Frontiers in Indy TV

Rabble considers the future of pan-national television, by way of noting that a new Central and South American-based television network, TeleSur, is about to go live on July 24.

Rabble’s big question is: how “to bridge these more high budget TV networks with real bottom up technology to restructure how we think of and view television[?]”

He argues that production values are important, and as an educational video producer, I have to agree. Rabble points to Democracy Now and Free Speech TV as examples of what the left has been able to do, with varying quality.

The problem with Democracy Now, in my opinion, is that it takes the model of the staid night news program, resembling a low-budget version of PBS’s The Newshour. While their production standards have improved a lot over the last year or so, it still looks low budget.

The low-budget look doesn’t bother me so much, but I agree that we have to recognize that it turns off a lot of people who would otherwise benefit from the message and information.

To some extent, it’s almost easier to do MTV-style production on the cheap than PBS or CNN-style. A lot of techniques from low-budget cinema and video art have bubbled up into the mainstream–like hand-held cameras and DV-looking footage–making it easier for the average TV viewer to accept programming not produced on $100,000 cameras in big studios.

I really believe you can make up for big-dollar equipment through style, planning and editing. But that does take time, if not money.

Distribution, of course, is the bigger question, with the internet becoming more feasible every day.

I think we still need to get video onto peoples TVs, not computers. Audio on computers has become more prevalent because people don’t mind listening while doing computer work, and because of mp3 players, which allow people to take their computer audio with them.

Portable video players will remain a geek thing, until they’re as useful and easy as portable DVD players. Still, the familyroom, bedroom and kitchen TV are the frontier that has to be conquered for internet distributed video to take hold.

In and of itself, that will not be a revolution for independent content, but it should flatten the landscape, just as downloading and podcasting has flattened things a bit for independent audio producers. (Keeping in mind that most of the top 100 podcasts in iTunes are offshoots of already famous or major media enterprises).