fee waiver would be a barrier or that current funds aren’t being used in the way they should be.

One person said that implementing a fee would make people very unhappy. Knowing that the survey was conducted face-to-face, which tends to skew answers to the positive, that people in the Pacific Northwest tend not to make declarative statements and that other staff have heard this or sentiments like this from producers in other contexts, we are giving extra weight to this answer and acknowledging that this very likely the opinion of more than one person.


During the broadcast, there were two questions I didn’t know the answer to. I said I would put the answers on our website, and here they are:

1. How many states currently have community media?

The answer is that to the best of our ability, Open Signal staff were able to determine that all 50 states as well as Guam (but no other territories) have some form of community media. However, all community media is not created, managed or funded equally. The most common form of community media available are government channels, which broadcast official meetings and other relevant proceedings of the local governing body. Stations that are solely government are not likely to have classes or opportunities for the public to access the channels except as viewers. Some educational institutions also run community media stations from time to time, and they are also not likely to offer access to the public through classes, equipment rental or ability to broadcast content.

Stations that offer access through equipment and media making classes, equipment check-out and the ability to put content on the air tend to be localized in larger cities like Portland, and they tend to have contracts with their cities independent of or in addition to the state agreements with the cable companies.

For a more granular breakdown of stations by state, this the Alliance for Community Media maintains a list of its members, which is not all community media stations, but is rather comprehensive (link: http://www.allcommunitymedia.o...)
and Wikipedia has this entry, which is not up-to-date, but is fairly detailed in listing stations that existed at one point ( link:

2. How many states are not covered by Comcast?

Comcast operates in 40 states. The ten it doesn’t operate in are Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming. It does not have coverage in any US territories.  

I’m tempted to try and compare the state of community media in these non-Comcast states to those with Comcast, but the problem is that these are some of the most remote and/or least populated states in the country. It wouldn’t be a fair comparison.

Correction: Open Signal outreach to Portland Public Schools

There was also a suggestion that we do outreach to Portland Public Schools, and my answer at the time was “good suggestion.” In fact, it’s such a great suggestion that we’re already doing it.

Media Education Manager Katmeow Garcia let me know that visits to PPS schools range from speaking about career paths in media to short interactive animation and iPad filmmaking workshops to longer workshops that lead to certification like Intro to Video Production with Canon C-100s or JVC 600s. There are also information sessions about upcoming Open Signal youth programming and engagement opportunities. Staff also go into schools to talk about other things when it's relevant. I'm actually presenting at Career Day at Rosa Parks Elementary next week (wish me luck!). 

In my next blog post, I'll provide a breakdown on the structure of our membership program, as outlined in the community feedback session. 


If you have questions, please reach out to me at the contact information below. I also attend every Producers' Circle meeting, and you can find dates for all upcoming meetings at our online calendar. And as we get closer to taking memberships, I’ll be changing my hours to be at the front desk during our busy times to support new members and the front desk staff. Come say hi!

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