Birth of a Network

Paul Jay has a plan to change the face of television news and
save democracy. All he has to do now is raise the cash.

A former executive producer at the Canadian Broadcasting
Corporation, Jay is founder of International World Television
(IWT), a global digital-TV and Web news network that, for now,
exists only on the drawing board (www.iwtnews.com). Jay is bitterly
dissatisfied with commercial and public television news, and he and
a long list of supporters hope IWT will be an independent
alternative funded entirely by a global audience of individual
donors.

The idea is to apply to journalism the online economics of
MoveOn.org, the Howard Dean presidential campaign, even the 2004
tsunami relief effort. IWT would operate without corporate
donations, government subsidies, or advertising revenues, rejecting
the influence of big money. Rollout is planned for 2007.

It’s a big gamble, Jay admits, but he thinks people around the
world are hungry for honest, independent TV journalism, public
affairs documentaries, and political satire. And he thinks they
will pony up.

‘We need half a million people between North America, India, the
U.K., and Australia,’ he says. ‘If we get into the right
positioning so that we can make the right amount of noise, I cannot
believe that half a million people wouldn’t give us $10 a
month.’

James Fallows, media critic and national correspondent for the
Atlantic magazine, frequently argues that politically
bankrupt news coverage may be an intractable problem, thanks to the
economics of corporate journalism. Regarding Jay’s project, Fallows
is hopeful — if skeptical. ‘People resent the idea of ever paying
for anything they find online,’ he points out. ‘Blog readers go
crazy if a link points them to a site requiring registration, let
alone one like the Wall Street Journal‘s or now, the
Atlantic‘s, that charges a subscription fee.’ Still, he
thinks it’s worth a try. ‘Sooner or later, the subscription model
will extend to the Internet,’ Fallows says. ‘And maybe this will be
the time.’

For his part, Jay has hopes that range well beyond adding an
independent new voice to the TV-news mix. He’s bent on busting the
political logjam that has all but paralyzed American democracy.
‘Building this network is not just about being informed,’ he
declares. ‘It’s about political transformation.’

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