I traded my island home for my wife’s over the weekend and was returning yesterday when I was struck by a very brief conversation on Twitter. In celebration of International Press Freedom Day, our regional media training school, the Caribbean Institute of Media and Communication (CARIMAC) was hosting an event in conjunction with the Press Association of Jamaica (PAJ), at UWI Mona. I had learnt about that earlier in the day by reading an article online, which told me there would be a panel discussion. How interesting!
One media specialist (Dr. Marcia Forbes, @marciaforbes) asked whether the event would be streamed live, and got a no in reply.
In the past, I’ve asked one of our premier news houses, RJR, whether they would have an audio recording available for later listening. I’d heard something along the lines of its being under consideration.
The thought that went through my mind then and now was simply, why are these uses of technology not yet in play by our media? Are we just slow on the uptake? Do we have strong reservations to their use? Are their heads not up to speed and therefore afraid of what they do not understand, or just unaware?
I’m not comparing any of our local news houses with giants such as CNN, BBC, ABC, etc. We have technological skills aplenty in this field. We keep hearing talk about how being at the forefront of information technology is key to faster growth. If we believe that, where is the hungry push to see this be a reality? I suspect inertia.
Over the weekend, I had attended the IAAF World Relays. Television broadcasts were being sent all over the globe through agencies on the ground. Of course, most of the world could not be in little Nassau, but the interest was known to be large and legitiamate broadcasts were going out, and some were broadcasting live through other channels, using technology available on mobile devices. Jamaica is blessed with an Internet website (www.jamaicaolympics.com) that seeks to feed live and recorded video footage of many major sporting events that feature Jamaican athletes, either via the website or through its Twitter and Facebook feeds. I depend on them to catch live feeds and replays of events and interviews.
In smaller ways, we are all now capable of sharing ‘stories’. I went to take my exercise over the weekend, and I could send back video and still images of what I was doing to any and many, if I were so inclined. Through social media, we’ve become accustomed to letting our world of ‘friends’ keep up-to-date almost to the minute.
Why couldn’t a media training school do something similar? Whatever the technological challenges of live streaming, it seemed counterintuitive that our premier media training organization was trapped in ‘old technology’.
Someone may tell us that there are ‘technological challenges’, or ‘insurmountable costs’ or some other constraint. I wont be churlish and say that doesn’t concern me. But, I will say that the means exist to get by all of these without too much difficulty.
Periscope is a new free app, usable on IoS and Android devices, that allows sending of live video to whoever follows the sender. It was bought by Twitter a few months ago. I had just come across this a few weeks ago. It hit me between the eyes last week, when prominent current affairs analyst, Roland Smith, used Periscope to send live broadcasts from Baltimore, as that city struggled with riots.
Before Periscope, we had Meerkat, and the technologies develop fast.
Periscope keeps video for up to 24 hours; Meerkat does not allow archiving. Periscope allows viewer ‘ratings’ (with likes) and interactive comments. The interface of Periscope seems easier to use. The power and appeal of Periscope was shown this past weekend, as spectators at a major boxing event used it to ‘scoop’ some of the pay-per-view alternatives. which opens other issues about intellectual property rights. We have already seen this fight with YouTube and Viacom.
But, other, older forms of streaming allow archiving, such as Livestream, or Upstream.tv etc. may be more valuable.
If visual images are not possible, we know that media houses can send sound files easily. Soundcloud is an audio platform that allows for easy sharing of words and music, and is well-used in Jamaica by Nationwide Radio. It’s much easier and more enlightening to listen to actual sounds from an earlier broadcast. I’ve benefitted from that often when on the road, not able to get a radio broadcast or having missed it, but been able to link to a story.
These technologies are part of the devolution of information-sharing, where big media houses alone do not determine what goes out to the world. Anyone could become a ‘reporter’, of sorts.
One does not need to be a techie to move in this world. One needs to see information for what it is essentially–an asset that has little value if it is not shared. We know, however, that some do not see the free flow of information as a good, but would rather keep things closely held. Media are not usually in that latter category, and should be amongst those leading in setting information free.