Remember when media was made by studios, film makers were professionals and multimedia meant collage?
When there were only three TV channels that gave kids twenty minutes of Bagpuss at lunchtime, and two more hours of programming after school bookended by Play School and The Magic Roundabout.
Remember when for most of the day the screen just showed a test card of a young girl playing noughts and crosses with a clown?
(shakes head and mumbles whilst looking down at his feet and wondering where his slippers went to).
Nowadays there’s no end of media in your pocket, including the free to attend “university” of Youtube, with courses on the fuel crisis in Sri Lanka, rocket science and how to disassemble the hatchback of a twenty year old VW Golf.
Thanks to GoPros and smartphones videos and podcasts abound, and the army of amateur content creators grows. You name it, it’s being cranked out in the hope of comments, subscriptions and “smashing that like button”. In the digital world it’s pretty easy to create something to share with the 63.1% of the global population (5.03 billion) currently online. It’s also never been easier for individuals to promote and monetise their creativity. If you can gather a following there’s a chance of sponsorship and trending on a positive feedback loop. Is this how Twitter fuelled Trump’s rise to power and sedition?
The number of amateur and professional content creators grows and whilst production standards vary they are all subject to the algorithms to turn a coin. For Youtube the threshold for becoming a “partner” and being eligible to earn is 1000 subscribers with revenue calculated on the number of views and ad clicks.
Sonita Gale’s film “Hostile” has won numerous awards and, unlike earlier exposes of UK Gov immigration policy and treatment of the Windrush generation, seems a more potent challenge. IMO, it’s a stunning debut and shows what amateurs can achieve these days, but despite nearly 10,000 views Sonita’s Youtube Channel has just 50 subscribers so doesn’t generate any Youtube dollar.
On the other hand, there’re plenty of less polished but more amusing offerings such as ASMR Darling’s wonderful parody (2.5m subscribers 875k views) and Jamie’s honest admission (64 subscribers 271 views).
Though it’s hard to say if independent content creators and algorithms are any more or less biased than Russian media, the BBC or Murdoch press? It’s possible that this great democratisation in broadcasting will make for a more open, humane and enlightened world rather than an Orwellian dystopia.
It’d be comforting to have some bedrock of sensibility and fact upon which to found policy, belief and opinion, but relativism, subjectivism and base pleasures seem to be where we’re at just now. With the genie out the bottle, we should be carful about what we wish for, but whatever the outcome, it’ll be more interesting than the test card.