CreaTV San Jose opened its airwaves to the public to broadcast any message of their choosing for free as long as the message was constitutionally protected for its first Free Speech Day Friday from 3:00 to 9:00 p.m.
The media center offered 50 10-minute time-slots to individuals and organizations and encouraged them to deliver a public service announcement, a speech, or give a presentation on any topic they wanted, according to Alison Stewart, CreaTV’s production and operations manager.
“Since we have this service available of studios and air time and channels, we wanted to make (those services) available to as wide a number of people as possible,” Stewart said.
The event prohibited commercialized or legally obscene messages, hate speech and copyrighted material that is not copyrighted by the person conveying the message, according to Stewart.
According to Suzanne St. John-Crane, executive director of CreaTV San Jose, access centers across the country have been doing free speech every day for decades.
“Framing it as a ‘Free Speech Day' like this really heightens awareness that, truly, the airwaves are owned by people and you should have access to them,” St. John-Crane said.
St. John-Crane said video-hosting websites such as YouTube and Vimeo are not as widely available to share an individual's "voice” as many would think.
“I think there is a general assumption that ‘everybody can do it now, why would we need a Free Speech Day or a community media center?'” St. John-Crane said. “We need it more than ever, frankly, because knowing how to use digital media tools is critical for our future work force, for kids to understand how to thoroughly use this equipment and use technology and for us to communicate and connect with each other.”
Because of the high volume of participants for this first Free Speech Day, the event will likely occur quarterly, according to St. John-Crane.
Participants conveyed an array of messages ranging from political to health announcements and services to cultural and religious announcements and presentations.
Gil Villagran, an SJSU lecturer from the school of social work, said he participated in the event to speak out against the U.S. Government's justification for applying “enhanced interrogation” techniques on prisoners and imprisoning people without trials in its War on Terror.
“If they have (the event) every year, I'll come every year,” Villagran said.
Similarly, Donna Wallach, volunteer and participant at the event, said she used her time slot to advocate for her friend, Hugo Pinell, who Wallach claimed has been unjustly incarcerated and kept in solitary confinement.
“This (event) is so awesome because it gave the wide, broad community of San Jose (the opportunity) to come in and talk about whatever issue is dear to them and they wanted to promote,” Wallach said. “It gives me the opportunity to make a political statement that never gets out there."
Wallach said many people don't get the opportunity to share important issues “on mainstream television or radio,” which made Free Speech Day “very important.”
Other participants, such as the Bay Area nonprofit organization Lifeways, used Free Speech Day to promote their services for seniors.
“I think its a really good opportunity for us — a nonprofit organization — to spread the word out,” said Sheena Yu, enrollment and outreach specialist for Lifeways.
Because participating in Free Speech Day is free of cost, T.C. Nguyen said she believed the event is an economically feasible opportunity to market their organization.
Some organizations, such as the Russian radio show the "Olga Show" and Latin culture organization Barrios Unidos, shared upcoming events with viewers.
According to Stewart, the recordings will air in a new 30-minute segment called “Free Speech Day” every Monday from 10:30-11:00 p.m. starting March 4.