Sunday, November 02, 2008

Hackney TV

Background – Why Hackney?

The London Borough of Hackney, population 168,000 in a high density, is the ideal size to trial a local IPTV news channel, large enough to have a diverse range of interesting content, and small enough for residents to be able recognise neighbours and local characters.

The borough itself faces particular challenges. Hackney has extremely high levels of deprivation across all domains, rated 5th severest nationally, and 2nd in London. Employment rates are so low that Hackney is 406th out of 408 districts in Britain, and unemployment is double the national average, while the crime rate is high.

On the other hand, Hackney’s population is very young (and therefore internet-savvy) and one of the most ethnically diverse in Britain, with a higher than average number of knowledge workers.

The existing challenges will be thrown into sharp relief over the next four years, with Hackney's hosting of the London Olympics in 2012. For some residents the games represent an opportunity, for others a threat, as gentrification looms. The questions for local democracy are which social groups will benefit, and if re-development will merely be imposed from above. In this period of rapid change the residents would benefit from an independent voice – independent of the local council and of the corporate media, and under their own control.

Giving a voice to the “wisdom of the crowd”

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

Our project also mixes in the video-blogging revolution, syndicating blogs geographically. Personal v-logging is taken to new heights by syndication into a television station. Local newspapers such as the Hackney Gazette are also syndicated by rss. These two combined mean the content is always renewed and is sustainable beyond the funding period. Local business sponsorship by automated advertising gives it a means of financial sustainability as well.

As a two-year programme, Hackney TV will initially network and make links with existing community groups in the borough. It will then do presentations and provide training for those groups. Training will take two forms, production and outreach.

Production training will focus strictly on the practicable and repeatable. We have looked long and hard at the obstacles to high-quality community media being created, especially outside the hothouse of an intensive workshop. To solve this we have developed a template for producing news stories with stills taken on a cheap digital camera, with added voice-over and automated animation. Editing sessions will happen at least once a week with tea and coffee, and even lunch.

Outreach training will show people how to use the CMS, with the aim of building or consolidating active community groups. The simplicity of our CMS means we can bridge the digital divide, and gives us the chance to experiment and obtain feedback to make it simple enough.

In addition there will be a studio space with regular live-edit shows, plus community screenings and automated “mini-cinema” interactive screenings on recycled computers in local cafes and community spaces. This last again crosses the digital divide by providing a way of consuming the media and participating in “e-plebiscites” without internet connection.

Thus local groups will be able to use the iptv to build themselves, and Hackney will speak to the world while the world comes to Hackney.