Paper Tiger Television

Paper Tiger Television (PTTV) is a non-profit, low-budget public access television program and open media collective dedicated to raising media literacy and challenging corporate control over broadcast mediums. Based in New York City and currently operating from Brooklyn, NY, Paper Tiger was co-founded by media activist and Academy-Award nominated documentary filmmaker Dee Dee Halleck in 1981.

Originally founded on democratic ideals of freedom of speech by way of access to means of communication, Paper Tiger Television now functions primarily as a non-profit organization made up of volunteers and run as a collective in response to systems of hierarchical power. The station's public access television programs from the early 1980s are considered to be pioneering works of innovative video art and alternative media, most well known for developing a unique, handmade, irreverent aesthetic which boldly experimented with the medium of broadcast television by drawing on art, academics, politics, and performance. PTTV has been recognized for its commitment to critical analysis of information sources, and for frequently being on the cutting edge of video technology.

The collective celebrated its 25th anniversary on October 11, 2007 with a premiere of the video Paper Tiger Reads Paper Tiger Television at the Anthology Film Archives. In 2018, in collaboration with Halleck's other collective, Deep Dish TV, Paper Tiger Television released a 10-part video series about resistance to the rise of far-right political movements.[1]


Founded in part by Dee Dee Halleck, Paper Tiger Television grew out of the Public-access television series, Communications Update, which ran on Manhattan Cable TV. The first Paper Tiger programs featured communications scholar Herbert Schiller reading the venerable New York Times the "steering mechanism of the ruling class".

Aesthetic and themesEdit

Known for its democratic goals and anti-commercialism agenda, Paper Tiger Television is most widely recognized for incorporating a DIY visual style in its programming. The creators and reporters frequently made use of handmade signs, backdrops, and other unpolished set pieces which highlighted the grassroots tone of PPTV's videos and drew attention to the production process. For instance, one of their special live broadcasts begins with a lengthy introduction to PPTV's mission, with the text laid over a brightly colorful backdrop:

"Our lives are increasingly influenced by the large corporations that make and distribute information. Their power rests on false assumptions. This legitimacy is a paper tiger. Investigation into the corporate structure of the media and critical analysis of their methods and meanings can be a way of demystifying the information industry. A critical consciousness about communications is necessary for cultural autonomy and democratic control of information resources."[2]

Archived programsEdit

The archives of Paper Tiger Television house one of the most unique and culturally significant alternative media collections in American history, including critical components of the coinciding technological and artistic evolution of public access television, video art, video activism, and media reform. The complete catalog of over 500 programs can be found at the Paper Tiger Television website.[1]

  This film, television or video-related list is incomplete; you can help by expanding it with reliably sourced additions.

Herb Schiller Reads The New York Times: The Steering Mechanism of the Ruling Class, 1981
Natalie Didn't Drown: Joan Braderman Reads The National Enquirer, 1982
Tuli Kupferberg Reads Rolling Stone: Always Smile When You Give 'em the Shaft, October 13, 1982
Bill Tabb Reads US News & World Report: Disrobing the Economy, May 26, 1982
Archie Singham Reads Foreign Policy: A Look at the Old Boy's Network, May 4, 1983
Joel Kovel Reads Life Magazine: It's a New Life, Painting a Corpse, September 21, 1983
Stanley Aronowitz Reads The New York Times: A Timely Look at Labor, 1983
Elayne Rapping Swoons to Romance Novels, 1983
Richie Perez Watches Fort Apache: The Bronx, 1983
Patty Zimmerman Reads Variety: Hooray for Hollywood, June 20, 1984
Pearl Bowser Looks at Early Black Cinema: The Legacy of Oscar Micheaux, 1984
Renee Tajima Reads Asian Images in American Film: Charlie Chan Go Home!, 1984
Marc Crispin Miller Reads Cigarette Ads: Lots More Ifs, Ands & Butts, 1985
Jean Franco Reads Mexican Novelas: Adios Machismo! Hola Maquilladora, 1985
Flo Kennedy Reads U.S. Press on South Africa: The Hair in the Milk, February 1985
Noam Chomsky Reads The New York Times: Seeking Peace in the Middle East, June 1985
Thulani Davis Asks, Why Howard Beach?: Racial Violence and the Media, January 21, 1987
Donna Haraway Reads The National Geographic on Primates, 1987
Born To Be Sold: Martha Rosler Reads the Strange Case of Baby S/M, 1988
Fred Landis Reads The Washington Times: The Dark Side of the Moonies, 1989
Class Dismissed: featuring Howard Zinn and James Loewen, 2004
Stuart Ewen Reads The New York Post: Fantasy, Morality and Authority, 1982
Protest + Education Can Equal Change: featuring Kathy High, 1992

Cultural impactEdit

Since its launch in the early 1980s, Paper Tiger Television has influenced and supported grassroots media activist organizations by providing an innovative model for community media and spurring the global development of a do-it-yourself (DIY) community media movement. With the explosion of Internet video distribution, DIY media has grown to an increasingly powerful international phenomenon, building on the pioneering work of the PTTV collective.

Among viewers, historians, scholars, and creative media makers, the radical early age of Paper Tiger Television is remembered for its radical political mission and intelligent, irreverent, ultra-low-budget antics in emphasizing this mission. PPTV's engagement with critiques of mass culture and politics, and providing innovative leadership for documentary filmmakers, artists, media literacy educators and social justice media movements around the world helped bring more attention to the potential powers of alternative media combined with the rising technology of broadcast television.

PTTV has been recognized internationally for its contribution to video art, theory and the documentary tradition in television. Many programs examine a particular aspect of the communications industry, from print media to TV to movies, looking at its impact on public perception and opinion. Other videos represent the people and views which are largely absent from the mainstream media. Cultural scholar Douglass Rushkoff describes the impact of PPTV as such:

"Perhaps it was the voltage created by the potential difference between what was airing on the networks and what was actually going on around the country that gave Paper Tiger the burst of energy it needed to become a full-fledged force in national television during the Gulf War."[3]

The emergence of Paper Tiger Television onto the national cultural scene of the 1980s was a significant moment for alternative media and independent television production. Dee Dee Halleck, on of PPTV's founders, went on to launch Deep TV (now Deep Dish Satellite Network) in 1986, which was the first national independent satellite network.[4]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Agency. "Deep Dish TV and Paper Tiger TV to Release New Video Series About Resistance to Rise of Far-Right Political Movements". Agency. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  2. ^ TV, Paper Tiger (2015-11-09), Oldies and Goodies: A Paper Tiger Sampler, retrieved 2019-03-10
  3. ^ "History". PAPER TIGER. Retrieved 2019-03-10.
  4. ^ Hawkins, Joan (2015-06-01). Downtown Film and TV Culture: 1975–2001. Intellect Books. ISBN 9781783204229.
  • DeeDee Halleck, Handheld Visions: The Impossible Possibilities of Community Media
  • Erik Barnouw, Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film
  • Martha Gever, "Meet the Press: On Paper Tiger Television." in Transmission. Ed. Peter D'Augustino. New York: Tanam, 1985. 215-33.
  • Marcus, Daniel. "Paper Tiger Television (United States)." Encyclopedia of Social Movement Media, edited by John D. H. Downing, SAGE Reference, 2011, pp. 383–384. Gale Virtual Reference Library.
  • Stein, L. (2001). Access television and grassroots political communication in the United States. In J. H. Downing, Radical media: Rebellious communication and social movements (pp. 299–324). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

External linksEdit