Viewfinder: Power to the (Video) People

Many people spend 10% of their waking day watching TV. During that TV viewing, they receive a whole lot of information. TV shapes their opinions, changes or affirms their biases and alters their perceptions of the world (and how they fit into it). I believe that all of this happens, even during the process of laughing at a sitcom. Television has a profound effect on people and, consequently, the world at large.

It is exciting to know that through the Internet we can all be players in the game of TV production. The video equipment that you can buy at retail store today enables you to produce a “TV show” in less time and of higher quality than ever before. Just a few short years ago, this level of video production wasn’t available even to broadcast TV stations in many smaller cities. Back then, they did not have computer editing nor did they have digital camcorders.

In fact, with today’s technological advances, we could find ourselves living in a democracy beyond the wildest dreams of the founding fathers of the USA. Jefferson and Franklin never imagined instant text, audio and video communication among the citizenry. Their expectation was government-subsidized delivery of messages sent via paper.

We have the potential to live within a democracy beyond the wildest dreams of the founding fathers of the USA, but it hasn’t happened yet. In our world today, billions of people pay attention to a small group of elite. By this I refer to the large corporations that produce most TV programs. These companies are small in number (although growing rapidly in recent years), and TV industry executives have the power to decide which TV programs get produced. Not only American citizens, but people all over the world, billions of them, watch TV shows created by these large TV industry corporations. I doubt that this is what Jefferson had in mind. But all this is changing quickly.

The Internet enables people to communicate quickly, inexpensively, easily and one-on-one by way of e-mail and chat. The Internet allows thousands of people to create Web sites for hundreds of thousands of people to see. On these Web sites, video now accompanies text and graphics. The video available via the Internet is not quite as good as that typically seen on a TV, but it is getting better every year. These Web sites also allow video producers to accept orders for VHS videocassettes and mail them anywhere in the world.

The exciting reality is that thousands of people have the power to influence thousands of other people with their ideas. In the years to come politicians and public relations firms will have to change tactics to attempt to garner the same media power that they held in the past. During the next hundred years, the power to persuade will fall away from large, powerful businesses and into the hands of anyone that can hold a camcorder, speak into a microphone or build a Web page. The most exciting thing of it all is that you are one of these people.

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