Thursday, October 30, 2008

IPTV - From local news to local democracy

Describe your project:

This is a 3-year project which uses IPTV to grow local democracy via news.

We already have foundation funding to create an IPTV news station (VisionOnTV), and are bidding to build a multi-faceted but really simple-to-use content management system for this station, so that it can become comprehensively interactive and realize its potential for social change. It is essential that the CMS development be rooted in a local community, so that it can be tested and refined. We are therefore also seeking funding to facilitate Hackney TV, a VisionOnTV local channel in a London borough undergoing rapid change under the shadow of the 2012 Olympics, which will be this testing ground. If the CMS is successful in Hackney, it can be replicated globally.

Hackney TV will be a mix of local news and views, including rapid-turnaround, “live-edit” studio shows, as well as news reportage.

We will fully exploit the “micro-broadcasting” that IPTV enables. Our cms is based on the award-winning Liferay system, which is open source. It will encourage physical connections between people that traditional media has no power to do, beginning with neighbours recognising each other, through simultaneous chat while playing a film, to the creation of forums and physical groups around important community issues. Personalised adverts and info-verts will make TV into a community noticeboard.

The cms will also draw in data from other existing national and global social networks, blogs, corporate news etc, so that it is constantly up-dated with new info. News becomes interactive through “E-decision” plebiscites by text, web voting and interactive IPTV booths in public venues, community cafes etc. Local business sponsorship by automated advertising makes it sustainable.

How will your project improve the way news and information are delivered to geographic communities?

The focusing of the CMS group on a borough-sized community is the key to grassroots news. However, citizen journalist video production generally lacks the key skills and focus to substitute fully the role that top-down media currently plays. Quality control and fact-checking are absent, while disruptive posts are tolerated. Our cms will include these controls and thus feed relevant and accessible news from the grassroots back to the grassroots.

The 2012 Olympics will bring rapid change for the communities of Hackney in East London, over which they need to have control. A local interactive news service dedicated to their needs will give them a voice and enable them to shout louder.

How is your idea innovative? (new or different from what already exists)

Our project works both as “lean-back” TV and as interactive video on the web. The huge problem with other CMS's is that they are “out of the box” and designed by techies for techies, whereas we are outreaching beyond this.We are broadcasting video content to drive interaction rather than relying on people simply to interact in an empty space.We aim to create real-world communities by virtual tools. Live chat while watching a film will turn into forum posts, relationship links and involvement in outside groups, outside of a walled garden. Physical meet-ups will be pushed, via screenings, action groups or socializing. Local info-verts will be personalised to you. Currently, no other video site has a sense of community like this.

What experience do you or your organization have to successfully develop this project?

Undercurrents is an award-winning media charity of 15 years' standing, which coined the term “video activism”. We pre-empted the media revolution of the 21st century by putting camcorders in the hands of environmental activists during the 1990s. Popular London magazine Time Out tagged our work as ‘The News you don’t see on the News’. We put views from the grassroots in front of both the wider public and decision makers.

As part of the visionOntv project, we recently ran a studio at the Camp for Climate Action in Kent, England, making 20 shows in the space of a week, syndicated to over 40 streaming sites and our own video player application (a customised version of Miro).

Hamish Campbell, Richard Hering and Paul O'Connor have 45 years of video trainer and producer experience between them.

Hamish is the CEO of visionOntv, which was his idea. He is designing the parameters of the CMS and all other software, and envisioning the trajectory of the project as a whole.

Richard is also an award-winning investigative reporter for British TV, winning the Bill Travers Award for Environmental Investigation '97, the Amnesty International Press Award '98, and the Rory Peck Features Award '99, on subjects such as the illegal mahogany trade from Brazil and the effects of the nuclear test program in China.

Paul is co-founder of Undercurrents, and De Murphy is our financial manager.