HOWTO Mount a Media Centre.

1. Overview

The aim of this HOWTO is to provide a set of general guidelines and suggestions for setting-up a Media Centre that would be able to facilitate and manage the flow of information apparent during the coverage of a major media event, such as a summit. Section 7 is specifically centred around the technical requirements for this.

The main purpose of such a Media Centre is the complete co-ordination and handling of all information coming in from different volunteers and media sources; making sure that this information is verified and then routed to be disseminated via the correct and most appropriate medium. The Media Centre should also act as a central point for general information, an operations centre and provide computer facilities for those people that need on-line access to publish and search for news and other information.

One thing that characterises this kind of Media Centre from others is the collaborative sharing of information and the environment set-up should encourage this.

These guidelines are based up the experiences of those involved in Barcelona during the European Summit of March 2002.

2. Teams

The use of four IndyMedia teams and other external teams operating in distinct areas is recommended:

- Communications commission - Video and photo team - Publishing team - Technical team - External teams

Some of these teams have sub-teams within them, such as the Publishing team.

a. Communications commission.

The Communications Commission performs the role of spokesperson for the Media Centre. That is to say that they act as intermediaries between the Media Centre, people asking for information about the events and other external media. Depending on the size of the event, a team of up to some ten people working in turns of three at a time is recommended.

b. Video Team

The Video team is made up of several people with video and/or digital camera facilities and also to access to video/image editing software . The members of this team will be frequently going out into the streets to record what is going on and bring it back to the media centre. It is critical that there is good communication between the dispatch team and the video team in order that people may be in the right place at the right time to capture what is happening.

We recommend that the video team regularly liaise with the dispatch team, informing them of where they are and if something important is occurring. In addition, this regular contact can help the dispatch team (that is collecting information from the streets) inform the video team whether they may need to go elsewhere to cover and important event.

Again depending on the size of the event being covered, we recommend about at least four to six people working in turns on the video team in order to have a reliable availability of people.

c. Publishing team

The publishing team is made up of three different sections that work closely together. These are the dispatch team, that is responsible for the collection and verification of information as it is received at the Media Centre; the editorial team, that is responsible for the final publishing of news and the translation team.

During a major event, the dispatch team may receive a wealth of different information from myriad sources. It is critical that no information is published without it first being confirmed. Therefore, the dispatch team should employ some method of logging unconfirmed reports, keeping track of them and waiting for confirmation of the information. Once a report has been confirmed, it is then passed to the editorial team for publishing. If necessary the report is sent on to the translation team.

An effective way of doing this is to use an IRC or SILC chat client with three channels for #unconfirmed, #confirmed and #translation. Only members of dispatch should be in the unconfirmed channel, but all members of the publishing team should be in the other two.

The dispatch should have access to a mobile phone specifically for their use either as a main telephone or a standby line in case they need to relocate.

d. Technical team

Obviously it is important to have technical people available to mount a network of computers with Internet access. Once mounted, and during the actual operation of the Media Centre, it is desirable to have at all time at least one or two people from the technical team available to help with any problems or questions.

e. Other teams

There should be two other teams involved which operate with the media centre but are external to the IndyMedia teams: the Health team and Legal team.

They will be able to provide expert advice and information regarding legal and health matters. Information received by the Dispatch team from either of these two teams can be more or less considered as reliable and hence confirmed.

In additon, a cleaning team should be organised from the members of the Media Centre.

3. Facilities

It is important that the location chosen to house the Media Centre can provide suitable facilities in order for it to operate in such a way as it can meet its goals.

Ideally the place should be able to provide the following facilities:


Some volunteers to take care of preparing and selling food and drinks. The prices need not be extortionate but there is a way here to recuperate some of the costs of running the Media Centre.

Meeting and 'Chill-out' place

An area with tables and chairs where people can have meetings and just generally relax and chat.

Sleeping area

An area for those members of the media teams that are working late and need a place to rest or sleep for a while.

Press area

The press area should be for the Communications Commission to talk to the mainstream media (if acceptable by the local IMC). This area should be in a separate room from where the main Media Centre is, so that they do not disturb each-other; nor can the media film people that wish not to be filmed or IndyMedia's operations.

Internet and Phone

The Media Centre needs connectivity to the Internet and this ideally should be an ADSL line. If available a public pay phone provides an excellent facility for those that do not have a mobile. The media centre also needs to have a central phone number by which it is known that is not used generally for outgoing calls.

There is often a problem with many people wishing to use a limited number of computers at the same time. Therefore, the issue of cards or tickets that allow people to use them is a good way of controlling access a little and also, if sold, these tickets can help raise funds to cover the costs of running the facilities.

TV, Radio and Video

A television with video and a radio in order to follow the reports and events coming from mainstream media is helpful.

Alternative Location

Important to have access to an alternative location where the media centre may continue to operated, albeit in a reduced fashion, if needed.

4. Dynamics

During the lead up to the main event, general assemblies should be held by all those involved in order organise and coordinate different teams and activities. It is recommend to begin this around two weeks before the main event.

At all times contact should be maintained with other affinity groups not related with the media – such as political groups. Doing this we can encourage them to use us as the media centre, to provide information to us and hopefully to help with whatever needs to be done as volunteers as well.

5. Information Diffusion

A good way of letting people in general know of the actual presence of the Media Centre, and over and above of what is published via the web site, is the use of flyers distributed in the streets at all and any events. This flyer should contain at least the following basic information in the main languages for the region:

- Media Centre telephone number - Legal Team telephone number - Health Team telephone number - Web address of local IMC.

Of course, one may feel that the distribution of such flyers could be wasteful and unfriendly to the environment. So it is entirely up to those involved in mounting the Media Centre to decide whether or not this is an acceptable way of promoting awareness.

6. Financing

Very useful to have a donations box clearly marked in the Media Centre. As previously mention, some costs can be recovered by the sale of access cards to computers and also the profits (if any) from the caf\xE9 facilities.

Out going costs are:

- Phone line. - A mobile phone, for use for emergency dispatch calls. - Internet connection.

7. IMC Technical HOWTO


This part of the HOWTO is a rough guide of suggestions for how to mount an IMC for use during a major event in a city, like a summit for example. This is a really draft version and does not yet contain any detailed set-up instructions. It is based around how the media centre was set-up at the Espai Obert during the Euro Summit in Barcelona in March of 2002. Comments, corrections, improvements and additions are very welcome.

This HOWTO covers two suggestions, a very basic installation - which is not really adequate for an IMC's needs, but would suffice if resources are hard to come by - and a more optimum installation.


The computers specified in this HOWTO are intended to be of second-hand grade between 3 and 6 years old and running a version of the Linux (or FreeBSD) operating system as this presents no licencing issues for the IMC and fits well with the general philosophy of IndyMedia. A Pentium I or 486 PC with 32MB of RAM is perfectly capable of being configured as a Linux terminal and running a browser, such as version 4.x of Netscape Navigator. For older, low-powered PCs, the use of a light-weight X window manager, such as FVWM, FVWM2, OLVWM or Blackbox is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. It is advisable to avoid at all cost the newer more resource hungry window managers, such as KDE or GNOME. An old PC configured thus should be more than adequate for browsing the Internet and editing files. If using older Apple Mac Power PC machines, try either the PPC port of Debian GNU/Linux or Yellow Dog Linux. I personally recommend using Debian GNU/Linux for all installs as the package management tools offer easy installation of any application that was overlooked upon installation.

It is also recommended that the server run Linux or FreeBSD (or Darwin) as this is the easiest way to provide all the network services required. As there are likely to be people wishing to connect to the network with their own portable computers and as these may run Windows, Mac OS or UNIX, it is recommended to have the NFS (for UNIX shares), Samba (for Windows/UNIX/Mac shares) and Netatalk (for Mac Apple Talk shares) services all running on the server.

Minimum Requirements

  1. computer for the Dispatch team.
  2. computer for the Editorial team.
  3. computer for the Translation team.
  4. computer for the Video team with Firewire and USB capabilities for video capture and editing.
  5. computer with Scanner and Printer
  6. printer
  7. scanner
  8. -24 port Ethernet hubs as appropriate for the number of PCs.
  9. Base-T Ethernet cables as appropriate for the number of PCs. As many additional PCs as possible for general use. Internet connection via xDSL line, like ADSL (or ISDN if ADSL is not available).

All PCs need 10Base-T network cards, unless standalone.

Optimum Configuration

As above but with:

  1. extra PC for Dispatch team.
  2. or 2 extra PCs for Editorial, Translation and Video teams.
  3. ADSL connection (512/256 if available, but 256/128 will suffice) with an external ADSL router (the 3COM 812 or Efficient SpeedStream 5660 models for example).
  4. Linux or FreeBSD based server running file and printer sharing over Samba, DHCP and possibly Netatalk. More PCs, hubs, cables and multi-gang power extenders as needed.

All PCs need 10Base-T network cards, unless standalone.

Server Configuration

The server hardware should be at least a Pentium or Pentium II class computer running at 166MHz or faster with 64MB RAM and a 4GB hard drive. There should be no need to install X on this machine.

The service should run Linux (Debian GNU/Linux recommended) or FreeBSD and, at a minimum, the following services:

  • NFS - to provide UNIX shares.
  • Samba - to provide Windows shares (note that UNIX and Mac OS X clients can also use this)
  • Netatalk - to provide Mac Apple Talk shares.
  • IRC - an IRC server for the Dispatch, Editorial, Translation and other teams to communicate with.
  • DHCP - the DHCP daemon will make things easy when connecting new clients.

Note there is often a problem with the Samba (an implementation of Windows Networking on UNIX) and Windows clients due to Microsoft at some point switching from plain text to encrypted password authentication, this can cause a headache for you. I recommend setting Samba to use plain text password authentication and then configuring any Windows clients to match - see the documentation that comes with the Samba package for details.

In addition, you may consider running the following services:

  • DNS - a cacheing DNS server to speed up looks.
  • FTP - might come in handy.

Client Configuration

Each client machine should be at minimum either a Pentium Class Intel PC or Power PC 601 Class Mac with 32MB of RAM and 1GB of hard drive. The machine should run Linux with an X server and a light-weight window manager, such as FVWM2 or Blackbox. Other software required is:

  • NFS or Samba Client - for connecting to the server.
  • Netscape 4.x series web browser, all alternative.
  • XChat client - for connecting to IRC.
  • SIRC client or an SSL enabled version of IRC client, like Xchat.

Macines destined for the Dispatch, Editorial and Translation teams will NEED to have the IRC client installed. This is used locally to communicate within the teams during operation. The IRC client should connect to the local server machine that runs the IRC server and communicate on three channels, #unconfirmed, #confirmed and #translation.

Internet Gateway

The optimum configuration is to have ADSL as this is both cheap and easy to use and should provide sufficient bandwidth for 10 to 20 people navigating the Internet at any one time.

If however ADSL is not available in the town or city where the IMC is located, an ISDN or normal modem line will be needed - this will be a lot more expensive to run and an awful lot slower to boot! Basically a modem connection is probably not adequate for the job and and ISDN (RDSI) line is likely to be prohibtively expensive.

Anyway, if ADSL is not available, in place of the ADSL ATM adaptor and router set-up you will need a low spec Linux machine configured as a router and running the diald daemon to manage the bringing up and dropping of the Internet connection. You are recommended to make sure that IP Forwarding, IP Chains and the various IP Masquerading modules are installed on the server.

As many people these days have wireless 802.11b cards with their portables, it may be a good idea to install an inexpensive wireless base station (a bridge as opposed to a router) in the Media Centre too.

Internet Configuration

Use a one of the non-routable IP address ranges for the network. Say for example

Configure the ADSL router (or the Internet Gateway machine) to have an address of, this will be the default gateway address for all other machines.

Set-up the server machine to have an IP address of and then to run a DHCP server that allocates the addresses to on demand, thus leaving a range of addresses free for manually configured machines or machines without DHCP clients.

The network configuration for each client will be either set to DHCP or manually:

  • Default Gateway:
  • Netmask:
  • Network:
  • IP Address: 192.168.1.x
  • DNS Servers: use those provided by your ISP.


That's it for now. This is only a rough overview and a set of general recommendations and is not intented to be the definitive way of doing it. I would like to continue expanding and maintaining this HOWTO, so any recommendations, corrections and suggestions very much appreciated.

-- MariaMontania - 23 May 2002
Topic revision: r7 - 14 Apr 2005, RueBe
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