Report on Green Left TV

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Green Left TV was launched at the end of March. Six months down the track, it's useful to assess our work, the lessons, and possibilities for GLTV's future.

This report will briefly cover the following areas with some projections in each:

  • Vision: Why GLTV?
  • The first 6 months of GLTV, highlights and responses
  • Feature program: The Green Left Report
  • GLTV involvement, training and recruitment
  • Lessons from the GLTV appeal
  • Where to now? Ideas for projects and expansion

Vision: why GLTV?

The motivation for GLTV is broadly the same as for Green Left Weekly: that the key battle for socialists in Australia today is ideological, the battle of ideas. From the anti-Muslim hysteria to refugee bashing to war and occupation and every other aspect of politics - the dominant corporate media plays a huge role in shaping opinion and defending the 1%.

So GLTV is another arm to fight with. The specific importance of GLTV, of fighting in the video/film arena, includes:

  • Major use: TV/web is the way that most Australians (approximately 60%) get their “news”. Hours each day are spent on TV and the net: this area is rising while traditional newspaper readership is falling.
  • Ultra-conservative: The reactionary, mind-sapping, narrow nature of TV is, if anything, even more right-wing than corporate newspapers. So battling here is important.
  • Social media: The rise of social media means all people, and youth in particular, are turning to accessing information on computers, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. They watch on the bus on phones or tablets.
  • Falling costs, growing accessibility: Production and distribution costs have fallen dramatically. Just 10 years ago, making “TV”' required hundreds of thousands of dollars in equipment. Now you can get quality high definition (HD) cameras for $1000 or less, and costs of everything else (editing equipment, storage, microphones, lights) are falling fast. Indeed, the basics to film - if used properly - are now in many people's handy cam, digital camera or even smart phone. Editing can be done on laptops, and distribution can happen on the net - for free.
  • A radical history resource: GLW is crucial as a tool that captures a very different history to the corporate media - yet imagine what a video history could be like? Videos of Occupy, anti-war, high-school walkouts etc - we want to make sure that upsurges over the next period, and our role, are recorded not just on paper, but through vibrant video also.
  • The future: Radical, left wing TV/video is (at least part of) the future for left organisations. If we had not acted now, we would be behind in the future.

Projections

Continue to see GLTV as a valuable addition and complement to our key project and most powerful political tool, Green Left Weekly.

Strive to follow developments and possibilities in technology and online TV etc, to consider how GLTV can grow.

The first 6 months of GLTV, highlights and responses

In the 6 months since GLTV was first launched, as at September 28, after around 180 days of GLTV we had:

  • Produced 103 videos — equating to about 1 new video every 2 days.
  • Collected 305 YouTube subscribers — about 1-2 new subscribers daily (this comes in surges with each new video, especially popular videos).
  • Gained 265 Facebook likes and around 140 Twitter followers.
  • Gained 62500 views.

Below are some groupings of our most popular videos, and the lessons they indicate.

  • Big names [Dr Brian Senewiratne (Our #1 ranked video, 9300 views); David Hicks (#2, 4500); Tariq Ali (#4, 2100); Ilan Pappe (#9, 1400 views)].
    Lesson: Bigger name radicals will draw an audience. GLTV should try, whereever possible, to film talks or rally speeches of more prominent radicals, and/or do interviews - this has added benefits of building networks with these people. A further thing to note, in the case of Tariq Ali, is that we had a very popular video despite simply “borrowing” the speech which was already on the web, and cutting it to relevant images - so another lesson is sometimes the simple approach can be very effective.
  • Cross promotion [Dr Brian Senewiratne] - this video received almost all of its 9000+ hits in 2 days, when it was a front page story on 4 Tamil websites - these sites accounted for more than 80% of the views.
    Lesson: Whenever we make a video, especially when it is likely to appeal to a particular audience, we should try to have other sites etc host the video. This may mean emailing the video to them, ringing them up, etc - whatever it takes, this can have a great advantage to GLTV.
  • Clashes/conflict [Police shut down Lizards revenge (#3, 2900); Police attack Sydney Uni (#5, 2000), Coles security guard loses cool (#8, 1700)]. According to filmmakers, conflict is the driving force of films. So it's not surprising that films where there are clashes / conflict are more appealing than films where “nothing” seems to happen. NOTE ALSO that we got our first corporate media scoop with the Resistance-led Coles occupation video, which featured on Channel 7 in Adelaide, complete with GLTV logo.
    Lesson: While we don't want to “promote” clashes (we aren't ACA of course!), we should make sure we try to capture clashes and conflict, and reveal the soource of the conflict and controversy in our videos.
  • Humour and scripting drama [Case of Xmas Carol Crims (#6, 1850); Evening news out of control (700); Carlo Sands on Israel (700)].
    Lesson: Humour is something we could try to use more of, as is short, sharp scripted pieces that draw out a particular point, contradiction, etc. 
  • Inspirational / direct exposition of socialism [What is socialism (#7, 1800)].
    Lesson: upfront, creative expositions of socialism will have an audience. The youthful factor of this video also helped.

Other areas that we have touched on in the first six months include:

  • International coverage (Lynas, Greece, Bersih, Baba Jan, Austin Mackell, Sinn Fein, Philippines, NZ and much more - some of these were quite popular and this helps our international solidarity. We have discovered how to record Skype video (a free program called Debut Video Capture), and while quality is low, this can still be very useful for international interviews. 
  • Cultural (Anti-flag, Phil Monsour, etc). Anti-flag received almost 1400 hits. Again, cultural videos are well worth doing to develop networks - can we film the next Melb Comedy Festival?

Projections

Continue and build GLTV coverage of well known radicals (filming meetings, interviews, etc), plus trying to cover events which show clashes/conflict.

Build distribution and sharing, and try to get our videos promoted on other sites.

Develop experience around humorous and/or scripted videos.

Look to do more educational and explicitly socialist videos.

In six months from now, we should be able to have 600+ subscribers, 150,000 views and 200+ videos.

Feature program: The Green Left Report 

The Green Left Report is our feature, centrepiece program. The show is hosted by GLW's Simon Butler and Mel Barnes, and filmed and produced at Art Resistance at the Addison Rd Centre. Each show generally includes:

  • Activist News — profiling short snipets from the best GLTV produced, and externally produced, activist videos since the previous show.
  • Feature interviews — 1 or 2 interviews on key topics.
  • Carlo's corner — generally at the end of the show.

The program usually runs for 20-25 minutes. A crew of around 6 - 8 people help with production (3 cameras, 1 sound, 1 vision switcher, 1 teleprompter, 1 directing), and 2-3 help editing. Most, but not all, are members.

Interviewees so far have included: Christine Assange; Mohamad Tabbaa (Muslim commentator); Chris Graham (Tracker); Antony Loewenstein; Austin Mackell; Dianne Hiles; Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka, plus our own members including Fred Fuentes, Jay Fletcher, Karl Hand, Mike Karadjis and more.

The response to the GLR has been positive, from interviewees and beyond. GLR has averaged around 1000 views, and have often been sent around broadly.

However, we could be doing much more to promote GLR. Some branches have started watching episodes in branch meetings (or in the meal period branches often have before meetings start). This would be a great way to get more people connecting with GLR. 

GLR, as our most “professional” show, and working with the experience of Art Resistance, is a great training ground for us to learn activist film/video making skills.

Another success with GLR was the launch show (show #2), where around 60 people packed a live filming as part of the studio audience - raising funds and building support.

In Sydney, a further public taping is planned, where we also plan to involve the audience more, and we want to have regular public/audience shows - perhaps every two months or so.

We have now moved to filming the show fortnightly, with each episode planned to go live one week after filming.

Projections

Try to keep up fortnightly filming/producing of GLR - will need to expand team with Paul's role limited next year.

Collective screenings of GLR in branches where possible (ideas could include before branch meetings, at Resistance meetings, linked to film nights, special screening nights with the show and dinner, etc).

Try for some studio audience shows in Sydney, maybe every two months, with focus on audience participation.

Try to make shows as national (and international) as possible, with coverage from as many cities as possible, so that GLR is useful to all branches/areas.

GLTV involvement & training

Most SA and Resistance branches have had some interaction with GLTV since its beginning. Very broadly, the breakdown of involvement so far is:

  • High involvement: Sydney, Perth.
  • Moderate involvement: Hobart; Melbourne.
  • Some involvement: Adelaide; Canberra; Darwin; Wollongong; Geelong.
  • No involvement (yet!): Brisbane, Cairns, Newcastle.

There is plenty of room for involving more branches and comrades, and we want to help branches (and also comrades where a branch doesn't exist) to be part of GLTV.

A key way to achieve this is Activist Film Skills Training. We have so far run training sessions in Sydney; Hobart and at the last Res Conference.

These sessions are “train the trainer” - so we have a growing number of comrades with activist film skills (preparation, production/filming, post-production/editing) who can teach others so we can build teams.

We also need to see GLTV as an important recruitment tool, drawing people toward SA/Res/GLW, and/or radical film/video people who want help out and then get exposed to our politics and may get more involved. It can also help build our networks.

We can also try to think about GLTV producing videos that help with activist film skill training; but also with all manner of socialist training, education, skill sharing etc. Imagine someone in a more remote area, who can't get to a branch, but could watch a video on anything from the importance of GLW, to street campaigning, to organising a rally.

Projections

Teams: To strive to have either GLTV teams, or at least one comrade trying to coordinate GLTV, in each branch

Run activist film skills training whenever and wherever possible, especially at national gatherings.

Be conscious about using GLTV as a recruiter to Socialist Alliance, GLW, and Resistance

Consider “skills videos” that could help branches and comrades

GLTV Appeal lessons

The GLTV appeal raised around $50,500 during July/August, with a further $1000 coming a couple of weeks later, taking the total to about $51,500.

We can assess some things from this result:

There is considerable and growing support for, and excitement around, the GLTV project. While the total amount included all fundraising and donations over July/August, its clear there were numerous and sizeable donations specifically for getting GLTV on its feet.

Related to the above, the inspiration around GLTV seems to be linked to it being a new / different project, and also a “forward looking” project - supporters can readily understand that something like GLTV is the kind of thing the Green Left project needs to be branching into.

The funds naturally enough seemed to come from where GLTV is most active - it makes sense that if people can see GLTV being produced, and there is consciousness about talking up GLTV, that will bare fruit in support.

While GLTV so far has been able to be produced mostly with equipment that comrades already had or through the generous support of Art Resistance, we do need to start making some strategic purchases of equipment so we are at least partly “paying our way” in terms of equipment.

Projections

Continue to promote GLTV as a reason for people to donate to the GL Fighting Fund and have GLTV related fundraising events.

In liaison with the Finance Office, make some strategic GLTV equipment purchases for both (a) central production of the GLR (and other more professional centrally produced videos); and (b) to fill key gaps in branches around film equipment (of course with finances tight, this budget will be very limited, but some expense is reasonable given the strong donations to the GLTV appeal).

Where to now? Ideas for projects & expansion

This section is very open ended. It would be great if at this National Council meeting, and beyond, comrades threw in ideas for GLTV (but also thinking about how they can help bring these ideas into being).

Here are some ideas to kick things off for future GLTV projects:

  • An “Intro to socialism” video.
  • Developing our web presentation of GLTV videos, including better representation on the GLW site; possible phone “Apps” (for both GLTV and GLW).
  • Look into getting a GLTV program on community TV stations in the cities they exist.
  • Contrast corporate media and GLTV.
  • Issue / more indepth videos - eg Perth idea of “The case against mandatory detention”
  • Chaser-style “ticker tape” pretend tweets/comments running under GLReport.
  • “Sixty seconds for socialism” on specific issues or themes.
  • Get short support statements for GLTV from many radicals (note — this has already started) — use in ads or as inserts in GLR.

Please email Paul or Mel to go on the GLTV email list and/or to feed in more ideas.

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