Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Funding Shmunding...

The current revolution in internet TV represents a historic opportunity for radical video to realize its potential as an agent of social change. To this end, Undercurrents has begun a project called VISIONonTV. This project is not mere video on the web, but IPTV, a television station which updates the twentieth century medium of television for the broadband era. It will be as to easy to use as the old box in your living room.

Internet TV is a fantastic opportunity for alternative media to get out of the activist ghetto, but without a concerted project such as VISIONonTV, oppositional television which gives a voice to the unrepresented will remain fragmented, of variable quality, and inaccessible to the majority.

Currently, and maddeningly, most radical video is only put on “youtube”, for lack of an alternative. Its poor technical quality and the inability to download makes it impossible to distribute for a non-broadband audience, for instance via cinematic screening. Also, the film is a radical nugget in a vast soup of random and variable content.

VISIONonTV has a detailed plan to create, collate and curate high-quality radical and oppositional video on social justice and environmental issues in a single portal. It is this aspect of our work that we are seeking help from the Andrew Wainwright Trust to fund.

What's On VISIONonTV?
Imagine a TV station which did not serve you a diet of lifestyle, reality and makeover TV, leaving you starving for occasional late-night programmes which interested you. Imagine instead a station which gave you high-quality, radical, grassroots TV from all around the world with a single mouse click, just like switching on the television.

A beta version of the station has begun (, with a number of embryonic TV channels.
Here is a selection of the content already available:

If you are concerned about Britain's declining civil liberties, tune into the “V” channel for Roddy Mansfield's famous investigation of police surveillance “Video Cops”. And on the “Grassroots” channel watch the recent “Mass Lone Demos” (1184 separate demonstrations!) against the exclusion zone round Parliament with comedian Mark Thomas.

If you want action against climate change, watch the inspiring “Voices from the Camp for Climate Action” on “V”, and make plans to pitch your tent at this year's camp.
Or catch the trailer for “Ecovillage Pioneers” on “Coming Up”. And tune into “OfflineTV 4” to learn how to solar-power your laptop.

If you're interested in a radical viewpoint from Eastern Europe, view the “Balkan Babylon Rebels” channel to see a Roma community in Vojvodina campaigning to be supplied electricity, and the ins and outs of squatting in Serbia.

If you want to know more about the recent uprising in Oaxaca, Mexico or the latest about workers' control of their factories in Venezuela, tune into “Adelante” for all things on the Latin American revolutions.

If you're angry that yet again this September London will host Europe's largest arms fair, watch Indymedia UK's “Indefensible” to see what can be done about it.

Switch on “Broad Horizons” to hear from women video activists, from animators who got in the way of illegal fishing, and how women stopped a nuclear train.

If you want to know more about alternative media, try “What is Undercurrents?” on “V”, or watch “The Internet TV Revolution” on “OfflineTV”.

Technical development
This funding proposal is not for the development of software or other infrastructural matters, so this section is brief.
VISIONonTV is currently using bittorrent technology to file-share videos among users free of charge, hosted at In addition, we are using two open source applications produced by the Participatory Culture Foundation. Broadcast Machine is the equivalent of station and transmitter, while Democracy Player is the digi-box and TV. Our aim is to develop DP to make it as simple as switching on the television. This is essential for subscriber take-up.

For more detail on the technical development we need prior to launch, go to, click the link “What is VisionOnTv?” and watch the video and read the text file.

Content Provision
Prior to launch we need to increase massively the number and range of programmes on the station. We will do this in three ways:

1. Develop our working relationships with a wide range of radical video producers, e.g Camcorder Guerrillas in Glasgow, Real2Reel in London, Labornet in Seoul, Calle y Media in Caracas and AgoraTV in Buenos Aires, and a number of producers in the US. This means exciting them about this form of distribution, and providing training and support in encoding hi-grade video for the web.

2. Work closely with less experienced producers to enable their work to have maximum impact. There are many great stories which do not get onto mainstream TV, but often the films produced are of variable quality, excessive length, and have problems communicating and advocating to a general audience, outside the activist ghetto. Or else they are made for an audience with regional or specialised knowledge. (Very often, in our experience, a dull 50 minute documentary will make a punchy 10 minutes, and an over-long 15 minute film on a day of action will make an interesting 2 or 3 minutes.) VISIONonTV is not an open publishing project, such as indymedia. Instead the programmes are highly filtered to guarantee quality to viewers. This is an outreach project. This means re-packaging and re-editing material in collaboration with producers such as Reel News in London.

3. Continue and expand our own home-grown largely studio-based production, such as the technology series “OfflineTV”, produced by Undercurrents.

In Undercurrents' experience, the production side has always been the most difficult area to fund via charitable trusts, because of the directly and overtly political nature of the product.

At the moment the project is running on the voluntary labour of three members of Undercurrents. A huge amount of work has brought VISIONonTV to the point where, if we are able to continue and intensify our work, we could launch the station in December 2007. But if voluntary labour continues to be the only resource, it will be extremely difficult for VISIONonTV to get beyond the beta stage of development.

We are therefore asking for a grant of £10,000 to fund six months' work until the launch (July to December 2007, or six months from the start of funding).

Undercurrents Producer £3000
Training and Production Coordinator £3000
Programme editor and external liaison £3000
Travel £500
Studio hire and office expenses £500

TOTAL £10000

All funds will go through the audited Undercurrents accounts, with full wage slips and receipts.

Other funding applications
We are applying for a much a larger grant from another Trust to roll out the project for a full two years, and including software development. We are confident however that, should this not be successful, we would still be able to fund the technical development necessary for launch from other sources, so that launch could still take place in December 2007.

We are also appplying to another Trust specifically for the large-scale development of a relationship with Telesur in Latin America, and the new public channel TVES in Venezuela – to put radical Latin American content on the web in a form accessible to viewers in the global North, and elsewhere in the South.

Undercurrents was founded in 1994 and has produced 11 issues of the Undercurrents News magazine (UNN), originally distributed on VHS tape. UNN was described in Time Out as “the news you don't see on the news”. The Guardian said it “shock, informs and exposes”. UC has trained thousands of activists in video production skills.

UC is a registered charity: 1050704

Paul O'Connor: (Undercurrents Producer) One of the founder members of Undercurrents in 1994. His film “Globalisation and the Media” won best documentary at the One World Canada and Tokyo Film Festivals.
Hamish Campbell: (Training and Production Coordinator) – with Undercurrents since 1999. Creator of the Ruffcuts distribution project, which has sold thousands of copies all over the world. Has made over 60 campaigning films. VISIONonTV was his idea.
Richard Hering : (Programme Editor and external liaison) Major b/cast awards, including the Rory Peck 1999 for “Death on the Silk Road” (Dispatches – Channel Four), and the Amnesty International Press Award 1998 for “Ethnich Conflict in China” (C4 News). Author of “Lights, Camera, Direct Action” (2004), a manual for video activists.