Televising the revolution: where to for GLTV in 2013?

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Nine months ago, Green Left TV didn't exist. Of course, we did have comrades with film skills, and members putting up the odd rally or forum video here and there, and occasional videos on the GLW website but it was very much an ad-hoc approach.

At the end of March 2012 we put up our Green Left TV YouTube Channel, with the aim of more consciously coordinating our film/video work, and bringing it into a central space - Green Left TV - that could be built and promoted.

The idea was for interested SA members and GLW supporters to play some role in GLTV, which could include filming at rallies/forums/educational talks/etc; editing footage into a presentable and attractive form; and promoting GLTV videos. The motivation of GLTV was simple: YouTube and internet TV was (and is) becoming more widespread, videos were being watched on laptops/tablets/phones etc, especially among youth (just look around on the bus!) and at the same time the cost of filming and editing is falling all the time, with high quality filming possible even from a smart phone.

Nine months in, we have put up 148 videos; we have 489 subscribers to the GLTV channel; and our channel has had over 132,000 views — a pretty good start.

Almost every branch has played some role in GLTV, although Perth and Sydney have been the mainstays. It is certainly GLTV's geographic spread that is one of its biggest strengths (from Miranda Gibson in Tassie's Observer Tree to Palestine protesters in Perth to Venezuela's elections, GLTV was there!).

The purpose of this contribution is to quickly go through some of the highlights and lessons of the early days of GLTV, in order to raise some ideas (and questions) for GLTV in 2013, and beyond. It would be great to get feedback from comrades about their thoughts and ideas for GLTV.

What makes a top video?

The top 4 videos on the GLTV channel are:

  1. Israeli soldier breaking the silence (36,000 views, 500 likes) - this video went viral in a one week period after the recent invasion of Gaza, where it was watched 30,000 times in a week, including one day where it was watched 10,000 times.
  2. Brian Senewiratne on human rights in Sri Lanka (9600 views, 25 likes) - most of the views came in a couple of days when this video was posted to a couple of popular Tamil news sites.
  3. Ilan Pappe on the Forgotten Palestinians and
  4. David Hicks speaks out for Assange, both with about 5,000 views

Lessons for 2013? Clearly, getting prominent radical voices and organisations, and hitting hot topics, are useful to getting an audience for GLTV. We should make sure GLTV is helping to amplify radicals' voices where ever they are. We also want to do what we can to have our videos go “viral”, encouraging them being continually passed through networks. And we want to be searching for other websites that may host GLTV videos (another recent example of this was Daryl's great video with Observer Tree's Miranda Gibson, which had a recent spike when it was put up on a couple of Czech eco websites!).

Interest in socialism

But it is not just the “big names” and the “hot topics” that have appealed. More explicit videos on socialism have also engaged people. The What is Socialism? video put together at the Resistance Conference is GLTV's 7th most watched video with almost 3,000 views and heated debate. A more recent video done in a similar style, 'What is feminism", has also been well watched.

Lessons for 2013? There is room for Socialist Alliance and Resistance to do more such videos that popularly (and quickly) get across socialist ideas and arguments. It would be great if we could start to produce a regular, controversial, short and sharp piece that could be called something like '60 seconds for socialism' (perhaps a project for Resistance or for different SA branches to share?).

Green Left Report and Green Left Dangerous Discussions

A big part of GLTVs work in the 2nd half of 2012 was to get our regular Activist news/analysis program, Green Left Report, off the ground. We have now shot 11 episodes, which is already more than some corporate media shows last, and certainly much longer than most of them should last!

The GLR episodes have gained a respectable 500-1500 views each. They've been shot and edited pretty professionally, with production values improving all the time. One of the challenges for the show has been working out the balance between “news”, which can be hot for a day or two and then disappear, and “analysis”, which is not so time dependent. We want the shows to be relevant beyond just a few days, but still want to include burning activist news that is occurring.

Finally, late in 2012 we had our first audience participation show, which we called “Green Left Dangerous Discussions” (we did have an early show with an audience but we weren't encouraging audience participation).

Lessons for 2013? GLR should of course continue with our great hosts Mel and Simon, but we continually need to look for the ways it can get an even larger audience and be put together in as efficient manner as possible (one of the challenges has been to avoid the editing bogging down episodes getting online and out to people). And we really need to explore GL Dangerous Discussions further, especially as a way to involvepeople.

One of the difficulties of GLTV is if it becomes “passive” and disengaged from Socialist Alliance members and our broader support base. So GL Dangerous Discussions, and all of GLTV, needs to be geared toward involving people, letting them know they can help out and are needed, and that they should also read and subscribe to GLW, come to other events, and join SA.

2013 radical documentaries?

An interesting project for GLTV in 2012 was to help Jews Against the Occupation make a video answering their critics. For our efforts GLTV got a vote of thanks from JAO and a solid donation to the GL Fighting Fund.

Now going in to 2013, an ex CPA comrade has written a script for a short documentary on 'Radical Wollongong' that he wants GLTV to make, which we are starting to work on. This comrade also bought Wollongong branch a good quality HD camera as a contribution to the GLTV appeal. He also wants the final product to be   a fundraiser for GLTV and the GLW fighting fund, with public screenings raising funds for us.

Lessons for 2013? It will be interesting to see how the “Radical Wollongong” project (which is still in very early days) goes. But if it is a decent success, then over time perhaps other radical documentary projects may be possible for GLTV? These could then become great tools for   everything from fundraising to socialist education to attracting people to SA/GLW and Resistance.

The Green Left TV Appeal

The 2 month GLTV appeal for the fighting fund saw around $50,000 come in — not quite our $60,000 hope but a great result nonetheless. It is clear that the GLTV project has inspired members and supporters and importantly this has helped to boost fundraising.

Lessons for 2013? While the 2012 budget was put together when GLTV didn't even exist, the 2013 budget will be the first with GLTV on the map. But while GLTV may need some “investment”, GLTV should be a net “positive” for us, in that it should inspire donations and support, as it has already demonstrated it can, putting the overall GL project on an even more solid footing.

Final words: make GLTV yours

The most important general lesson from the early days of GLTV is that all SA members and supporters have a role to play with GLTV as we all do with Green Left Weekly.

With GLTV, we need more comrades, especially in branches where we haven't been able to get much material, learning basic film skills and basic editing, and having a go putting GLTV pieces together. But we also need everyone sharing, 'liking', emailing, and of course watching GLTV; coming up with small or big ideas for pieces/skits/shows/angles/segments/interviews/etc; promoting GLTV when selling GLW; mentioning GLTV to people you see filming at a rally; and just constantly thinking about how GLTV could be better, and how it can tie in to more of our work.

Finally, we need to see GLTV as a recruitment tool. Any socialist-minded person who is interested in filming, editing, writing etc, should join Socialist Alliance (and Resistance if they are young) and join the GLTV team.