Activists Tune In

Online video sites are spreading the message and changing the medium

| December 7, 2006

As YouTube proves itself the new online distraction, more and more of us are watching the triumphs and failures of something called 'user-generated television' -- video contributed by the audience, for the audience. Amidst the tens of thousands of submissions, those with a specific message to spread can get lost in the crowd. To sort through the static, like-minded activists are using online television and video sites like Current TV and Channel G to showcase their projects and garner interest and support.

Co-founded by Al Gore, Current TV is both a cable TV channel and an online community where users can submit videos and vote for their favorites. Called 'pods,' these videos 'tell a story, profile a character, and/or share an idea.' To help viewers create interesting, informative pieces, Current provides an online tutorial. Every Thursday, the submission that draws the most viewers' votes is aired on Current's cable channel. (Check out a recent top-choice, the six-minute profile of Ashray, a shelter in India for children of HIV-positive parents.)

For those who'd like to contribute, but not necessarily turn on a camera, Channel G connects online users to videos of interesting projects in need of financial support. Channel G features short documentaries on nonprofit projects like Blue Planet Run Foundation, whose mission is to bring safe drinking water to the world, and Red Feather, an organization that builds straw bale housing for Native American elders.

Such sites provide a space for content that can scarcely be found in the ever expanding range of television channels available today. So, the next time you're flipping past 'The OC' or 'Fear Factor' and lamenting the dearth of socially responsible programming, consider turning your TV off and your computer on.

Go there >> Current TV

Go there, too >> Channel G