The Bristol Cable is a co-operative, owned by over 2,000 people locally. The biggest meeting of our year is our AGM – a hands-on event where members make big decisions about the co-op’s direction and celebrate what we’re doing together. We grapple with strategy and eat lots of Jeevans samosas.
This year was also our fifth birthday, so it was also a chance to look back at how far we’ve come.
Five years ago, the Bristol Cable started with a one-page call out for like-minded volunteers posted in shops and community notice boards across the city.
Then came a long period of voluntary work out of Bristol living rooms to put the Cable together, running community trainings and distributing papers for free across the city. More and more people joined up as members to help the Cable get off the ground. It was a labour of love, born out of concern at the state of the mainstream media, the loss of local publications and a desire to tell fresh stories.
Today, we are a thriving co-op with nine members of staff, 2,000+ members and many more readers across the city. We’re pioneering a new model for publicly-owned media that is accountable to the communities it serves. We’ve had a big impact in Bristol through investigations and reporting on air pollution, modern day slavery, surveillance, drugs, local debt collection and discrimination, to name a few.
Members having a say
Every Cable member can have a direct say in our direction and how our money is spent.
The AGM this year was our biggest yet, with lots of new members coming through the doors and joining in for the first time. We also included a chance to feed-in online, meaning those who couldn’t make it out on Monday night were able to vote for directors and add their thoughts on key decisions.
This year, members reflected on the question of how we can grow our membership. We need to bring more people in and generate more income from member contributions. At the same time, we don’t want money to be a big barrier to anyone joining the Cable, or reading our journalism.
To draw out these dilemmas, we talked about what membership at the Bristol Cable should mean.
Members’ decisions were clear. Through discussion and voting, members reaffirmed that Cable journalism needs to stay free to access and membership should be kept affordable to nearly everyone at £1/month for minimum contributions. However, it was also stressed that we should ask those who can pay more to do so!
Here’s what some members had to say on why they voted to keep our journalism free to access for everyone:
“Because people can’t participate in politics fully if they don’t have access to good media, and economically disenfranchised people need to be able to have more of a say in society.”
“I think it would exclude lots of people on low incomes to start charging. I haven’t bought a weekend paper for years since working in a zero hours contract.”
Members also took a decision about our editorial priority – should we invest in video journalism or deep community journalism? It’s not a simple either/or equation, but we do have limited resources and need to reach a decision about what to prioritise.
Members came out strongly to prioritise community journalism. This will allow us to do deeper, collaborative work with communities in Bristol to make sure that people are involved in shaping their media and telling stories about issues which affect them.
Finally, no Cable AGM is complete without an extra helping of co-op democracy. So we elected four new directors to our board, who oversee the staff team’s activities across the year. Welcome Leila, Grant, Abdi and Alain!
The coordinator team would like to take this opportunity to once again express our gratitude for the invaluable work performed by the directors who stepped down. And a massive thanks to the candidates who applied but failed to secure enough votes – we had lots of fantastic candidates this year and it was a tight race.
Thanks to all who came to the AGM, as well as those who took part in decision making online. There is no blueprint about what we’re doing together, and it’s only through members’ wisdom and contributions that we are still here, building a new model of media that is owned by the people!